Hardly ‘Fantastic’

Comic reboot crushed by grim characters

Is it too early to reboot a reboot? Or should we just let the “Fantastic Four” live on in the pages of colorful comic books?

Hollywood brought Marvel’s supergroup to the big screen in both 2005 and 2007, but the franchise left critics and fans deflated. Where was the realism of “The Dark Knight,” the kinetic kick of “Iron Man”?

So the current reboot was as inevitable as it proves ill-advised.

The new “Four” isn’t inspiring, energetic or even droll. It’s just dumb, a barrage of CGI meant to spark a new franchise. That would take superhuman powers, indeed, given the finished product.

Once more we meet Reed Richards (Miles Teller), a nerdy scientist working on a teleportation device for the U.S. Military. He’s joined by old chum Ben Grimm (Jamie Bell) and the adult children of the project’s benefactor – Johnny Storm (Michael B. Jordan) and her adopted sister Sue Storm (Kate Mara).

Rather than let the military choose the first human test subjects, they opt to take it for a spin themselves after some booze-induced bonding. Along for the ride is fellow techie Victor (Toby Kebbell), a sourpuss who clearly doesn’t fit in with the others.

The dialogue ranges from exposition-heavy bromides to brainless banter.

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What follows isn’t a shock to any comic book fan. Things go awry. The travelers are exposed to material that gives them super powers. Ben ends up looking like a moving brick wall, Sue can turn invisible … Hey, didn’t we already see this story?

“Fantastic Four” squanders plenty of time retelling the group’s origin, so much so that there’s little room for the heroics. You know, the reason people see superhero movies in the first place.

Director Josh Trank crafted a nifty superhero-style story with 2012’s “Chronicle.” Here, he displays little feel for the material beyond adding a layer of grit to every exchange. The screenwriters aren’t helping. The dialogue ranges from exposition-heavy bromides to brainless banter. The talk of pulling together like a family should have been inspiring. Instead, it’ll make movie goers’ teeth hurt or eyes roll. Likely both.

Kebbell’s character, who evolves into the iconic Dr. Doom, looks like a metallic mannequin and displays less personality. He wants to wipe out the earth, but he can’t explain why.

for-teensEqually opaque is the story’s characterization of the U.S. military. Our heroes are initially wary of working within its system, especially given the oily theatrics from the head stooge (Tim Blake Nelson). Is this a critique of the so-called Military Industrial Complex or just lazy storytelling? The film can’t make up its mind, particularly in the final scenes.

“Fantastic Four’s” PG:13 rating is well earned. Doom mows down a corridor full of soldiers by exploding their brains. It’s a gooey mess that has no place in a comic book film marketed to kids.

There’s nothing in the source material’s DNA that says Marvel’s Fantastic Four can’t yield a quality film. So far, Hollywood is simply 0-for-3 in making that happen.

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