Fantastic Four (2 stars)

Fantastic Four

Drab and humourless superhero reboot from Chronicle director Josh Trank

Made in 2005 and 2007 respectively, Tim Story’s cartoonish Fantastic Four movies are arguably bottom of the pile in the Marvel canon. With the bar set that low, director Josh Trank didn't have far to go to eclipse them. He'd already had a test-run, after all, with his 2012 found-footage film Chronicle, about kids that develop super-powers. But this take on Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s classic comic book team still feels like a damp squib.

Admittedly, casting Whiplash's Miles Teller as Reed Richards is an upgrade on the previous incarnation of Mr Fantastic, Ioan Gruffudd. And the others are equally promising: Fruitvale Station’s Michael B Jordan as Johnny Storm (a character that was originally white in the comics); House of Cards' Kate Mara as Johnny's (now adopted) sister Sue; and Britain’s own Jamie Bell and Toby Kebbell as, respectively, Ben Grimm and the ultimately villainous Victor Von Doom.

So what goes wrong? Lack of humour, for starters. Dry and drab, Trank's film sacrifices the primary-colour aesthetics of the comics for a gritty ‘real-world’ environment. Delivering yet another origin story, it shows us how Reed and co developed their freakish abilities, after an experiment to teleport matter to a parallel dimension goes dangerously wrong. With Victor stranded on another world and presumed dead, the others are shuffled off to Area 57 for the government to poke and prod them.

For the most part it doesn’t deviate from the comics: Sue's invisible, Johnny controls fire, Reed's rubbery and Ben becomes a super-strong rock-monster. But, as the characters agonise over their fate, it feels like a superhero movie in denial. The effects are no better than in Story’s films, with the exception of Reed's stretchy torso, and it’s rammed with verbose, self-important speeches about saving the world. Only when Ben unleashes his ‘It's clobberin’ time!’ catchphrase in the final scenes does this even vaguely feel like a Fantastic Four film.

General release from Thu 6 Aug.

Fantastic Four

  • 2 stars
  • 2015
  • US
  • 1h 46min
  • 12A
  • Directed by: Josh Trank
  • Cast: Miles Teller, Kate Mara, Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Bell
  • UK release: 6 August 2015

This adaptation of the classic comic book delivers yet another story about how a team of superheroes develop their freakish abilities, but it's humourless, drab and filled with self-important speeches about saving the world. Tim Story's 2005 and 2007 Fantastic Four films may have set the bar low, but Trank barely clears it.