The Fantastic Four was Marvel's first comic book superhero team. It was also Marvel's first 21st Century movie franchise that made it to a sequel but not to a trilogy, with lacklustre 2005 and 2007 movies that felt like throwbacks to an era when comic book movies still looked like comic books and were chiefly aimed at kids.

Now comes the franchise reboot with second-time feature director Josh Trank charged with reviving the franchise on the strength of his low-budget anti-superhero flick Chronicle.

His movie begins promisingly. Its origin story does start with a clever contemporary spin on how the old space-age gang got together.

But then, at some point in its weirdly truncated 100 minutes running time, it turns off the character development, ditches the acting, turns on the flashing lights and has its lead characters turn into an interplanetary green-screen mime troupe.

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Any FF movie has a problem in that the quartet's powers are a bit crap. Reed Richards' Mister Fantastic can stretch his body a long way. Sue Storm's Invisible Woman also does force fields that can look she's taken the whole family for an outing in a Zorb ball. Ben Grimm's The Thing is made of an unpleasant shade of rock. Johnny Storm's Human Torch scorches about the place.

But every demonstration of their skills via the movie's patchy special effects - some of them from Weta Digital - feels like that, a demonstration.

Had this been, say, a superhero television series like The Flash, which it sometimes resembles with its post-teen mix of lengthy lab scenes with occasional bursts of phys-ed, it might have been forgivable.

But this is a superhero movie that's really not up to the job offering not much to remember it by in terms of spectacle action or humour.

It does have some Spielbergian charm in its opening, which is focused on young gifted Reed Richards (Teller) and his friendship with loyal pal Ben Grimm (Bell).

Their science fair experiments get teenage Richards recruited by the think-tank Baxter Institute which is also working on a "quantum gate" designed to beam stuff to another dimension and back again, hopefully.

At the institute, Richards finds fellow whiz kids Sue Storm (Mara) and brother Johnny (Jordan) whose Dad Dr. Franklin Storm (Reg E. Cathey as the Morgan Freeman voice-of-reason) runs the place with paternal patience.

That tech causes the four to turn rock/chewing gum/fire/ transparent after a cataclysmic inter-dimensional jaunt with maverick fellow Baxter Institute alumni Victor Von Doom.

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You might think acquiring these abilities would take some getting used to. Apparently not. Yes, big stoney Ben (Bell doing motion-capture) is peeved with his old mate Richards for dragging him into his geological predicament. After all, he looks like shit. Though not quite as much as his 2005/07 predecessor did.

It's clobbering time - The Thing in Fantastic Four. (Supplied)
It's clobbering time - The Thing in Fantastic Four. (Supplied)

And yes, Richards takes off on his own when he realises the military industrial complex wants to weaponise him and his cohorts. But otherwise this movie flashes forward through the adjustment period on what feels like a did-we-miss-something? run to the end.

It's a case of good start, flat middle and a curiously bad nothing-at-stake finish - one which takes the default ending of so many other superhero movies and sets it on the dull dark "Planet Zero" where our heroes and villain end up throwing rocks at each other.


Verdict: Well, yes, there are four of them but ...

Director:

Josh Trank

Running time:

100 mins

Rating:

M


- TimeOut