By Jonathan Decker (Family therapist, film critic)
WHAT'S FANTASTIC FOUR ABOUT?
Exposure to energy from another dimension leaves a group of young adults with a variety of superpowers.
IS IT ANY GOOD? (GRADE: D)
To be clear, this is a film about Marvel characters, but it is not a Marvel Studios film. Fox owns the rights, and while the studio gave us the occasionally-brilliant X-Men franchise, it also gave us duds like Daredevil, Elektra, and the earlier Fantastic Four movies. This lifeless reboot had potential: director Josh Trank once delivered the gripping indie superhero thriller Chronicle, but whether Trank is in a sophomore slump or Fox interfered too much (probably both), The Fantastic Four is a dud, plain and simple.
Hackneyed dialogue plagues the film from beginning to end; these are talented actors, so it's painful to watch them deliver heavy exposition, wannabe catch-phrases, and bumper-sticker philosophy. The characters are poorly-developed cliches. Worst of all, the film is boring. The entire first half is made up largely of fictional psuedo-scientific babble as the team works towards inter-dimensional travel. The second half is unfocused and joyless and the finale fails to balance its gritty violence with its cartoonish super-villainy. Attempts to introduce ideals of teamwork and heroism at the end feel unearned and rushed.
In fairness, the film has one really good 20 minute stretch in the middle; the journey into another dimension pulsates with tension and creativity, and the subsequent discovery of individual superpowers is fascinatingly (and rather realistically) met with horror instead of the standard elation normally displayed in these sort of films. It's too bad everything else falls so flat.
IS IT OKAY FOR YOUR KIDS?
The Fantastic Four is rated PG-13. There are a few s-words, a kid calls a teenager a “d**k,” and a few other moderate profanities. Young adults are blasted with energy, causing one to turn invisible, another to become elastic, another to catch fire without being consumed, and another to turn into a “rock monster.” A villain goes on a surprisingly bloody rampage that pushes the limits of a PG-13 rating, essentially causing people's heads to burst open (with blood splatter) and/or implode.
ANY WORTHWHILE MESSAGES?
To conquer great tasks and vanquish great evil, we must work together and join our talents.
For a much better superhero offering, try Hellboy II: The Golden Army, starring Ron Perlman and Selma Blair, from director Guillermo del Toro.
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