You know, when you use a superlative
adjective in the title of your movie, you're kind of setting yourself up
for a lot of lame movie review headlines. In this case, one might
expect a lot of people pointing out how Fantastic Four isn't so
fantastic. But, what would those reviewers do if the Fantastic
Four were fantastic?
Fortunately, we won't have to worry
about that scenario.
If you're a fan of Marvel comics, you're undoubtedly familiar with
the Fantastic Four. Created by Jack Kirby and your
friendly-neighborhood Stan Lee, the Fantastic Four was one of Marvel's
hottest titles, for a while. It spawned an animated cartoon series
by Hanna-Barbera. It was even made into a feature film by B-movie
legend Roger Corman in 1994.
That version of the Fantastic Four was laughable. The
special effects were ridiculous, the story was nothing special, the
actors were unknown, and the whole experience was rather empty.
The new Fantastic Four, on the other hand, had a big
Director Tim Story, who helmed Barbershop and Taxi has
brought to the silver screen a superhero movie that's...well...not one
of Marvel's best efforts.
The big star of the film is Jessica Alba, who, as always, looks
amazing...but since she's playing Sue Storm, the Invisible Girl, you
don't get to see as much of her as you'd like. The next "big name"
is Michael Chicklis (no relation to the chewing gum) plays the Thing --
you might remember him from "The Shield" and that "Seinfeld" episode.
From there, the star power fades fast. Ioann Gruffudd (who you
probably not remember as Lancellot in the recent stinkerama King
Arthur) plays Reed Richards. Julian McMahon (no relation to
Ed) plays Victor Von Doom, also known as DOCTOR DOOM, even though he's
not an MD (just like the comic book, he's a dentist, Dr. Doom, DDS.
Driven to a life of crime because no one wants to be the patient of a
dentist with that name...oh, nevermind). Julian McMahon was on
"Charmed" and "Nip/Tuck". If you've ever seen either of those
shows, you might recognize him. Chris Evans plays Johnny Storm,
but...the Masked Reviewer has never seen him before.
But hey, you don't have to be a big star to make a great movie,
right? Pfff. Yeah, right. Sometimes, a director
will find an unknown actor, waiting to burst onto the scene. It
may seem unlikely that the director of Barbershop and Taxi
would make such a discovery, and you'd be right. It's not that the
acting is bad...it's just...very bland. Although, that would be a
good indicator of bad, wouldn't it? In the Roger Corman version of
the film, people were hammy and over the top, but at least they were
into it. The actors in this Fantastic Four seem to be
almost taking it seriously.
The characters in the Fantastic Four comics were not the most
dynamic. Reed Richards is a scientist: serious, dedicated, and
dull. Ioann Gruffudd's portrayal in that respect is dead-on.
They try to make him a bit more interesting with his relationship with
Jessica Alba's character, but...they have about as many sparks flying
between them as two people standing in a crowded subway...in different
cities. Likewise, the best banter in the comics and cartoon came
from The Thing and Johnny Storm arguing back and forth. They do a
bit of that in the film, but it's neither funny nor interesting nor
It seems like a great example of a film where all the actors probably
got along politely and civilly, but neither liked nor disliked each
other. Their performances are all isolated from one another, and
that detachedness hurts the film.
Comic book purists might scoff at the deviations from the source
material, most notably Dr. Doom's origins. They also handled the
Ben Grimm/Thing issue in a flippant way. In fact, they didn't
really dig into anything.
Okay, so the acting is stiff and uninspired and the story isn't
great. The direction is nothing to speak of, either. But
what about the special effects?
If you like consistency, they're great! That is to say, if you
like the quality of your special effects to be consistent with the
quality of the rest of the movie (in other words, not good), then you
won't be disappointed.
We'll start with the good: the flame effects for Johnny Storm are
fine. The CG looks better than it could have looked. The
effects for the Invisible Girl aren't quite as good; the invisibility
and force field effects aren't horrible, but there's nothing you haven't
seen a zillion times before. Much like the Roger Corman
Fantastic Four, the Thing is wearing a big suit...made of foam
rubber. In this version, they tried to cover up the fact that it's
a big rubber suit (instead of a big rock suit) by adding a lot of sound
effects of rocks sliding over each other. However, it never looks
like it should look. Why didn't they use computer graphics to
cover up the parts where the foam "rocks" are twisting when he moves his
head? Perhaps the lamest effect of all is Reed Richard as Mr.
Fantastic. There isn't a moment on screen when the rubber man
effects don't look like computer animation. It's particularly
The Roger Corman version at least was funny in the cheeziness of its
special effects. They'd have Reed Richards holding a long stick
with a glove on the end to show that he stretched his arm out. At
least there's something campy about that. This is just...sad.
The attempts at humor fall flat with the entire audience. In
fact, you may not even know that some of the jokes are even supposed to
be jokes. The lack of humor hurts Fantastic Four more than
it would other superhero movies because humor was an integral part of
the appeal, much like as in Spider-Man comics.
The story itself is inherently uninteresting. There doesn't
seem to be any big threat to anyone other than the Fantastic Four.
It's them and Dr. Doom, and he doesn't have an evil plan to destroy the
world. It's not really about anything. It's the superhero
version of "Seinfeld" -- a movie about nothing.
There's so much that the Masked Reviewer could write about this
movie, but quite frankly, it isn't worth it. Marvel had a string
of miserable licensing mistakes in the 80s, with a lame Spider-Man
movie, a horrible Captain America movie, an awful Punisher movie, and
Roger Corman's ridiculous Fantastic Four movie that was never released
theatrically. They started turning things around with X-Men
and Spider-Man, but Marvel's track record hasn't been spotless.
Remember Daredevil with Ben Affleck? Remember The Hulk?
This film isn't as good as The Punisher, by any stretch of the
imagination. It's not as good as Daredevil. It may
not even be as good (to use the term loosely) as Elektra.
It could even be argued that it's not as good as The Hulk,
although that was a bigger let down because it did have some talent
associated with it, and expectations were higher.
Some people may enjoy this movie, but it seems like the people who
would love Fantastic Four would literally love anything --
either because a certain cast member is in it, or because they just
don't care about story, direction, effects, or quality in general.
It's really hard to make a case for the Fantastic Four not
sucking. Still, it's not so much that it's bad, as it is that it's
just nothing...it certainly qualifies for a mindless summer movie.
You can sit through it without feeling angry and violated at the end,
though there's nothing to talk about or remember after you see it.
Expectation from the Title: A film about a man who buys three
too many bottles of surface cleaning solution, and then learns to love
Mother's Rule (Always Say Something Good About Everything):
The actors' parents must be very proud of their children, and love them
no matter what they do.
The Pros: The Thing says "It's clobberin' time."
The Cons: No chemistry between actors, no laughs, no
excitement. Performances were too low-key. Dr. Doom was
hammy in a bad way. Effects were nothing great.
Fatnastic Four, Jesica
Alba, Ian Gruduff, actor who plays Johnny Storm, Michael Chickliss