FANTASTIC FOUR – A Review by John Strange

TS0245_v358_0145 – (From left) Jamie Bell as Ben Grimm, Michael B. Jordan as Johnny Storm, Miles Teller as Reed Richards, and Kate Mara as Sue Storm come together to battle a former friend turned enemy. Photo Credit: Courtesy Twentieth Century Fox
TS0245_v358_0145 – (From left) Jamie Bell as Ben Grimm, Michael B. Jordan as Johnny Storm, Miles Teller as Reed Richards, and Kate Mara as Sue Storm come together to battle a former friend turned enemy. Photo Credit: Courtesy Twentieth Century Fox
By: John ‘Doc’ Strange
Directed by: Josh Trank
Cast: Miles Teller, Michael B. Jordan, Kate Mara, Jamie Bell, Toby Kebbell, Reg E. Cathey, Tim Blake Nelson
MPAA Rating: PG-13 (for sci-fi action violence, and language)
Selig Rating: Matinee
Runtime: 106 Min.
Many of us grew up reading Marvel comics.  The Fantastic Four was one of my favorite teams.  Their origins were legendary.  The new film from Josh Trank and Marvel Entertainment and Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation step back and give us a new look at the legend.
Gone are the four intrepid souls changed by cosmic radiation.  The names are the same but the people those names are attached to have only a passing resemblance to those originals.  The new group are younger, less sure of how to reach their goals.
As the central character in the film, we have Reed Richards.  As a child, Reed (Owen Judge), began working on developing a matter transmitter (after he decided to give up on his flying car).  On career day when the other kids are describing how they want to follow in the footsteps of their favorite sports heroes, Reed expounds on his desire to create a teleportation device.  His teacher isn’t pleased and makes him try again on the assignment.  Unnoticed by Reed, a classmate, Ben Grimm (Evan Hannemann), sees him writing equations and such in his class notebook.
This sets up the scenario where the two team up on Reed’s pet project.  Ben discovers Reed in the Grimm family’s scrap yard looking for a power converter.  Ben decides to help him.  The two lug a large power transformer (like the ones seen on top of power poles around town) to Reed’s garage.  Ben gets his first sight of Reed’s invention.  Hooking up the transformer, Reed demonstrates he creation.  Following the power up, the toy car disappears in a ball of blue light to be replaced by some small stones.  The feedback from the transmission blows every transformer in their neighborhood and beyond.
The two become best friends and eventually enter the device in their high school science fair.  The same teacher who disparaged the younger Reed slams the project and disqualifies it as invalid.  As the trio of judges walk on, another pair walks up.  The two are Dr. Franklin Storm (Reg E. Cathey) and his daughter Sue (Kate Mara).  Dr. Storm asks a few questions and is impressed with the answers.  Reed (Miles Teller) has the answer to the problems his team has run up against on their own transmitter.  The young man is offered a full scholarship to attend the Baxter Foundation.
Ben (Jamie Bell) helps his best friend move into his new dorm room in the Baxter Foundation tower.  While Reed gets to work Sue and the team on the device, Dr. Storm goes to see Victor Von Doom (Toby Kebbell).  The idea for the device that the foundation had been working came from Victor.  The young man comes back to the project but carries the emotional baggage he has packed from his first tenure there.  It is obvious to everyone (except possibly Sue) that he longs to be Sue’s lover.  It is also obvious that he is not happy to have Reed in the picture.
The team is then enhanced by Johnny Storm (Michael B. Jordan), Dr. Storm’s biological son.  Johnny is a gifted mechanic/builder who assists them team in building the newly redesigned interdimensional transmitter.  Yes, the device isn’t moving things from one part of our planet to another but to a world in another dimension.  The thought of Dr. Storm is that we should be able to exploit the energy of the new world to help our world.  His backers, led by Dr. Allen (Tim Blake Nelson) are extremely skeptical of the possibility that the team will succeed, and especially skeptical of having Victor Von Doom back.
Eventually, the device is built and ready to test.  First up is a monkey.  The transporter disappears in the same blue light that once upon a time sent a toy car somewhere else.  The team is able to observe the transporter in the other dimension.  Assured the test is working, they bring it back to our dimension.  Success!  The monkey is just fine!  The plan is now to send the team of erstwhile geniuses
Dr. Allen arrives while the team is celebrating the success.  He is happy that the project has been successful and informs the team that he will now be passing the project over to the people at NASA.  Dr. Storm argues but the head of the board is adamant.
Victor, Johnny, and Reed share a flask of whiskey and commiserate over the loss of their grand adventure.  Empowered by the liquor the trio decide that they deserve to be the first humans to make the trip.  What is their justification?  Who remembers the people who built the lunar module?  No one does.  But they DO remember who Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin are.
Reed refuses to go without Ben.  The four suit up and enter the transporter.  Activating the device they jump dimensions.  Their time in the other dimension is short but action filled.  The place is unstable.  Victor’s actions, while innocent, create a reaction that endangers the whole team.  During the arduous race across the landscape and up a cliff the team loses Victor who is the last man up the cliff.
The world is trying very hard to kill the young men as Reed tries to get the transporter to engage and get them home.  Only Sue’s assistance back in the lab gets them to safety.  But safety is not what they find as the transporter explodes upon arrival.
Reed, Ben, and Johnny have been altered by the energy of the other dimension.  Enough energy is retained by the device that Sue is also affected.
The group is secured in a remote base to be tested.  When they are allowed to awaken they military urge them to become weapons for the government.  Reed escapes into the wilderness leaving Ben behind despite his pleas for help, help that Reed simply can’t provide.
Each person is separated from the others and forced to work on controlling their powers.  Ben begins working for the military almost immediately while Johnny and Sue need time to work out how to best utilize their abilities.  The government searches in vain for Reed until Dr. Storm convinces Sue to uses her ability to see patterns in everything to find him.
The timing of Reed’s recovery by the military is fortuitous.  Victor returns from the other dimension transformed into something new and deadly.  The power her was enveloped in across the line in the other dimension has melded his protective suit with over his body making them one armor enclosed being.  He can manipulate the energies he has absorbed to do amazing things.  Sadly this power and his own already fragile mental state have turned him into something evil.  It has changed Victor Von Doom into Dr. Doom!
This sets us for the fight all fans of the Fantastic Four know would have to happen.  Dr. Doom wants to end our world so that his new one can survive.  The fight starts on our world and sees Dr. Storm’s murder.  Following Dr. Doom back to the other dimension each of our nascent superheroes is defeated in turn.  Only when they finally fight as a team are they able to defeat the man who was once their friend. 
Back in our dimension following their victory, the team faces down their next challenge, the military. They flatly refuse to remain pawns to the whims of their desires for super soldiers.  The team works out a deal to help the government in exchange for a really nice place to work.
This film is better in some ways than the last attempt.  It has flaws but they aren’t insurmountable.  The action is decent if not as exciting as I might have wanted to see in a film like this.  The highpoints in this film are the performances of the talented actors.  Miles Teller, Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Bell, Kate Mara, and Toby Kebbell are a strong ensemble cast.  Tim Blake Nelson plays a really good bad guy.  Sometimes a new spin on an old story works.  It’s not as good as the restart of the Star Trek saga but it is a film worth a watch on a Saturday afternoon.
The Selig Rating Scale:
FULL PRICE – Excellent movie, well worth the price
MATINEE – Good movie
DOLLAR – OK movie
CABLE – No need to rush. Save it for a rainy day.
FREEBIE – Good that I saw it on the big screen but wish I hadn't paid for it.
COMMERCIAL TV – Commercials and cutting to the allotted time will not hurt this one.
FORGET IT! – Bad. If you see this one, do yourself a favor and keep it to yourself.
GET YOUR TORCHES – BAD! – Burn the script, the writer, the director and maybe even the actors!
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