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Fantastic Four

Fox // PG-13 // December 6, 2005
List Price: $29.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by John Sinnott | posted December 4, 2005 | E-mail the Author
In a Nutshell:  A fantastically mediocre
adaptation of the Fantastic Four comic book.


The Show:



In 1961 Marvel Comics writer Stan Lee and artist Jack Kirby created a new type of
superhero, ones that were more human than the usual god-like heroes that other companies published.  At the time, Marvel was mainly publishing western and
sci-fi comics, but with the publication of Fantastic Four #1, they
started to craft a world of heroes that would eventually turn the small
publishing company into a multimedia giant.  Now Marvel's first and
foremost superhero book gets the big budget treatment in Fantastic Four
Unfortunately this exciting comic gets turned into yet another not-so-great
superhero movie joining the ranks of the Incredible Hulk, Daredevil,
and Electra.

Reed Richards (Ioan Gruffudd) is a brilliant scientist who isn't that
great at handling money.  Bankrupt and turned down by every institution
that he's approached, Reed along with his friend Ben Grimm (Michael Chiklis)
approach his multi-billionaire college buddy and fellow scientist Victor
Von Doom (Julian McMahon).  They want to use his space station to
study the effects of a radiation storm that is heading towards Earth. 
Victor agrees, and the three take the next shuttle into space along with
Reed's old flame and Von Doom's current squeeze Sue Storm (Jessica Alba)
and her young brother hot-shot space pilot Johnny Storm (Chris Evans.)

While in space, the storm hit earlier than was expected and everyone
save for Victor is caught outside the station's shielding.  A few
days after returning to Earth they discover that the four of them have
changed: they all have super powers.  Reed can stretch, Sue can turn
invisible, Johnny can ignite his entire body, and Ben has turned into an
incredibly strong rocky monster, The Thing.

Reed spends his time trying to turn Ben back to normal, but everyone's
forgotten about Victor.  He's been effected by the radiation too,
but it has warped his mind as well as his body.  Slowly turning into
a person made totally out of metal, he decides to get even with the one
person who is smarter than he is once and for all: he decides to kill Reed
Richards and the Fantastic Four.

This movie has a really weak script that just didn't work very well
at all.  It was apparently penned by writers who have heard of the
comic, but never actually read it.  The simplistic plot just doesn't
capture the charm and sense of adventure that the comic books have.

One of the problems is that there is too much exposition at times that
really slows the film up.  Even if it wasn't for that, the pacing
is very poor.  Not a lot happens in the first half hour, and then
after the accident and the public revelation that New York is home to a
family of superheroes there's another 30-45 minutes of plodding. 
Heck, it's an hour into the movie before they get their hero names and
Sue uses her force field.  On top of that, the Human Torch doesn't
even really fly until the movie is nearly over.

This is a superhero movie without the superheroics.  The fight
scenes and cool action that you'd expect from a summer big budget popcorn
movie like this just doesn't come into play until the last 20 minutes. 
The villain isn't that interesting either.  Dr. Doom in this film
just isn't a very formidable foe for the FF.  His powers are ill defined,
and he doesn't really seem to be that much of a menace because of it. 
(He can make lights flicker... ohhhhh scary.)

That wouldn't have been a bad thing if the script was any good, but
it's fairly wretched.  I didn't mind that they don't capture the comic
book characters accurately, I can look past that.  (Reed is supposed
to be a smart and distracted scientist but also a good leader, not the
sensitive but clueless guy that he is portrayed as here.)  The problem
that there are many plot holes and a lot of bad writing.  Some of
this is just silly things that would just never happen in real life, like
a woman going outside in only neglige, but a whole lot of the script didn't
make sense.  How does Sue going invisible help get Reed and Johnny
past a police cordon?  Or why does the press dub the group the Fantastic
Four when only two of them publically exposed their powers.  Then
there's Ben's wife who leaves him cold at the beginning of the film and
then is never mentioned again, he certainly seemed to get over her quickly. 
Of course the police don't investigate any of the murders that Victor commits
earlier in the film, and the film (and I use the term loosely) also has
the slowest heat seeking missile ever launched.  I could go on and
on, but suffice to say that this script is rife with flaws and errors that
become incredibly distracting.

The acting wasn't much better.  Julian McMahon spends the film
trying to channel Kevin Spacey without much luck, and Ioan Gruffudd finds
an emotion for Reed and pretty much sticks with it the entire time. 
The worst offender was Jessica Alba though.  She was apparently cast
for her physical beauty and not her acting ability because she is horrible
in the role.  Some of her delivery is atrociously bad and bland. 
I couldn't believe that the director didn't ask for more takes.

 

Michael Chiklis did an acceptable job as Ben Grimm, maybe a little
too angst-filled in some scenes, but within the margin of error. 
The one really good performance was by Chris Evans.  He was able to
update the character of Johnny Storm while staying true to the comic and
making the character fun.  Whenever he was on the screen the movie
was much more enjoyable.

That's not to say that this is a totally worthless movie.  It isn't. 
There are a few good scenes scattered throughout, and the battle at the
end is pretty fun.  For a mindless summer movie though it should have
more action and excitement or a better script.


The DVD:





Audio:

This DVD has the choice of a 5.1 Dolby Digital track and a 5.1 dts soundtrack. 
I viewed this movie with the dts track but spot checked the DD also. 
They both sounded very good and reproduced the sounds from the movie faithfully. 
There's a good amount of dynamic range, with the background music sounding
full and forceful, and the dialog was clean and clear.  The big explosions
and other loud noises will give your sub a workout too.  The only
thing that is a little irritating is that for some odd reason it isn't
possible to change audio tracks with the remote while the movie is playing.

 

There is also a Spanish dub in Dolby Surround, as well as optional
subtitles in English and Spanish.

Video:

The widescreen anamorphic (2.35:1) image looked very good, as you would
expect from a recent big budget film.  The colors were strong and
the flesh tones accurate.  The black levels were spot on, and the
level of detail was excellent.  There did appear to be a little light
edge enhancement in a couple of scenes, but it was applied very lightly. 
A nice looking disc.

Extras:

This disc also comes with a commentary with Jessica Alba, Michael Chiklis,
and Ioan Gruffudd.  It nice to find out that Michael Chiklis was a
big comic book fan (at least that's what he claims) but the rest of the
commentary was pretty average.  Jessica's comments are mainly limited
to "do you remember when we filmed this?", but they did talk about things
that happened behind the scenes and what the shoot was like.  I would
have enjoyed it more if I had liked the movie.

In addition to the commentary there are a few other bonus items, none
of which are very exciting.  The making-of featurette is a five-minute
reel which is pretty much a fluff piece advertising the movie.  Fantastic
Four: Making a Scene
is an eight-minute look at how they filmed the
wreck on the Brooklyn Bridge scene.  About 2 or 3 minutes of this
is devoted to explaining who the FF are and what they are doing on the
bridge, and then they finally talk about building the 200 ft section of
bridge on a soundstage.

The three deleted scenes that are included were short, running about
three minutes total.  The last one was pretty cute.

Fantastic Four: Video Diary is a 20 minute feature that has Jessia
Alba taping some of the appearances that the cast did to promote the movie. 
This is all jerky hand held camera footage that has very little substance
and really isn't worth watching.  Fantastic Four: Casting Session
is another back slapping piece where everyone involved with the film says
how happy they are with the casting.  I can only assume that they
filmed this before anyone saw the movie.

 

There are also a couple of trailers for the movie and a pair of music
videos.

Final Thoughts:

It is possible to make a good film based on a comic book; just look
at Spiderman and X-men.  It's even possible to make
a great comic book movie.  Sin City is proof of that. 
It is pretty hard to do though.  There are many more failures that
there are successes, and unfortunately this is one of the failures. 
The plot is weak, the acting is poor and the pace is uneven.  It does
have its redeeming moments, just not enough.  If you feel like watching
some eye candy and a couple of good action scenes, this would make a good
rental.  If you are looking for a truly good movie though,
keep on looking.

 

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