Fantastic Four

 

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Another reboot outshines its predecessor, but not without some silliness.

   

Fantastic Four

Michael B. Jordan and Toby Kebbell

 

In the distant annals of movie history there was a film called Fantastic Four, which chronicled the superpowers of five scientists. Following an intergalactic expedition, the quintet found their DNA irreparably transformed. Suddenly, Dr Reed Richards could stretch his limbs to ludicrous lengths, his close friend Ben was mutated into a walking rock face, Sue Storm was able to turn herself invisible and her brother Johnny kept on changing into a flying fireball. That was all of ten years ago and now, in the age of the reboot, it doesn’t seem absurd to revisit the franchise (Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer was released just eight years ago).

 

Thanks to Batman Begins and its abundant successors, reboots have become the norm and are generally darker, more intelligent and less cheesy than their predecessors, while harking back to the origins of their source material. The 2005 Fantastic Four was certainly cheesy and OTT, allowing this latest reboot to be eminently superior. It marks the second directorial outing for Josh Trank, he who was responsible for probably the best ‘found footage thriller,’ Chronicle (2012). Once again Trank has opted for talent over star power, thus staffing his fantasy with genuinely creditable actors (Miles Teller, Michael B. Jordan, Kate Mara, Toby Kebbell, Reg E. Cathey).

 

Starting his story in 2007 (the year Rise of the Silver Surfer was released), the film shows Reed Richards as an über-nerd schoolboy whose IQ is way above that of his teachers. His school project is teleportation, which seems beyond the comprehension of his peers and professors, although today scientists are beginning to believe in its feasibility, particularly with the advances in graphene application. Of course, this is the fun bit, because bright children who know better are always good for a laugh, and as Reed morphs into the grown-up Miles Teller (from Whiplash fame), he proves to a government-sponsored research institute that he might be on to something. And so the preternaturally youthful Teller, Mara, Jordan, Kebbell and Jamie Bell (the latter, erstwhile Billy Elliot, now being 29), play with their quantum physics to engaging effect.

 

All this is enormously entertaining, and even vaguely credible, until the second half of the film kicks in and the silliness begins. Just three weeks ago, the Marvel Comic Universe proved with Ant-Man that less could be more, but the new Fantastic Four is bit of a step back. The special effects aren’t even that special by today’s standards and some of the teleportation stuff is more Dr Who than Interstellar. Still, Josh Trank’s universe is not about the CGI, it’s about the ideas, and with a terrific score from Philip Glass and Marco Beltrami, and the actors involved, it holds its own in a very crowded Marvel marketplace.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: Miles Teller, Michael B. Jordan, Kate Mara, Jamie Bell, Toby Kebbell, Reg E. Cathey, Tim Blake Nelson, Dan Castellaneta, Chet Hanks.

 

Dir Josh Trank, Pro Simon Kinberg, Matthew Vaughn, Hutch Parker, Robert Kulzer and Gregory Goodman, Screenplay Jeremy Slater, Simon Kinberg and Josh Trank, Ph Matthew Jensen, Pro Des Chris Seagers, Ed Elliot Greenberg and Stephen Rivkin, Music Marco Beltrami and Philip Glass, Costumes George L. Little.

 

Marvel Entertainment/20th Century Fox/Constantin Film/Marv Films/Kinberg Genre/Robert Kulzer Productions/Hutch Parker Entertainment/TSG Entertainment- 20th Century Fox.

99 mins. USA/UK/Germany. 2015. Rel: 6 August 2015. Cert. 12A.