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Fantastic Four movie


The Fantastic Four movie (2005), starring Ioan Gruffudd, Jessica Alba, Michael Chiklis, Chris Evans, Julian McMahon

Movie review of the Fantastic Four movie, starring Ioan Gruffudd, Jessica Alba, Michael Chiklis, Chris Evans, Julian McMahon — €“ read to find out what was good, what was bad, and what was downright ugly.

There are several things that the Fantastic Four movie got right, and several things that they got very wrong.   First, the positives:

  • Casting — the casting was spot-on; All of the lead actors are very good, and give good performances.  Especially Michael Chiklis as Ben Grimm, aka. the Thing.   It’s amazing how well he was able to project emotional depth while wearing his heavy “Thing” costume.   He brought pathos to a role that a lesser actor would have made comical.
  • Special effects — amazingly well done.   When Johnny Storm “flames on” it’s incredibly realistic.  It’s the way you would expect a flaming man to look.   Likewise, when Reed Richards/Mr. Fantastic stretches, it’s as though the Stan Lee/Jack Kirby comic pages have come to life.
  • The pathos of Ben Grimm — in addition to the excellent acting job by Michael Chiklis, the writers did the original story one better, by having Ben Grimm being engaged to “Debbie”.  A young lady that he’s truly in love with.  Who breaks off their engagement after his disfigurement.

the Fantastic Four movie, starring Ioan Gruffudd, Jessica Alba, Michael Chiklis, Chris Evans, Julian McMahonThere are also, sadly, quite a few things that the  Fantastic Four movie got very wrong:

  • Characters —  the Ben Grimm and Johnny Storm characters were spot-on (yes, in the comics Johnny was significantly younger, but that’s a minor quibble — the basic characterizations were completely on target), which made the glaring mistakes in the other characters so obvious:
    • Reed Richards/Mr. Fantastic (Ioan Gruffudd) — €“ I have no complaints about the actor playing the part, although he’s probably a little young for the role, so the writers came up with the silly idea of having him “mutate” with grey hair at his temples.   The character, however, is written totally wrong.   He’s a financial failure, even though he’s supposed to be one of the leading minds of the 21st Century.   He’s not a natural leader, but seems to be someone who allows himself to be run over by stronger characters, notably Victor von Doom and Susan Storm.
    • Susan Storm (Jessica Alba) — Jessica Alba is a very capable actress, as she demonstrated on the Dark Angel TV series.   Unfortunately, the writers/producers of  Fantastic Four seem unaware of this fact, and contrive scenes to show her off in her underwear, or have her keep her protective suit (made of the classic “unstable molecules”) unzipped down to her navel to show off her cleavage.   Likewise, the reason given that she broke up with Reed Richards is that she wanted to take their relationship to ‘the next level” by moving in with him.   Why did Reed Richards not take her up on this?   Because, Brainiac that he is, he knows that the vast majority of people who live together before marriage never actually get married.   The “real” Sue Storm actually has too much self-respect to treat herself like this.
    • Victor von Doom (Julian McMahon) — first, the actor did an excellent job of portraying the vainglorious Von Doom.   Many people complain that the origin of Dr. Doom was so drastically different from the comics, and there’s some truth to this.  in the comics, Victor von Doom has a tragic childhood, losing both of his parents, with his father saving Victor at the cost of his own life, causing Victor’s bitterness and motivation to attempt to gain control.   In the movie, what’s the motivation of multi-billionaire von Doom?  “I’ve always been attracted to power.”  That’s it.   Surely, that’s enough reason to become a callous murderer, isn’t it?
    • Alicia Masters (Kerry Washington) — the blind sculptress who falls in love with the deformed Ben Grimm, in the comics was a redheaded Caucasian woman, and in the film is African-American.   I actually don’t have a problem with that, since it really doesn’t matter as far as the movie goes.   One thing that does matter is the line that she gives when she meets Ben Grimm for the first time and replies to his line about how God must hate him with “She’s not into hating.”  it’s a politically-correct “inclusive” line that pulled me out of the movie, and reminded me about how opposed to traditional American values that Hollywood has become — all for no reason.   It happens several times in the movie (i.e. capitalism is evil, “God” is whatever we want Him/her/it/them/etc. to be, etc.) and destroys the carefully-built suspension of disbelief.
  • The reason for the trip into space — in the original comic story, there was a grand reason for the trip into space.  the four were attempting the first interstellar travel.   Here, there’s a “cosmic storm” coming toward Earth, that Reed hypothesizes has to do with the evolution of life on Earth, and he wants to observe it from von Doom’s orbiting space station.   So, why do they need to be there first hand?   What can they realistically expect to learn by being there that couldn’t be learned from various recordings?   It seems a much smaller vision, and that “grasping for lesser” feeling permeates the film.

Editorial review of Fantastic Four movie, courtesy of  Amazon.com

Marvel Comics’ first family of superherodom, the Fantastic Four, hits the big screen in a light-hearted and funny adventure. It begins when down-on-his-luck genius Reed Richards (Ioan Gruffudd, Horatio Hornblower) has to enlist the financial and intellectual help from former schoolmate and rival Victor Von Doom (Julian McMahon, Nip/Tuck) in order to pursue outer-space research into human DNA. Also on the trip are Reed’s best friend, Ben Grimm (Michael Chiklis, The Shield); his former lover, Sue Storm (Jessica Alba, Dark Angel, Sin City), who’s now Doom’s employee and love interest; and her hotshot-pilot brother, Johnny Storm (Chris Evans, Cellular). Things don’t go as planned, of course, and the quartet becomes blessed — or is it cursed? — €“with superhuman powers: flexibility, brute strength, invisibility and projecting force fields, and bursting into flame. Meanwhile, Doom himself is undergoing a transformation.

Among the many entries in the comic-book-movie frenzy, Fantastic Four is refreshing because it doesn’t take itself too seriously. Characterization isn’t too deep, and the action is a bit sparse until the final reel (like most “first” superhero movies, it has to go through the “how did we get these powers and what we will do with them” churn). But it’s a good-looking cast, and original comic-book co-creator Stan Lee makes his most significant Marvel-movie cameo yet, in a speaking role as the FF’s steadfast postal carrier, Willie Lumpkin. Newcomers to superhero movies might find the idea of a family with flexibility, strength, invisibility, and force fields a retread of The Incredibles, but Pixar’s animated film was very much a tribute to the FF and other heroes of the last 40 years. The irony is that while Fantastic Four is an enjoyable B-grade movie, it’s the tribute, The Incredibles, that turned out to be a film for the ages. — €”David Horiuchi

On the DVD

The principal extra on the DVD is a spirited commentary track by Jessica Alba, Michael Chiklis, and Ioan Gruffud. Self-avowed FF fan Chiklis explains why the Thing doesn’t have a craggy brow, Alba recalls which things were — €œcool, — € and they talk about looking forward to the sequel. There are three short deleted scenes (including a goofy Wolverine reference), 20 minutes of barely watchable hand-held video footage from the press tour, music videos, and some short featurettes including an appearance by FF creator Stan Lee. — €“David Horiuchi


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