Another week, another Marvel superhero movie. And with the arrival of “Fantastic Four,” it’s clear that we’ve reached the saturation point of all things Marvel, at least for this year.
“Avengers: Age of Ultron,” “Ant-Man” and now, bringing up the rear as summer drains away toward fall, comes “Fantastic Four.” Which is the least impressive entry of the 2015 Marvels by far.
The lead actors: unprepossessing in appearance and unimpressive in the performance department. All have done good work elsewhere — Miles Teller in “Whiplash,” Michael B. Jordan in “Fruitvale Station,” Kate Mara in “House of Cards” and Jamie Bell in “ “Billy Elliot.” But here, under the lackadaisical direction of Josh Trank (“Chronicle”), they give the impression of people merely going through the motions.
Their characters — the elastic Reed Richards/Mr. Fantastic (Teller), the fiery Johnny Storm (Jordan), the mistress of invisibility and force fields Sue Storm (Mara) and the hulking rockpile Ben Grimm/The Thing (Bell) — are supposedly disputatious pals, but onscreen they seem barely engaged with one another.
The filmmakers have earned fanboy umbrage over the decision to cast Jordan, an African-American, in the role of Johnny, a character who is Caucasian in the comics. As in the comic, he and Sue, who is Caucasian, are siblings. In the movie she’s presented as being adopted by their father scientist Dr. Franklin Storm (Reg. E. Cathey), a bromide-spouting cliché factory (“With every new discovery, there is risk. But we are stronger together than we are apart”).The whole relationship comes off as unnecessarily contrived, stunt casting for its own sake.
This is an origin story that spends too much time plodding through the manner in which these characters meet and eventually bond. The villain, the Victor von Doom (Toby Kebbell) is vengeful megalomaniac with all the depth of a cardboard cutout.
The movie’s sets: bargain basement. Drab corridors, bare-bones control rooms abound.
And the special effects … tsk. A significant amount of action takes place in an alternate universe where the four gain their superpowers in an experimental mission gone catastrophically awry. The CG work that creates that world, full of spiky rocks and glowing green lavalike rivulets, is cheesy in the extreme.
And thus does the summer of the superhero movie stumble to an end with a whimper and a wheeze.
☆1/2 out of 5
Cast: Miles Teller, Michael B. Jordan, Kate Mara, Jamie Bell and Toby Kebbell
Director: Josh Trank
Running time: 1:38
Rated: PG-13, for sci-fi action violence and language