Film Reviews

FANTASTIC FOUR

By • Jul 8th, 2005 •

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QUOTE: So bad it takes points away from BATMAN BEGINS.

Rabid fans of the comics will be disappointed to see their beloved superheroes ridiculously portrayed and, even worse, directed like wooden idiots on the big screen. For the rest of us it was pure hell. Get this! Only one of the Fantastic Four is happy to have superpowers. The others grumble and complain. What makes them so fantastic? I’ll never pick up a FANTASTIC FOUR comic book.

Dr. Reed Richards (Ioan Gruffudd), and his chubby cohort, astronaut Ben Grimm (Michael Chiklis), ask his former college classmate, billionaire Victor Von Doom (Julian McMahon) for money to study cosmic radiation in space. Von Doom, suffering some corporate cash-flow problems that seem to make him really peeved and temperamental, agrees to accompany the guys using his very own spacecraft. Von Doom takes along Richards’s former lover, his director for genetic research, the adolescent Sue Storm (Jessica Alba) and her bratty brother, pilot Johnny Storm (Chris Evans). You know what happens: they all get hit with cosmic dust and change into very special humans. Richards’s body becomes elastic, Sue invisible, Johnny can make fire, and poor Ben becomes a rock-hard orange monster. Von Doom slowly turns to metal. Why did the radiation change each of them differently? Why doesn’t Sue enjoy being invisible?

Only Johnny embraces his special powers as any of us would. Superhero bodysuits are made for them though Ben can only wear spandex pants. Johnny gives the group individual names: he becomes The Human Torch, Sue is Invisible Girl, Richards is Mr. Fantastic, and Ben is The Thing. Von Doom must make do with merely being Dr. Doom.

Ben, of course, is miserable. Sulking on a bridge, he causes a massive auto accident that paralyzes the city. Then his buddies suddenly come to his aid, go public, and then rescue people. Instead of being arrested for millions of dollars of damage, they are hailed as heroes. There is no villain since poor Dr. Doom is losing his hair and his good looks. He does have a sexy metal scar on his face that will soon force him to wear a mask and a hood.

I’m thinking: Is the mask the new burqa?

For some very unclear reason – blame the source material and writers – Dr. Doom decides his collapsing empire is the fault of the Fantastic Four. As if this bunch of numbskulls could affect stock prices.

More disturbing then the lack of story, 60’s TV sitcom direction, and lousy special effects, is the casting. Gruffudd, Chiklis, and Alba are lackluster and this is clearly director Tim Story’s fault. None of them are even marginally sexy or interesting. As Mr. Fantastic, Gruffudd is given the creepy task of manfully wrapping his body around The Thing. His limbs look silly. Chiklis stammers along: He’s a sad, miserable superhero. Only feline McMahon knows THE FANTASTIC FOUR can’t hurt him but it does ruin his well-crafted NIP/TUCK masculinity. McMahon looks like Michael Jackson’s makeup crew worked on him. None of these actors bothered to read the script. Sometimes you can smell the actors just signing the paycheck.

Evans figured out his happy-go-lucky character could be played for laughs and pure fun. He has the best character since every member of the audience would enjoy being a superhero and not bother with trying to figure out what happened. And The Thing’s dramatic choice to stay a thundering outcast? Yeah, like everyone in America wants to be just like The Thing: A lumbering orange monster without decent PR and half a superhero suit. And, as if even the writers felt sorry for The Thing, they gave him a girlfriend (Kerry Washington). She’s a blind saint who hangs out in a bar! The League of the Blind should complain. If only a blind girl could love The Thing, what does this say about the rest of us?

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