Fantastic Four
Review and Media by Stu

Fantastic Four
Original Release Date - July 8th, 2005

Synopsis: Marvel's first family of comic superheroes takes the world by storm as the longest running comic book series in history comes to the big screen. The Fantastic Four are: Reed Richards / Mr. Fantastic, who can elongate his body; Susan Storm / Invisible Woman, who not only can become invisible at will but can render other objects invisible; Johnny Storm / Human Torch, who can shoot fire from his finger tips and bend flame; and Ben Grimm / The Thing, a hideously misshapen monster with superhuman strength. Together, they battle the evil Doctor Doom!

Credits
Written By: Mark Frost and Micheal France
Directed By: Tim Story
Music By: John Ottman
Starring: Michael Chiklis, Ioan Gruffudd, Chris Evans, Jessica Alba, Julian McMahon, Maria Menounos, Kerry Washington, Hamish Linklater

Review: With The X-Men and Spider-Man arriving on the big screen to glowing reviews, and more importantly, millions in cash and merchandising, Marvel decided to rush The Fantastic Four movie onto the screen and to be blunt, it shows. Released in the summer of 2005 after a rather rushed production, Fantastic Four made had a fairly decent box office in take in a summer that was looking increasingly slowly in Hollywood. But how does it hold up, to fans and none fans?

Pretty lousy, I’m afraid to say. It’s a typical summer blockbuster that I thought were on their way out but unfortunately, everyone involved in this one decided to play it safe and pretty much went for the kids in this one, rather than the older, more intelligent audience that the Spider-Man, Hulk and X-Men films aimed at. It would probably be more accurate to say very little effort went into the film – there’s nothing in this film that you’ve not seen done better elsewhere. The screenwriters clearly thought the film should’ve been a superhero sitcom, which doesn’t really work on the big screen (as opposed to the recent Fantastic Four: World’s Greatest Heroes which is an outstanding sitcom but relatively slow in the action department), the director clearly doesn’t have a clue what he’s up to and the actors have so little to work with, you can’t help but feel sorry for them.

The character themselves aren’t quite as well defined as one would’ve hoped - Reed is desperate to study the cosmic storm despite his obvious troubled prior relationships with both his ex-girlfriend Sue Storm and school friend/rival Victor Von Doom – you can tell he’s pretty much exhausted all other options at this point. In fairness to the film, it didn’t do such a terrible job with Reed Richards – I went into it expecting Reed to be barely present akin to Cyclops in the X-Men movies, but they did a reasonable job with him. He’s not quite the leader he is in the comics but he’s not as dull as the books occasionally make him out to be either. Johnny sums up his character best in the movie itself “The worlds dumbest smart guy”. Ioan Gruffield does good in the role – there’s nothing remarkable and he doesn’t quite control the role as the late Christopher Reeve did in the Superman movies or even Tobey Macguire and Hugh Jackman in their respective roles in the Spider-Man and X-Men movies. Sue Storm is the one that most of the fans were against from the beginning, mainly due to the casting of Jessica Alba instead of someone who can, y’know… act. Despite the fact she may be the hottest woman alive, many had a huge problem with her. I admit I wasn’t impressed with Sue in the movie – she didn’t seem to be able to get past her own invisible bubble and spent most of the film ranting at Reed, Victor, her brother – it got pretty tiresome after a while. As someone who is supposed to be a natural leader, a Mother to the group, she instead occupies the role of annoying older sister – the one you would like nothing more than to punch in the ovaries but know that it would lead to your eventual arrest or a proper telling off from your Mother. Her best scene is naturally the one where she gets naked on the bridge. They all should be ashamed of themselves here.

Ben gets an enjoyable if somewhat confusing role in the movie. You genuinely feel for him when his girl dumps him but it was a little too rushed (like the rest of the movie) but he isn’t as interesting as one would’ve hoped. The costume is great – it doesn’t appear to be too restrictive as to what Chiklis can do in it and it’s just as it looks in the comic. They even managed to explain how everyone else can turn their powers on and off while Ben is stuck in his Thing form permanently, due to his prolonged exposure to the cosmic rays. I was fairly impressed with the idol of millions in this film, right until the nonsensical conclusion of the film – he spends the entire picture cursed with his powers – his appearance, his popularity, his strength but randomly couldn’t give a rats ass by the end of it. It was far too much of a 180, even after Reed/Doom’s BS cure and return to Thing form. Again, weak writing ruins the character, despite a strong performance from Michael Chiklis.

Johnny is the undisputed highlight as the world’s tallest 4 year old. You can tell the Fantastic Four: World’s Greatest Heroes cartoons took their que from Chris Evans here and made it better than ever – Johnny is the star of the show. He’s pretty much perfect.

Doom is the lousiest Marvel villain we’ve ever had – he makes that Goth emo kid from Ghost Rider look menacing. He’s nothing like the man call the greatest villain in Marvel’s history, he’s just a poor, bland knock off of Norman Osborn with Electro’s powers who doesn’t come anywhere close to the coolness of said villains. McMahon is poor in the role too – he’s given nothing to work with but he barely tries to elevate himself above his ridiculously bad lines The costume is OK, but he becomes Dr. Doom too late into the game and is easily defeated in his first fight, he isn’t a credible threat to anyone of the heroes, never mind all Four of them. A poor effort from all parties here.

The characters aren’t the films only problem – the story here is non-existent. They get their powers, go into space… and hour passes without relevant activity, Victor becomes evil and they have a fight, Ben contradicts the character he’s been portraying throughout the film and it ends. It’s crap. It’s cookie cutter – not good enough for a film based on what is an entertaining comic book with a big Hollywood budget. There’s also a few plot holes – the main one being that if Reed can duplicate the effects of the cosmic storm in his lab (as shown when he tested his chamber of himself in hopes of learning how to cure Ben) then why did they go up into space in the first place?

One nice nod in the movie – if you look at the magazine cover with Sue on the cover, there’s a nice little Easter egg to another popular FOX Marvel film. See, this is where those screen grabs come in handy, isn’t it? It’s number 89 for those interested.

The score does a lot for the movie – it’s one of the few highlights of the picture. Ottman manages to capture the characters much better than the writers, the directors and even the majority of the cast did. When they announced that most of the crew was coming back for the sequel, Ottman was the only named I felt like cheering. I find it to be much better than his Superman or X-Men work too, but that would probably be a matter of personal taste.

The special effects are pretty mediocre for a summer flick. As previously mentioned, The Thing looked great. Johnny looked pretty cool when he flamed on, but there’s not really that many shots of Johnny using his powers, I’m sorry to say. The Invisible Woman women’s invisibility effects were pretty dumb in my opinion… isn’t the whole point of being invisible is that no one can see your powers, or more accurately, they reflect light? So what the hell is this blue force that appears every time she uses her powers. I don’t expect correct science in a summer film, but common sense would’ve been welcomed. We save the worst for last – Reed’s stretching looked terrible. It was especially bad compared to how spectacular The Incredible’s displayed their powers in unique and interesting ways whereas this was just plain and shallow effects. I do struggle to find a better word than lazy. Perhaps unimaginative?

Poor direction, questionable casting and a terrible script hindered what could’ve been one of the crown jewels in Marvel’s movie crown. What a waste of a fantastic opportunity.

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