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Fantastic Four

Year: 2015
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Director: Josh Trank
Writer: Jeremy Slater/Simon Kinberg/Josh Trank
Cast: Miles Teller, Kata Mara, Michael B Jordan, Jamie Bell, Toby Kebbell, Reg Cathey, Tim Blake Nelson, Dan Castellaneta

I never would have been interested in seeing this film under normal circumstances. Aside from being another superhero origin film (a reboot of a reboot, in this case), there's never been a decent Fantastic Four movie, from the cheesy Corman 90s effort to those dreadfully twee outings with Ioan Gruffudd, Jessica Alba, Chris Evans and Michael Chilklis, it just seems one of those franchises they can't get right.

But just like you can't quite look away when you see footage of 9/11 or that awful crash at 1995's Le Mans, the official press and online chatter surrounding how woeful this film was at the time made me curious.

I don't know what kind of quality people are expecting from comic book movies these days (to say nothing of Fantastic Four movies), but there were only two real clangers I could see. One is visual, where Reed (Miles Teller) wakes up in the aftermath of the interdimensional visit that gives him super stretch ability. He's lying on a gurney in a top secret lab with his extended limbs held up by stirrups, and the CGI of his plastic arms and legs is simply awful.

Another is structural, in that it feels like things have only just established what's going on and suddenly there's only 20 minutes left. The villain, Dr Doom (Toby Kebbell) returns from the evil dimension and you figure he's going to unleash hell on the world but you realise the movie's so close to being finished there'll only be time for him to fight the newly minted foursome and it'll all be over.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Reed Richards (inexplicably) befriends Ben Grimm, a kid from the wrong side of the tracks who takes an interest in the machine Reed's building that will apparently open a portal to another dimension.

A few years later, in their teen/twentysomething forms of Teller and Jamie Bell, they attempt to show the working prototype at a science fair and nobody's interested apart from the shadowy government agents who show up.

Scientist Franklin Storm (Reg Cathey), it turns out, has devoted his life to build the device Reed and Ben did in high school. They're whisked off to a hidden military lab and given equipment, resources, expertise in the form of the shut-in who got the portal closer than ever until he went off the grid, Victor Von Doom (Kebbell), and Franklin's ultrasmart adopted daughter Sue (Kate Mara).

Her brother Johnny (Michael B Jordan) isn't as interested in working on the project as he is illegal street racing, but when he's bought back into the fold he, Reed, Ben and Victor get into the machine to whizz off to the other dimension through the portal.

But some magic sludge from the weird planet they find themselves on touches them all and for reasons I can't remember now or couldn't understand at the time, gives them the powers we know about them – Sue getting splashed with the goo and getting her invisibility/telekinesis powers as well.

Victor is trapped and left behind on the strange world, Reed is terrified, breaking out of the base and promising Ben he'll rescue him, Ben is locked up and frightened, destined to be trained as an indestructible soldier now he's in the form of The Thing. Sue and Johnny are in on the action too, carrying out dark missions too dangerous for everyday soldiers to varying degree of unease about their lot in life.

Meanwhile Reed is a recluse, having spent years building himself a suit to control his abilities while Ben, Sue and Johnny have been stooges for the army before Ben catches up with and nabs Reed during an op. The nasty overseer of the program (Tim Blake Nelson) tells Reed if he builds a new portal device, he'll get the resources he needs to cure himself and his friends.

But when they return to the alien planet on the other side Victor is still alive after all, fusing to his protective suit and restyling himself Dr Doom, following them back to Earth to lay waste to humanity, rebuild the world in his own image, yada yada, etc.

That all feels like groundwork, but after a quick punch up in an all-CGI world, it's over. A quick coda while they settle on their team's name and get into their spandex and it was a slap up job tailor made to kickstart another connected universe.

But having lost $100m and scoring below 10 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, it was another one for the scrapheap. I just can't fathom what critics or even (increasingly easily pleased) comic book movie adaptation fans were hoping for – Shakespeare?

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