A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Fantastic Four (2015) is the latest take on the popular Marvel comic book, coming about 10 years after the last FF adaptation. Unlike the previous version, this one features a much younger version of the heroes and stars four actors with lots of teen appeal: Miles Teller as Reed Richards, Kate Mara as Sue Storm, Michael B. Jordan as Johnny Storm, and Jamie Bell as Ben Grimm. Things get explosive, but there's a bit less violence than in many other Marvel-based adaptations -- until the very end, when there are multiple deaths, some of them fairly gory (the villain makes heads explode, shoots people, and otherwise kills and injures people, almost solely with his mind). The heroes' transformation scene is also intense, and The Thing is used as a military weapon, killing dozens. Strong language is occasional and includes "s--t," "ass," "damn," and the like, and while there's some (presumably) underage drinking, for once there's virtually no romance beyond a few flirtatious remarks and longing looks. The four main characters work together, sending messages of teamwork and trust.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
FANTASTIC FOUR (2015) provides the origin story of a younger version of the comics' quartet of superheroes. High-school seniors/best friends Reed Richards (Miles Teller), a science prodigy, and Ben Grimm (Jamie Bell) have been working on a teleporter since fifth grade. At their local science fair, Franklin Storm (Reg E. Cathey) is so impressed with Reed's homemade device that he offers Reed a full scholarship to join the Baxter Institute in Manhattan, where Storm's team is working on a related device. Reed joins the team, working with fellow scientists Victor Van Doom (Toby Kebbell) and Storm's children, patterns-expert Sue (Kate Mara) and gearhead Johnny (Michael B. Jordan). But once they're done with the machine, the guys, including Ben, take a drunken maiden voyage to another dimension, where things go awry, and the crew returns forever changed (Sue can become invisible, Reed can stretch his body in limitless ways, Johnny can set himself on fire, and Ben turns into a huge rock creature).
Is it any good?
Josh Trank, who wrote and directed the clever Chronicle, has failed in his mission to jumpstart the Fantastic Four. It drags and lacks the charming banter and visual thrills that the Marvel-verse is known to provide. So much of the movie is spent on the set up and exposition, but the character development is thin and the dialogue lacking the snappy humor and relationship drama necessary for these ensemble superhero stories to shine. All of the leads are extremely talented (Teller and Jordan, in particular, are two of the best twentysomething actors in Hollywood), but they're wasted in this slow, boring redo that doesn't much improve on the lackluster '05 version.
Even when the villain (it's no spoiler to say it's Doom) finally emerges and the showdown begins, it's not like Doom has a real motivation to do what he does; he's just, well, there, underwhelming as he gorily kills his enemies (and civilians) with his telekinetic powers. By the time Reed convinces the Storm siblings and Ben (aka The Thing) to band together with the eye-rolling platitude, "he's stronger than any one of us, but he's not stronger than all of us together," audiences will be more than ready to go. Perhaps Trank figures he can sort out the character relationships and pacing issues in the sequels, but the franchise will need a new direction to propel it into a faster, more exciting gear.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the popularity of superhero movies. Are all movies inspired by comic books created equal? Why do some stand out? Does the type of violence kids see in this kind of movie have a different impact than what's in horror movies?
Discuss how the superpowers change the characters' lives -- and how each decides to use them.
Those familiar with the previous Fantastic Four movies -- talk about the differences between the two stories and how they approach the comics-based superheroes.
How does the movie portray drinking? Are the consequences at all realistic?
- In theaters: August 7, 2015
- On DVD or streaming: December 15, 2015
- Cast: Miles Teller, Kate Mara, Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Bell
- Director: Josh Trank
- Studio: Twentieth Century Fox
- Genre: Science Fiction
- Topics: Superheroes, Adventures
- Run time: 106 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: sci-fi action violence, and language
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.