Thursday, August 6, 2015

Trip to Planet Zero amounts to nothing

Fantastic Four, a bland attempt to stoke the Marvel fires.
The title of Fantastic Four is half true. There are four inadvertent superheroes in this latest offering to roll off the Marvel assembly line. Fantastic? Not so much.

Bland and dimly realized, this fourth Fantastic Four film stumbles through an origins story that begins well enough but quickly dissolves into heaps of uninspired exposition.

A negligible and familiar story launched when nerdy Reed Richards (Miles Teller) wins a scholarship to the Baxter Institute, a scientific think tank run by Dr. Franklin Storm (Reg E. Cathey).

Dr. Storm understands that Reed, though not exactly the star of his high school science fair, has invented a device that can transport objects (and maybe people) to another dimension.

Because it contains abundant supplies of energy, this other dimension -- dubbed Planet Zero -- may hold the key to mankind's future. Perhaps humanity will have a chance to undue the damage it already has done to its home planet.

Once the story arrives at the Institute, Teller teams with Kate Mara, Toby Kebbell and Michael B. Jordan, an able enough cast, but one that's stuck in a movie that sometimes feels like a throwback to '50s sci-fi -- only without the trashy fun.

The young researchers acquire their powers when they use the teleportation machine to journey to Planet Zero, some sort of alternate reality where canyons, mountains and energy flows are depicted with a singular lack of creativity.

Marvel fans already know that each of the researchers at the Baxter Institute eventually morphs into a superhero with one power, so there's little element of surprise here.

Teller's Reed develops a rubbery body that expands his reach; Mara's Sue Storm can make herself disappear; Jordan acquires the ability to turn himself into a fiery missile.

Reed's less-than-brilliant pal Ben (Jamie Bell) joins the brainiac adventure: He becomes The Thing, a massive creature composed entirely of rock. Bell so quickly vanishes from the picture, I found myself hoping that he wasn't being paid by the minute.

One of the teleportation travelers -- Kebbell's Victor Von Doom -- doesn't make the return trip from Planet Zero. He eventually turns into the movie's arch villain, Dr. Doom.

Trank did a far better job with Chronicle (2012), a refreshing movie in which a trio of high school pals acquired super powers. Stuck serving the Marvel machine, he founders.

As a result, Fantastic Four comes and goes without even making a dent in the pop-cultural imagination.

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