Film review: Fantastic Four

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SHOWCASE CINEMAS PETERBOROUGH, OUT NOW

CAST: MILES TELLER, MICHAEL B JORDAN, KATE MARA, JAMIE BELL, TOBY KEBBELL, TIM BLAKE NELSON, REG E CATHEY, OWEN JUDGE & DAN CASTELLANETA

RUNNING TIME: 1 HR 40 MINS

DIRECTOR: JOSH TRANK

What an absolute mess Twentieth Century Fox and Chronicle director Josh Trank have made of Marvel’s first superhero family – leaving this a million miles from being anywhere near fantastic.

It’s unclear who’s more to blame: the unorthodox methods used by the once-acclaimed Trank in his attempts to make a ‘darker and more grounded’ superhero flick, or meddling by Fox’s execs when his vision didn’t have ‘blockbuster’ written all over it.

Either way it’s a botched-job – and will be one of the biggest box-office flops of all-time.

The good news is it isn’t a complete catastrophe, with the first half (which was reportedly Trank’s work) providing a methodical build-up, that is watchable – if generally bland and uninspiring – before a truly disastrous generic finale that is so bad, it has to be seen to be believed.

Trank puts a twist on the origin story of five misfits – Reed Richards (Whiplash’s Miles Teller), Johnny Storm (Michael B Jordan), Sue Storm (Kate Mara), Ben Grimm (Billy Elliot’s Jamie Bell) and Victor Von Doom (Toby Kebbell) – who get their physical form altered in shocking ways after the lads teleport to an alternate universe, after it seemed like NASA was going to hijack their revolutionary new invention.

But then everything (including the movie) goes horribly wrong – even though it was barely above meandering at best through this point – when a whole bunch of obvious re-shoots and some of the poorest editing you’ll ever see, rears its ugly head.

Check out Mara’s hair-do changing, Teller’s stubble re-appearing at will – and the poorest finale to a superhero movie in a generation.

At least it distracted the attention totally away from Jordan’s inclusion – much to the dismay of comic-book purists – as a black Johnny Storm (who was white in Marvel lore), which was the first major story (and a ridiculous one at that) to hit a film that had a troubled production from day one.

Jordan, who transforms into the flaming Human Torch – along with Reeds’ stretchy Mr Fantastic, Sue Storm’s force-fielding wielding Invisible Woman and Grimm’s super-strong rock-monster The Thing – deserve a lot of sympathy as this group of exciting young actors have to try their best to save this mess. But they don’t have a chance.

Particularly Bell, who simply mumbles a few words, shouldn’t be anywhere near this monstrosity. The Thing, who should be nearly the equal of the Hulk, has nothing to work with, and is left with a cringeworthy ‘it’s clobbering time’ quote to remember him by.

Fellow Brit actor Kebbell also probably wishes he was anywhere but here too, as his character (worse than the Julian McMahon version) returns to Earth as the super-powered Dr Doom – notably with cool (if out of place) brain-exploding ability thrown in – which leads to the other four uniting as the Fantastic Four to take him down.

But after the slow build up it seems the ending has been inexplicably rushed to save money and frantically draw a line under this carnage (on and off screen) – giving none of the superheroes any time to be fleshed out at all.

At its very best it’s only on a par with 2011’s Green Lantern in superhero film terms – but it’s a travesty a team that deserves to be in the same league as X-Men have been Trank-uilised in such a disappointingly farcical fashion. Rating: 1