“Fantastic Four”


                The long-running Marvel Comics series about the four amigos with superpowers takes to the big screen for the prequel, the story about how they acquired their particular talents.

                Reed Richards (Owen Judge as the kid, Miles Teller as the adult) is a brilliant little nerd with a couple of parents who are completely oblivious to his remarkable intelligence.  Reed is busy building a device in his garage that would transport matter, while his parents yell at the television watching sports. His best buddy, Ben Grimm (Evan Hannemann as the kid, Luke Bell as the adult) has parents who insist he help out in their salvage yard business, but that gives Ben a kind of mechanical facility that winds up helping out Reed.  Together they make an entry at the local science fair, which pretty well goes unnoticed except by a couple of important visitors from a secret government R & D institute.  They recruit the boys to continue working on their brilliant idea, which the R & D group has already tried, but so far haven’t been able to work out the kinks.

                Fast-forward several years.  Reed and his buddy Ben now have much better resources to develop their transporter, especially with the help of scientist Sue (Kate Mara) and former whiz kid Victor (Tony Kebbell), and their sponsor’s talented-but-slacker son Johnny (Michael B. Jordan).  The team begins to develop some good chemistry with each other as they near success with their prototype, but they’re all disappointed to learn that the government intends to take over their project once it’s completed for their own purposes (mainly military dominance). So they all decide to use themselves as guinea pigs, and manage to transport themselves to another dimension.

                Yes, that’s a long back story, and it plays like that in the movie, as well.  So far, nobody’s displayed any superpowers.  But something happens in the “alternative universe,” an infusion of raw energy or something (this is still a comic book movie), that affects each of them differently.  Reed can instantly stretch his limbs like rubber (or silly putty), Sue can move matter particles (including making a shield-bubble that can protect them all), Johnny acquires a fiery-like appearance with lightning-fast ability to move, even fly, and Ben Grimm becomes some Thing seemingly made out of rocks, along with great strength and huge stature.  The difference is that Reed and Johnny and Sue can switch back to their “normal selves” at will, and Ben apparently can’t.  Victor, accidentally left behind on the wild planet, turns into someone who can summon energy at will, but he also turns violent, greedy, and selfish:  in other words, the always-needed Bad Guy.

                The four with newfound powers find that they can’t fight Victor (now Dr. Doom) individually, they have to co-operate, and thus they learn to become a team in a different way than before.  Now, they’ve become the Fantastic Four, ready for the next big adventure.

                Sure, there are plot holes, and of course, the science is more whimsical than factual.  But at least the special effects are not overused, and they spent some time on character development before we got busy saving the world.  My grandkids liked it.  It won’t withstand high expectation, but it’s a fun little summer popcorn movie.

Questions For Discussion:

1)                  When have you discovered that working co-operatively works better than individually?  When have you experienced the opposite?

2)                  If you could have a superpower, what would it be?

3)                  Have you ever gone on a journey into the unknown and come back feeling like you’re different?


Dr. Ronald P. Salfen is the Supply Pastor, First Presbyterian Church, Kaufman, Texas