With Miles Teller, Kate Mara, Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Bell, Reg E. Cathey. Written by Simon Kinberg & Jeremy Slater & Josh Trank. Directed by Josh Trank. Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence, and language. 100 minutes.
What’s the worst thing you can say about a superhero movie? It’s dull. THE FANTASTIC FOUR is deadly dull. How dull is it?
It’s so dull that it’s a third attempt to launch the long-running Marvel characters into a film series.
It’s so dull that it takes half of its running time just to get them to turn into their superhero characters.
It’s so dull that we first meet Reed Richards and Ben Grimm as children and then pick up the story when they’re still in high school.
It’s so dull that it casts Miles Teller as Reed, Jamie Bell as Ben (who becomes The Thing), Michael B. Jordan as Johnny Storm, and Kate Mara as Sue Storm and manages to make them all bland and uninteresting. Johnny can turn into a human torch and Sue can become invisible and project force fields, and they’re boring.
It’s so dull that the film’s supervillain, Victor von Doom (Toby Kebbell) is introduced partway through prior to his transformation as Dr. Doom, and then disappears from the film. When he returns for the climactic battle, he wreaks havoc in a way clearly intended to be thrilling, but instead just seems to be going through the motions.
It’s so dull that the potential romantic triangle between Sue, Reed, and Doom is played out by Doom calling her “Susan” and Reed asking her if she prefers “Sue.”
It’s so dull that the highly expressive Reg E. Cathey, playing Dr. Franklin Storm, comes across as if he’s auditioning for a slot on “Sesame Street.”
It’s so dull that the entire film is an origin story, as if learning about the background of these characters makes us care any more about them.
It’s so dull that the background information we are given isn’t utilized to make the characters any more interesting. A menorah on a shelf tells us that Ben is Jewish. We learn that the white Sue was adopted by the black Dr. Storm. Reed apparently doesn’t get along with his (unseen) step-father. None of this turns out to matter in any way.
It’s so dull that the in the big confrontation with Dr. Doom the solution to defeating this apparently unbeatable supervillain is “teamwork.”
It’s so dull that the climax of the film are the characters–slowly–figuring out what they should call their “fantastic” quartet.
It’s so dull that this is a movie based on a long-time Marvel series and yet Stan Lee fails to make his expected cameo appearance, even though he’s listed as executive producer and even though he even had a cameo in the animated “Big Hero 6.”
How dull is it? If you made it to the end of this review and still want to see it, you’ll have to find out for yourself.•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His most recent book is “Shh! It’s a Secret: a novel about Aliens, Hollywood and the Bartender’s Guide.” He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.