In a summer that has been surprisingly bereft of any kind of obvious blockbuster outside of “Jurassic World” — which was nowhere near as good as its box office take would have you believe — the past few weeks have still managed to stand out as particularly bad. First, there was Adam Sandler’s wholly awful “Pixels,” and now we are forced to endure yet another attempt at making the comic book team, The Fantastic 4, entertaining.
The Fantastic 4 is not entertaining. So naturally, it stands to reason that “The Fantastic Four” — the latest attempt to reboot the film franchise — is not entertaining, either. We are given yet another look at a superhero origin story. This time, Reed Richards (Miles Teller), his childhood friend Ben Grimm (Jamie Bell), and adopted siblings Johnny and Sue Storm (Michael B Jordan and Kate Mara) are scientists working for an ill-defined think-tank called The Baxter Institute. Well, they are actually science students. Or, at least, Reed and Sue are. Johnny is added to the team by his dad as a form of punishment for getting arrested, and Ben is there because you can’t be The Fantastic 4 with just three people.
As a child, super-genius Reed created a way of teleporting matter to… someplace. He does not really know where, he just knows that he is sending stuff places and getting sand back in return. Years later, it so happens that the Baxter Institute is working on exactly the same idea and recruits Reed to join its team after seeing him at a science fair. He is teamed up with the Storm siblings and the moody, super-serious Victor Von Doom, who even folks completely unfamiliar with the comics can probably tell is going to wind up as the bad guy.
It turns out Reed’s teleporter is actually opening a gateway to a different dimension, and when the team builds a fully functioning, human-sized model, the five of them decide to explore the alien world a bit, and by doing so become infused with a strange energy that manifests itself in different ways for each of them.
Comic book stories are all a little (or a lot) ridiculous, and we are all pretty much fine with that. If you buy the ticket, you have already shown you are willing to take the ride. The problem with these new comic book franchises being launched, however, is that each new one keeps spending more and more time on the origin story, when nobody really cares. You know what the best handling of a superhero’s origin was? Tim Burton’s 1989 “Batman.” He took care of the whole “Bruce Wayne becomes Batman” story in about 15 minutes and moved quickly on to 90 minutes of Batman fighting the Joker. Perfect. But “The Fantastic Four” spends nearly half of its run time building up to everyone in the film getting their powers. Then there is another half-hour before we are introduced to the newly transformed and freshly evil Doctor (nee Victor Von) Doom.
By the time the film is done trying to make us care for a bunch of cardboard cutouts with powers, the film is nearly over. The result is one of the fastest, cheapest, most unsatisfying climactic battles ever put to film. Not only does the final battle last four minutes, but it takes place entirely on an alien world, which completely removes any kind of emotional or visceral attachment viewers would have to the outcome.
“The Fantastic Four” is a hackneyed, lazy, horribly paced waste of time. Do not bother. CV