Fantastic Four

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"Were you smoking in bed again?"

I watched this movie in the best way possible. I was coming off days of hatred over the Meryl Streep film and wanted something completely different. This was at the AMC in La Jolla, with those comfortable reclining chairs. I brought a teenager with me that knows a lot about the Marvel movies. What could go wrong?

Well, he informed me the Fantastic Four has been attempted before. One version never got released in the 90s. There were also a few films in the mid-2000s.

Chronicle director Josh Trank (who also co-wrote) goes for a more somber story that doesn’t quite work.

The movie starts off promising. A young brainiac named Reed Richards (Miles Teller) becomes friends with a classmate (Jamie Bell) that in other films would’ve been the bully. That friend has a bad home life. They live on a junkyard, with the best neon sign ever (it’s on an old Gremlin automobile).

They spend most of their time in Reed’s garage, with the occasional trek to the salvage yard for parts, to complete their teleportation machine that they hope won’t turn them into flies or blow up the neighborhood.

In one of those frustrating movie scenes, a teacher has had enough of Reed’s intellect (you think teachers would love a student like this), although I would’ve been a little peeved if he blew up the backboard of the basketball court during the science fair.

Dr. Franklin Storm (Reg E. Cathey) is impressed and gives him a scholarship to the Baxter Foundation. He gets to work with his adopted daughter Sue (Kate Mara), who is pretty, but has zero chemistry with any of the others that are brought in. There was only one scene where Reed and Sue flirt in a humorous way. She tells him that she was born in Kosovo and he mentions her not having an accent. The movie needed more of those moments.

The teleporter at the Baxter Foundation was originally created by rebel Victor von Doom (Toby Kebbell). You know he’s trouble because…well, his name is Doom!!!

Michael B. Jordan (who San Diegians got to meet at the San Diego Film Festival a few years ago), does a great job playing Johnny, the biological son of Dr. Storm. It was refreshing that when we see him involved in a street race, the soundtrack isn’t blasting some loud hip-hop tune, but the Motown classic “Standing in the Shadows of Love.” Well played, Mr. Trank.

When NASA wants to take over their teleporting device, they wonder about the guys that did all the hard work creating the rockets that took Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong to the moon. They instead decide they’ll plant that flag on the new dimension they arrive in, and perhaps get some of the glory. Oh, but things went very terribly wrong on the way to that planet. They all come back with very strange powers. You thought Johnny was a hot head before…

And Miles Teller…with his arms and legs that can stretch out…I just kept thinking of how much better he’ll be on the drums.

For awhile, I was enjoying the fact that we got a little more of the characters and less fighting. With all these super hero movies, the fight scenes get redundant. Yet there just wasn’t enough done with the characters, aside from exposition dialogue. This makes things rather dull a lot of the time.

In Ant-Man, we saw a few flashbacks of Michael Douglas using his ant man skills in World War II. Yet I felt a little cheated when this film jumped ahead and we see these guys using their powers to help the military (another tired premise that needs to be retired). I’m guessing most people will agree that one of the more fun scenes we get in these comic book movies, is watching these regular people learn to hone their skills.

And speaking of their skills, the only one that looked interesting was Johnny when he turns into Richard Pryor and is covered in flames. You wonder were that huge budget went, because it doesn’t show on screen.

The early buzz on this movie was how horrible it was, and that the director was either fired or quit. It’s really not as bad as that (although on Rotten Tomatoes, it was ranked in single digits, which to put into perspective – Pixels ratings were three times better).

This style of storytelling for super heroes just didn’t didn’t work. We never had the wide-eyed wonder we should when watching smart kids in lab coats creating interesting machines.

The cast wasn’t bad, but the three screenwriters made them all one-note performances.

This gets 1 ½ stars out of 5.

[Full Disclosure – I fell asleep for about 15 minutes in the middle of it, so I may have missed something good. I definitely missed the Stan Lee cameo, if there was one].

In my best Homer Simpson voice, “Damn you, comfortable reclining movie theatre chairs!!!”

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