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Having dropped the ball with the first two films, Fox turns to the Ultimate Fantastic Four comic book stories to reboot its entire franchise with a multi-racial, four or fivesome of barely out of teenage boys and girls.created by Brian Michael Bendis, Mark Millar and Adam Kubert. We were almost tempted to go searching through our longboxes to find and re-read the originals but we don't compare to Source Material so nix to that. We're fanboy persnickety since we know all that Stan and Jack had to do with this movie is naming the principal characters. This isn't their work and . . .
IN SHORT: It is not. . . Fantastic, that is. [Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence, and language. 106 minutes]
We begin in Oyster Bay Long Island (home of Billy Joel, by the way) early in the most recent of centuries. We meet a child named Reed Richards (Owen Judge), who dodles pseudo- mathematical theorems in his notebooks and about building a "bio-matter shuttle" -- a kind of matter transporter a la Star Trek-- in what seems to be a fifth grade "Career Day." Later, Reed will make his first friend, young Ben Grimm (Evan Hannemann),who just happens to live in a junkyard that has a piece of equipment Reed needs to build his machine. Experimenting on a Hot Wheels kind of toy yields the first laugh of the film.
Seven years down the line Reed (Miles Teller) and Ben (Jamie Bell) meet, and are recruited out of a High School science fair by Dr. Franklin Storm (Reg E. Cathey) to join the experimental science crew at the Baxter Institute in the self-named building across the river in New York City.. That crew includes Storm's adopted daughter Susan (Kate Mara) and a gnarly looking computer programming genius named Victor Von Doom (Toby Kebbell). Doom has eyes on Sue Storm. Reed has pimples. Storm's son Johnny (Michael B. Jordan) dreams of a part in a Fast and Furious movie and works in the Institute to pay off the costs of wrecking his daddy-financed ride, All are to work on a device to allow transport of organic material to and from an alternate Earth code-named Planet Zero -- what Reed had seemingly achieved years before. They successfully send a chimpanzee through a dimensional rift to the other world but when Chairman of the Board of the Baxter Institute (Tim Blake Nelson) makes known his intention tp sell their work to the government, Reed, Ben, Johnny and Victor decide to grab first dibs.
These four will do something fantastic -- head off for Planet Zero! -- and and beat the government at its own game! Five minutes seems to last for days as Sue remains on Planet Earth to run the show. Planet Zero is nothing but a rocky crust with something molten and green flowing underneath. The four go off exploring, taking up way more than the five minutes they were going to take. Stuff happens. Bad stuff happens. Only three of the four return and some kind of energy pulse zaps Sue into unconsciousness. Reed wakes to find himself stretched like a rubber band. Ben has turned into a rocky Thing, moaning "Help me! Help me!". Johnny is on fire (and he seems to be fine with that since it enables him to fly and that's cool.) Sue fades in and out of view and can project force fields. All are now locked away in a government outpost called Area 57 and, while Reed manages to escape, Sue Ben and Johnny remain to learn how to use their powers. That training comes at a high price.
Fanboys of a certain age will not be pleased with that price, especially as it relates to one Benjamin J. Grimm. We will relate that we are of that generation and, as the head count rises on the screen, we were so uninvolved with this film's story that we weren't as pissed off as we would have been, say, a decade ago.
The government hunts Reed down. The government sends another team to Planet Zero. More stuff happens. Hint:Hint. Planet Zero didn't like having an American flag jammed into its crust. None of it is effective or affective in any way. In fact, Fantastic Four begins to resemble in ways the cheesy Roger Corman produced story of the mid 1990s, one never released to the public and purchased under the table by geeky fanboys like us, under the table at a comiccon somewhere along the line.
Fantastic Four was being savaged on the net before we even got to see it. We ignored those reviews and, to be brutally honest. It doesn't totally suck. If, perhaps yours Cranky was still of Stoner age the back end of the film -- the material we never give away -- might have worked.
I think there are now a dozen states that have legalized marijuana. Perhaps there is hope for this new fantastic four. The franchise is pretty much stripped of its good villains now. Miracles have been known to happen.
Reed Richards aka Mister Fantastic (Miles Teller), and Ben Grimm aka The Thing (Jamie Bell). are childhood friends. Bell is the one major miscast of the film . . . we don't usually say things like that but Cranky is a fanboy and Bell is just too scrawny for the art.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Fantastic Four, he would have paid . . .
Heck, if Stan Lee does a cameo in this film, we didn't see it. We did see a menorah in the Grimm household, which means one of the writers has actually read the comic book originals. For those who want the trivia: Ben Grimm is based on a youthful Jack Kirby, a Jewish boy in an Irish ghetto who literally had to fight his way to survive to adulthood. Too bad the actor cast as young Grimm is too scrawny for the part. (And there's a moment very early on which . . . ah the heck with it. Three strikes and yer out.
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