NEW YORK (CNS) — The misfortunes of its principal characters become mildly miserable for the audience of the glum sci-fi adventure “Fantastic Four” (Fox).
Parents of the teens at whom this origin story, drawn from the Marvel Comics series, is squarely aimed will want to be aware, moreover, of late scenes featuring some harsh bloodletting. These forays into mayhem make the downbeat film doubtful fare even for older adolescents.
In rebooting a chronicle that reaches back, in print, to 1961 — and whose big-screen history includes an unreleased Roger Corman take as well as two features from the mid-2000s — director and co-writer Josh Trank shows subtlety in his treatment of the titular group’s unsought superpowers.
But the script, which Trank penned with Simon Kinberg and Jeremy Slater, shows no such delicacy as it delivers a ham-handed critique of the military-industrial complex and pushes a naive “science will save us from ourselves” message.
The screenplay’s by-the-numbers promotion of teamwork is little better since it’s transmitted via dialogue so predictable veteran viewers may occasionally be able to mouth the next line in advance.
Through scenes that, at times, resemble an old Archer Daniels Midland commercial, we’re introduced to the work of a quartet of youthful science prodigies whose shared dream is to transport stuff — and, eventually, passengers — to a previously unknown dimension.
Said project has been, at least implicitly, the singular obsession of likeable geek Reed Richards (Miles Teller) since his days as a misunderstood grammar school student. One of the few to appreciate Reed’s genius early on was self-taught engineer Ben Grimm (Jamie Bell), a classmate who thus became both Reed’s earliest collaborator and his best friend.
But Reed and Ben, it turns out, weren’t the only ones knocking on the door of alternate reality. Under the auspices of the wealthy Baxter Institute — and under the magisterial supervision of their dad, institute official Dr. Franklin Storm (Reg E. Cathey) — unruly rebel Johnny (Michael B. Jordan) and his straight-arrow adopted sister, Sue (Kate Mara), have been making their way toward the same threshold.
So too has brooding but gifted bad boy Victor von Doom (Toby Kebbell). (Note to self: Never get mixed up with folks named von Doom.)
Once all four — Ben falls temporarily by the wayside — gain Baxter backing and begin pooling their efforts, the successful construction of the necessary gadget becomes a foregone conclusion. Less easily foreseen are the consequences of an alcohol-fueled celebration of their achievement during which the lads decide to make unauthorized use of the device.
Anxious to forestall others who might steal the limelight by becoming the Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin of their targeted realm, the guys plan a hurried visit to the Other Side, and Reed invites Ben to tag along. They’ll stay just long enough to have a look around and plant the U.S. flag.
Surely they won’t be transformed into Super Stretchy Guy, the human equivalent of the burning bush, a hulk made up of boulders and a villain so evil there’s really no labeling him? And there’s no way Sue could find herself turning erratically invisible, is there?
As its travelers across the time-space continuum discover, there is such a thing as outstaying your welcome. Alas, “Fantastic Four” does just that.
The film contains brief gory violence, glimpses of partial nudity, at least one use of profanity, a handful of crude terms and an obscene gesture. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 — parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.
Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.
In a time to build, CatholicPhilly.com connects people and communities
As society emerges from the loss and separation of the pandemic, CatholicPhilly.com works to strengthen the connections between people, families and communities every day by delivering the news people need to know about the Catholic Church, especially in the Philadelphia region, and the world in which we live.
By your donation in any amount, you join in our mission to inform, form in the Catholic faith and inspire the thousands of readers who visit every month.
Here is how you can help:
- A $100 gift allows us to present award-winning photos of Catholic life in our neighborhoods.
- A $50 gift enables us to cover a news event in a local parish, school or Catholic institution.
- A $20 gift lets us obtain solid faith formation resources that can deepen your spirituality and knowledge of the faith.
- A small, automated monthly donation means you can support us continually and easily.
Won't you consider making a gift today?
Please join in the church's vital mission of communications by offering a gift in whatever amount that you can ― a single gift of $40, $50, $100, or more, or a monthly donation. Your gift will strengthen the fabric of our entire Catholic community.
Make your donation by credit card here:
Or make your donation by check:
222 N. 17th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103