Following delays, dodgy trailers and on-set rumours, the advance buzz on this reboot of Marvel’s goofiest superhero team has been increasingly gloomy. It’s hard to imagine what the pundits were expecting. This is after all a story featuring teenage characters called Mr Fantastic (special power: stretchy limbs), The Invisible Woman (special power: take a guess) and the villainous Victor von Doom, adapted from a lightweight 1960s comic strip and given a twenty-first century makeover by a guy whose first film, 2011’s ‘Chronicle’, was an ugly, noisy found-footage mess. Frankly, it’s amazing the result is watchable at all.
And more than that – for the first 45 minutes or so, ‘Fantastic Four’ is actually a lot of fun. We’re squarely in Joe Dante country, as pre-teen science whiz Reed Richards and his bulky best-pal-cum-bodyguard Ben Grimm set to work on the world’s first inter-dimensional teleportation device. Flash forward seven years and these high-schoolers, now played by Miles Teller and Jamie Bell, are ready to present their invention to the world. Following an invitation to continue this research in a proper scientific setting, Reed and Ben trip off to a parallel universe in the company of similarly nerdy youngsters Sue Storm (Kate Mara) and her adopted brother Johnny (Michael B Jordan). But after an encounter with a bizarre energy force, the quartet return with supercharged powers and are immediately whisked off by shady government forces.
At which point the film goes badly off the rails. Following a spot of genuinely unnerving body horror courtesy of Teller’s infinitely extendable arms, the second half is nothing more than a sub-‘Avengers’ roundelay of superhero tics: naff catchphrases, brain-grinding exposition and lifeless punch-ups, the talented cast totally overwhelmed by the duff CG special effects. It’s a shame, because there are points early on where this promises to transcend its silly source material and become a worthwhile addition to an increasingly overstuffed and predictable genre.