Fantastic Four

Marvel Comics has been heading back to their seemingly bottomless well of superheroes since discovering their creations were a bankable commodity at the box office. While we have been enjoying terrific departures like both Spider-Man and X-Men films, we have also survived less-than-stellar offerings like Hulk and Elektra.

This summer, Marvel told us to ?Prepare for the Fantastic?? as director Tim Story was bringing to the big screen The Fantastic Four. I was really on the fence about whether or not this was going to live up to the hype?and the lovable legend?of this Marvel institution. I wanted this film to rock because I'm a fan of actor Ioan Gruffudd since getting into his A&E Horatio Hornblower films. I really want to see him make an impact in film because he's one of those actors you can't help but like?but Reed Richards? I wasn't too sure the more I thought about it. Then there was the issue of Jessica Alba playing Sue Storm. Why would you even think of having her be invisible?! It also didn't help that my summer got a good comic book kickoff with Christian Bale and Batman Begins.

Then I heard Michael Chiklis would be playing Thing. Slam dunk. So, even with the looming deadline of my current writing project, I caught Fantastic Four?and it was time well spent.

Dr. Reed Richards is a brilliant mind with a bankrupt payroll. He's on the cover of Wired, but it's because he's in search of a sponsor. With his straight-talking compadre, pilot and astronaut Ben Grimm, at his side, Reed goes to pay a call on his college acquaintance, mega-mogul and megalomaniac Victor Von Doom to ask for financial help in analyzing this nasty cosmic cloud that will be passing close to Earth, close enough to study. Victor can't help but enjoy this humbling moment for his academic rival, and even rubs salt into Reed's wounded pride by inviting his own team on the launch?Reed's ?mart and ?ot ex-girlfriend, Sue Storm, and her brother, hotshot pilot Johnny Storm. With their sponsor tagging along to keep an eye on the investment, these five head up to the Von Doom Space Station to observe the oncoming cosmic cloud.

Things look okay on arrival, but quickly go wrong (of course?) when the cloud picks up velocity and hits the station full force. Von Doom hides himself in a shielded section of the station, but everyone else is hit by the radiation. The team makes it back to Earth in one piece, but gradually Reed, Ben, Sue, and Johnny start showing some odd after-effects to the cosmic energy.

As for the safely-shielded Victor Von Doom?well, that radiation was pretty darn powerful. He's going through some changes, too, and he's not taking it too well.

What makes Marvel Comics and their movies (when done right) so cool is how Marvel treats their superheroes. Spider-Man is a hero to the general public, but vilified by Chief Editor J. Jonah Jameson's The Daily Bugle. While continuously saving the world from Magneto and his mutated homies, Professor Xavier's X-Men are lumped into the same category as the villains. The house that Stan built loves to take conventions of the superhero and give them a spin that wouldn't break but flip the finger to them. What Stan and co-creator Jack Kirby did with Fantastic Four was unheard of in the comic book community. These four weren't exalted heroes, feared vigilantes, or misunderstood evolutions. Secret identities were chucked out of the window, and our heroes were regarded as celebrities, complete with paparazzi! I actually own an issue where the team is interviewing a new Public Relations agent. Now, how many superhero teams have a PR rep? This is part of the charm of Fantastic Four, both the comic book series and this movie.

My major beef with Fantastic Four is the writing in the first hour felt a little rushed and somewhat choppy. They crammed a lot of stuff in that segment between Victor's gradual transformation to Dr. Doom, and our reluctant heroes becoming The Fantastic Four. We then see one fantastic rescue by Reed, Sue, Johnny, and Ben?and that's it. I would have liked another feat from the team, or perhaps a quick montage of daring-do as we see in the Spider-Man films. Sure, the vignettes with the four of them ?adjusting? to their abilities was clever and amusing, but I would have liked to see them doing more. While the subplots with Johnny Storm at the X-Games and Victor losing his business helps develop the genesis of both the Human Torch and Dr. Doom, these plotlines could have been edited better or just toned down to leave more room for heroic feats. The running time of the film was 109 minutes. Another half-hour on this film would have been nice. Really, really nice.

Why so nice, you ask? The actors. I loved watching them do their thing! Julian McMahnon was a real delight as he tapped back into that evil streak he showed so well on Charmed as Cole, bringing Dr. Doom to life. Michael Chiklis was?as I thought he would be?a wonderful Ben Grimm/Thing, never letting the extensive make-up effects hinder his performance. Ioan Gruffudd shines as Reed Richards and Jessica Alba shows that sexy kick-ass side of her as Sue Storm, but Chris Evans steals the movie with his rock-and-roll extremist approach to Johnny Storm, staying true to the Marvel character and keeping the spirit of fun alive that this franchise is famous for. Once we are deep into the ?Let's figure out what the heck is happening to us?? plotline, the banter between characters is quick, snappy, and sharp. We do get ?It's clobberin' time!? from Thing, but we also get some other terrific exchanges between heroes and villain, and between the heroes themselves.

Fantastic Four is a far cry from Batman Begins, but it is solid entertainment. This is a comic book movie, and one I hope will see future installments. Much like the original X-Men film, a stage has been set. The only direction they can go from here is up. Until that sequel, enjoy the popcorn with this one.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Comments

  1. Thanks for the review. I wasn't that jazzed about seeing the movie, but after reading your review, I will definitely check it out.

  2. Thanks for the review. I wasn't that jazzed about seeing the movie, but after reading your review, I will definitely check it out.

  3. Great Review, Tee.

    You forgot the other Marvel groaners of the Punisher and (dare I say it) Daredevil.

    Why don't they make Iron Man? Captain America? The Avengers? Luke Cage and Iron Fist (ok, I'm taking this too far).

    Actually, the first Marvel film I can recall seeing was Howard the Duck. Argh!

    I was also quite eager to see the Fantastic Four. It was way too short and choppy. And the preview at the begining of the movie about the game gives away the ending. I was P.O.'d before the movie even began.

    It was a good watch though. I wouldn't say OOO I gotta have that DVD, but it was good. I'm eager to see a sequel. They laid the groundwork, let's see what happens next.

    J.R.

  4. Tee Morris says

    J.R.,

    Thanks for the kudos. As far as Marvel groaners, I can't speak for the recent PUNISHER, but if you refer to the Dolph Lungren PUNISHER, that was punishment. A few good moments, but few and far between.

    DAREDEVIL...now, you know...I enjoyed DAREDEVIL. Not a bad movie, Ben Affleck was good, and I enjoyed it for what it was. Maybe I needed to know MORE about DD to enjoy it. According to Mike, I need to see the Director's Cut. I say...after I see FIRELY from beginning to end.

    Some trivia concerning CAPTAIN AMERICA...there were two made-for-TV movies with Reb Brown playing Cap. He had a super motor cycle, complete with removable shield. It was delightfully Eighties. However, there WAS in the late 80's/early 90's a feature film of CAPTAIN AMERICA. Apparently it was so bad, it was held from the theatres and released on video.

    I've heard talk of IRON MAN with Tom Cruise in the lead...that was three years ago or so.

    But yeah, F4...worthwhile. I'll get it on DVD. :^)

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