Fantastic Four Review
By Shawn McKenzie 07/11/2005
With the release of Fantastic Four, some critics are saying that this is the last good Marvel movie to be released. I beg to disagree (last year’s The Punisher and the direct-to-video movie Man-Thing are far worse.)
Reed Richards (Ioan Gruffudd) and pilot friend Benjamin Grimm (Michael Chiklis) are on their way to see billionaire Victor Von Doom (Julian McMahon) at the Von Doom Industries site in the Baxter Building located in Manhattan at the start of the movie. Reed is there to ask Victor for funding for a special project that he is developing that would allow him to study a solar cloud’s effects on human DNA, which would help save numerous lives. Victor, who was born in the small European country of Latveria, and Reed were former schoolmates, but Reed is now bankrupt, because he is a highly intelligent scientist, but a really bad businessman. Victor agrees to the research to be conducted on his space station, but for 75% of any profit from the research, and he wants the billionaire’s director of genetic research, Sue Storm (Jessica Alba), and her brother, pilot Johnny (Chris Evans), to join them on the mission, along with himself. Reed and Sue have a past; she was his girlfriend, until he refused to get an apartment with her. Now she is the current girlfriend of Victor. Johnny is a hotrodding ladies’ man who clashes with Ben, since Ben has been assigned to be Johnny’s co-pilot. All five of them head up to the space station, and Johnny sends Ben outside of the station in a space suit to put some plants outside to see what the effect of the cosmic cloud’s radiation will have on them. Alas, Reed has miscalculated the arrival of the cloud to be coming in minutes…not hours…as he had originally projected. Victor closes the shields, exposing the other four to the radiation. Once they get back to Earth, they slowly discover that their DNA has been altered. Johnny is the first one to discover this fact. After his nurse (Maria Menounos) sees that his temperature has gone over 200 degrees, she is concerned, but not so concerned to refuse an invitation to go skiing with him. While skiing (Johnny is actually snowboarding), he catches on fire and slams into a snow bank. Meanwhile, Reed, Sue, and Ben all have dinner together when Ben excuses himself, feeling sick. During Reed and Sue’s conversation, Sue gets agitated and turns invisible. She accidentally knocks over a bottle of wine, which Reed catches by stretching out his arm beyond its normal length. They quickly realize that the radiation did have an effect on them, and they race to find Ben, who has become a rock man with super strength. Before they can get to Ben, he has broken out of his room and has run away, intent on seeing his fiancée, Debbie McIlvane (Laurie Holden.) Debbie is shocked and scared by Ben’s appearance, making him depressed. While sulking on a bridge, a man (Jason Schombing), intent on killing himself by jumping off that bridge, is saved by Ben. Unfortunately, Ben causes a big pile-up on the bridge while saving the man, and the other three come to save the day. The press dubs them the Fantactic Four, and Johnny helps them out by calling Reed Mr. Fantastic, with the ability to stretch, bend, and flatten his body like rubber; Sue The Invisible Woman, with the ability to turn invisible and create powerful force fields around her or others; Ben The Thing, with the strength thing; and himself The Human Torch, with the ability to cause any part of his body to flame up without him being seriously burned himself. Johnny also seems to be the only one who likes the notoriety. In fact, he shows off his powers in a motorcross stunt show for the public. Reed though tries to reverse the effects of the radiation by creating a machine that will simulate the cloud. Ben can’t change his appearance, unlike the other three, so he is bummed, but he feels better when a bartender friend of his named Ernie (David Parker) introduces him to a blind woman named Alicia Masters (Kerry Washington), who isn’t bothered by his appearance. Victor is the last one to discover his power, and that is the power to control electricity, which is slowly turning his skin metallic. This ticks him off, especially when Ned Cecil (Michael Kopsa), the chairman of the Von Doom board, cuts off all funding for future projects. Victor takes care of that problem by killing Ned, plotting world destruction with the help of his assistant Leonard (Hamish Linklater), and getting revenge against the Fantastic Four, especially with Reed and Sue getting closer again.
The comic book was created in 1961 by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby (Lee cameos in this movie as Willie Lumpkin, the Baxter Building mailman.) They were the first popular Marvel characters, rivaling DC Comics’ Justice League of America, as a family of comic superheroes. Last year’s Oscar-winning The Incredibles paid homage to them with their actual family of superheroes possessing powers that were similar to the Fantastic Four.
Yes…the dialogue was a little cheesy. Yes…the acting talents of Alba were a little unbelievable. You might even quibble, if you were a comic book geek, that Victor, a.k.a. Dr. Doom, got his powers through an explosion from his own experiment back on Earth instead of how it was depicted in the movie. I didn’t care though, because I liked it. Director Tim Story only has two significant movies under his belt…2002’s Barbershop and 2004’s Taxi (neither of which I have seen yet), but I thought that he did okay here. I’m trying to figure out why everyone has been saying that the effects weren’t the best. I didn’t find anything wrong with them when I saw it. It’s not nearly as bad as last year’s Catwoman.
The acting varied between the Four. Gruffudd and Alba were all right, but they had no chemistry. Evans was surprisingly entertaining as the only one of the four who had a sense of humor. Chiklis was the one that I wanted to see though. I was worried that his costume would make him look a little cartoonish, but it looked better than I thought. As for McMahon’s portrayal of Dr. Doom, he did an effective bad guy. He wasn’t as good as Jack Nicholson in 1989’s Batman, but he was better than Gene Hackman in 1978’s Superman (I know that is utter geek blasphemy, but I’ve never thought that Hackman made a good Lex Luthor. Michael Rosenbaum on the WB’s “Smallville” has always been my favorite Luthor.) I had been waiting to see McMahon as well, since both he and Chiklis star in two great FX shows, “Nip/Tuck” and “The Shield,” respectively.
Believe it or not…this is the second Fantastic Four movie. B-movie legend Roger Corman executive produced a version in 1994, with the intention of never letting it see the light of day. The studio that owned the rights to a FF movie, New Horizons, rushed it into production, knowing that it would never be released. It was bought for many times the cost of the option and production, just so that it would remain unreleased. It apparently rivals the 1978 CBS special “The Star Wars Holiday Special” as the most popular bootlegged film amongst comic book and sci-fi fans.
Being as that I wrote this review a little later than I had intended, I noticed that Fantastic Four made over $56 million its opening weekend and ended the Great Box Office Slump of 2005. I’m not going to say that it is a perfect movie, but I would recommend seeing it on the big screen. I think that you might have a fantastic time watching it.
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