REVIEW #2: "Fantastic Four"

Fri, July 8th, 2005 at 12:00am PDT

TV/Film
Dave Richards, Staff Writer

The Marvel age of movies has been in full swing for awhile now. However, the characters that inaugurated the Marvel Age of Comics, The Fantastic Four, have yet to grace the silver screen, until now. Moviegoers and comic book fans are wondering if "Fantastic Four" is the "World's Greatest Comic Book Movie." While "Fantastic Four" is by no means the best Marvel Film ever made, it's not the worst either.

The film is a modernization of the team's origin. A cash strapped Reed Richards and his partner Ben Grimm convince Corporate Mogul, and Reed's old college rival, Victor Von Doom to provide financing and the use of his space station for their research project. Doom insists on coming along and bringing his chief scientist, Susan Storm, who happens to be Reed's old college flame. Sue's brother Johnny Storm, who washed out of NASA while under the tutelage of Ben Grimm, is assigned to fly the group up to the space station.

Once the group reaches the station an unexpected error results in Ben, Reed, Sue and Johnny being exposed to a cloud of cosmic rays, which alters their DNA giving them their

distinctive super powers. Von Doom is also affected by the accident. His body begins to slowly transform into organic metal and he is inexplicably given the ability to project massive amounts of electricity

Plot wise that's about it. The movie is riddled with plot holes, convenient coincidences, and unbelievable character actions. After the accident, Von Doom's company is threatened and it's this that pushes him over the edge into homicidal super villain territory. I found this strangely familiar (cough, cough "Spider-Man"). He then sets out take revenge on Reed Richards and his friends who have been dubbed "The Fantastic Four" by the New York City press after they used their powers in public during a rescue attempt on one of the city's bridges.

There are a lot of character development moments in "Fantastic Four" and these are some of the best and most tedious moments in the movie. When the film focuses on Reed and Sue or they're relationship, the film grinds to a halt. There is no chemistry between Ioan Gruffud (Mr. Fantastic) and Jessica Alba (Invisible Girl)

In the film Mr. Fantastic is uninteresting, especially when compared to his other teammates. The character is just plain bland

Jessica Alba tries to portray the Invisible Girl as the fierce, proud, independent matriarch of the FF, but is unconvincing.

However the movie shines when it focuses on the Thing and the Human Torch, who are the best things about the film.

Michael Chiklis does an amazing job bringing the Thing to life. Chiklis captured the essential essence of the character. He showed that underneath the huge gruff exterior there is a noble, but tortured human being inside. Many of the moments spent with the Thing are hilarious and poignant

Chris Evans did the impossible and made me love The Human Torch, who is my least favorite member of the FF. While Chiklis as the Thing demonstrates the downside of having super abilities, Evans as

the Human Torch has a great time showing off the enjoyment fantastic powers can bring. Evans delivers a break out performance and is charismatic, cocky, and hilarious. He steals almost every scene he's in.

Julian McMahon's performance as Doom gets worse as the character descends into insanity. When McMahon is playing the narcissistic, duplicitous, businessman Victor Von Doom, he is cool and charismatic, but as the psychotic villain Doom he is just silly. To make matters worse, visually Doom looks rather comical with the cloak and the mask. The reason given for the mask is unintentionally funny. Besides, shouldn't the use of a metal mask be redundant for a man whose body is transforming into metal?

The final battle of the film between Doom and the Fantastic Four involves some impressive special effects, especially the ways in which Mr. Fantastic employs his stretching powers. However, the battle did not have the epic feel you would expect from a big screen conflict between Marvel's First Family and their archenemy. It felt like something more akin to the climax of a network TV drama.

The special effects in "Fantastic Four" were good. The Thing's suit was really well done. It resembled Jack Kirby's earlier renderings of the character when his skin looked lumpier rather than the current rock-plating look of the character.

The film did try hard to capture the feel of the comics including such things as the unstable molecules of the FF's costumes, white temples on Reed Richards hair, and tiny appearances by characters like Willie Lumpkin (played by FF co-creator Stan Lee) and Alicia Masters (whose appearance was too small for the effect she had).

Another thing sure to make comic fans happy is even though Doom's origin was changed, making him a businessman instead of a monarch, there are plenty of references to his home country of Latveria. Should there be a sequel it appears that Latveria will play a huge part in that film.

Moviegoers should also be on the look out for some of the fun little details in the background of the film. Observant viewers will find an indication that Reed Richards' favorite band is Devo.

"Fantastic Four" manages to capture the feel of the comic books and deliver some fun and entertaining moments. However, as a movie it was not satisfying in the way films like "Spider-Man 2" and "Batman Begins" were. I recommend fans lower their expectations and "Fantastic Four" should prove to be an entertaining, but unfortunately forgettable two hours.

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