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Fantastic Four reboot offers a few twists to trite superhero tale

The Thing, Michael B. Jordan as Johnny Storm, Miles Teller as Dr. Reed Richards, and Kate Mara as Sue Storm in a scene from <em>Fantastic Four</em>. Associated Press/Twentieth Century Fox

<em>Fantastic Four</em> reboot offers a few twists to trite superhero tale

It is a rare superhero movie that portrays the consequences of becoming a superhero. In Fantastic Four, five teenage scientists make some very foolish decisions and suffer for them by gaining superpowers—invisibility, expandable skin, rock-like durability, and fire.

In the average superhero movie, the shock would immediately fade into the next scene, where the glee of superpowers and witty quips take over. But while Fantastic Four still hits about as many superhero movie clichés as it avoids, to the movie’s credit it does not shirk the realization that mistakes are not fixed overnight.

After the last two Fantastic Four movies, audiences have a right to low expectations going into this reboot. But the cast—Miles Teller, Michael B. Jordan, Kate Mara, and Jamie Bell as the eponymous team—is solid, and director Josh Trank is the writer/director behind 2012’s Chronicle, a non-franchise superhero movie that explores why superpowers might actually be horrific. Trank, who also co-wrote the movie, manages to take a team that has always been a little too drama-free—the geeky couple, the reckless brother, and the childhood friend bonded forever through a scientific accident into a super-powered family—and turn it into a story about how sometimes even family has to fight to stay together.

Trank and his team hit the bullseye with the theme of collaboration as the antidote to arrogance. The flip side is the villain, Victor Von Doom (Toby Kebbell), who declares, “I’ve always been alone,” even though the rest of the movie makes it clear he didn’t have to be. His powers are poorly explained and the science gets pretty disappointing around the interdimensional travel involved in the movie’s climax. But at least Dr. Doom is a truly creepy and believably powerful villain.

This movie is by no means brilliant. The ending is pat and sets up a franchise. But even in a decade clogged with superhero origin stories that have started to all blend together, it manages a few new twists, mostly by underplaying some of the usual beats in the story. Fantastic Four also gets bonus points for making Mara’s Sue Storm an independent character, not just a jumpsuit-clad love interest.

Fantastic Four is rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence and language. The language is mild but the violence includes people exploding into a bloody mess. It also depicts teenage drinking, which contributes to the aforementioned foolish decision-making.

Alicia M. Cohn Alicia is a former WORLD contributor.

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