BY ROGER THOMAS
I do not remember much about the plots of old Saturday morning cartoon versions of “Fantastic Four.”
I am not sure how old I was when I begin to watch the series. But I vividly remember that I never wanted to miss it. I loved those characters. I even had “Fantastic Four” pajamas. Those four were my introduction to the world of superheroes. Well, those four and the campy “Batman” series with Adam West and Burt Ward.
There have been two previous “Fantastic Four” films. The first, entitled simply “Fantastic Four,” came out in 2005 and the sequel, “Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer,” released in 2007. Neither of those films was very good. “Silver Surfer” is better but very weak in comparison to many of the superhero films we have had in the last decade.
So with the revealing of my historical relationship with Reed Richards, Johnny Storm, Sue Storm and Ben “The Thing” Grimm, allow me to offer my opinion of the new version of the “Fantastic Four.”
First, the film moves at a snail’s pace. This is the origin story (again) with a whole new cast. However, the audience is there for the action, not the science. The film is 105 minutes long, which I endorse as a good idea for all superhero films. I have often criticized the ones that go over two hours for being bloated. However, with “Fantastic Four” the problem is not the length of the film, it is the fact that the first 49 minutes are leading up to the transformation of the heroes.
I applaud the film for the brevity of length, but the front half of this movie could have been reduced even more to create a better film.
Then there is the cast. I have watched the career of Jamie Bell (The Thing) since his starring role as the title character in “Billy Elliot” when he was 14. Michael B. Jordan (Johnny Storm) was the lead in my favorite film of 2013, “Fruitvale Station.” And Miles Teller (Reed Richards) delivered great work in last year’s “Whiplash” and 2013’s “The Spectacular Now”.
This trio of great actors are left with so little to do in this film, that they can never create a bond with the audience. I never cared about any of them or any of the other characters that populated this world. There is just no emotional connection here, while so many films of this genre have successfully excited and moved the audience.
Another crucial element of hero films is the humor. Most superhero films have clever humor. Almost unanimously, hero films have great wit, from skilled screenwriters who know how to enhance the plot and get the audience chuckling. A recent example of this is “Ant-Man.” The humor in that film is one of the greatest strengths of the screenplay. I am not sure I laughed more than twice in “Fantastic Four.” Quite simply, the laughs never came.
To add to these flaws, there were moments when the special effects did not impress, the villain was not menacing enough and the early sets were supposed to be like 2007 but these looked more like sets for a film depicting the 60s.
I really hoped this film would be better than the previous ones, but alas, it was less. There is no good reason to recommend this film to anyone. There are too many good, and a few great, films playing in cinemas now. No reason to patronize the “Fantastic Four.”
Roger Thomas is a member of the North Carolina Film Critics Association. He reviews films for The Stanly News & Press.