Review: Fantastic Four
Fantastic Four (M, 100 min) Directed by Josh Trank ★½
Fantastic Four is a Marvel property, but other companies hold at least some of the film rights to the characters. Which means that this attempted re-boot of the franchise (after the deeply underwhelming 2005 and 2007 installments) is not part of the Marvel Universe – that more-or-less consistently decent series of films that stretches from the 2008 Iron Man to this year's Ant-Man, which shows no sign of ending any time soon.
It matters. The Marvel Studios' films have been distinguished by some deceptively terrific writing, casting and directing. Marvel understand that without drama, humour and a shed-load of good natured self-awareness, all the stunts and special effects in the world won't make a film memorable.
Pretty much everyone else who's ever tried to make a film with Marvel characters has kind of missed the point.
To be fair, the film-makers have at least tried to ramp up the quality here. Miles Teller (Whiplash), Kate Mara (House of Cards), Jamie Bell (King Kong) and Michael B Jordan (The Wire) are the Four. Joining them are the Toby Kebbell (War Horse) and Reg E Cathey (The Wire, House of Cards), which is a seriously good line up of acting talent by any standards.
But the greatest actors in the world can't transcend lousy dialogue and sluggish direction, and Fantastic Four reeks of both. When the script aims for light-hearted banter it just sounds awkward, while the tension that should be slowly building between the troupe and their adversary Von Doom (Kebbell) never achieves the gravity of anything more than a teenage squabble.
Fantastic Four has a swing, but it misses by a mile. The drama is laughable, the attempted humour is strained and the script simply never allows the special effects crew to do anything particularly inventive.
It's been a long time since I saw a "super-hero" movie that actually bored me. The Fantastic Four had me checking my watch inside half an hour.