Very Good (2.5 stars)
Rated PG-13 for action, violence and profanity
In English and Spanish with subtitles
Running time: 106 minutes
Distributor: 20th Century Fox
Marvel Comics’ first brought the “Fantastic Four” to the big screen a decade ago, and followed it up with a sequel a couple years later. Since neither generated much in the way of audience enthusiasm, 20th Century Fox has now seen fit to relaunch the flagging franchise rather than release a third installment.
The reboot was directed by Josh Trank, whose services were ostensibly retained on the strength of his impressive debut offering, the sci-fi thriller “Chronicle.” This picture stars Michael B. Jordan and Kate Mara as siblings Johnny and Sue Storm, and Jamie Bell and Miles Teller as childhood friends Ben Grimm and Reed Richards, respectively.
“Fantastic Four” unfolds like a typical origins tale, developing a humanizing back story about each member of the tight-knit, title quartet and the freak accident which imbued them with superpowers, before the movie makes its inexorable march to an exciting finale featuring a special effects-driven battle royal. The point of departure is Oyster Bay, New York in 2007, which is where we find precocious Reed informing his very skeptical, 5th grade teacher of his plans to teleport himself someday.
Not to worry. By the time he’s a senior in high school, Reed’s built a prototype with the help of his BFF Ben. And despite his Cymatic Matter Shuttle’s being disqualified from the science fair, the gifted egghead is recuited by Dr. Franklin Storm (Reg E. Cathey), the director of the Baxter Foundation, a research institute for science and technology prodigies.
There, he’s befriended by Johnny and Sue. Along with Ben, the kids eventually attempt an unsanctioned trip to another dimension via the Quantum Gate, a contraption invented by Dr. Storm’s protege, Victor (Toby Kebbell). However, something goes horribly wrong, and they inadvertently rip a hole in the fabric of the time/space continuum.
The calamity suddenly enables Reed (aka Mr. Fantastic) to stretch and contort his body, Johnny to fly and shoot fireballs, Sue to be invisible and create force fields, and badly disfigured Ben (aka The Thing) to exhibit invincibility and extraordinary strength. Meanwhile, Victor has developed telekinetic abilities and morphed into the diabolical Dr. Doom, a villain more powerful than any of the “Fantastic Four” individually, but not collectively.
That leaves them little choice but to join forces in defense of the planet. The anticlimactic showdown that takes forever to arrive proves to be riveting, although it’s almost an afterthought, since it basically serves as a perfunctory setup for the obligatory sequel.
A decent enough overhaul to recommend heartily as a pleasant escape from the hazy, hot, humid dog days of August.