Writer: Gareth GohWriter Ratings:Overall: Cast:
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"Fantastic Four" is a movie that is immensely comfortable with itself and its subject material. Stan Lee and Jack Kirby's 1961 creation has always been the kiddie pool of comic books, it lacks the depth of Spiderman, the darkness of X-men, and the raw human emotion of The Incredible Hulk. It is generally regarded as a colourful, vibrant and ultimately fun alternative to its darker and deeper counterparts. Its big screen debut knows this role and not only plays it well, but even fully embraces it.
Reed Richards (Ioan Gruffudd), a brilliant but failed and bankrupt scientist, has lofty visions of studying a passing Solar Wind cloud and using its effects on the Human Genome to cure diseases and save lives. To do so, he needs the help, billions, and space station of his rival, Viktor Von Doom (Julian McMahon). Together with Richards' best buddy Ben Grimm (Michael Chiklis), Doom's current girlfriend and Richards' ex-flame Sue Storm (Jessica Alba), and her cocky pilot-brother, Johnny (Chris Evans), they pilot a mission up to save the world.
Predictably, something goes wrong and the effects of the radiation dramatically alter their DNA. Upon returning to Earth, they each eventually discover that they have been blessed (or cursed) with superpowers. Reed is now the elastic Mr. Fantastic, Sue the Invisible Woman, Johnny the Human Torch, and Ben the rock-like Thing. Reluctantly at first (save for Johnny), they eventually accept their powers and use them for good.
Director Tim Story crafted out a lengthy, elaborate, nonsensical scene on a bridge involving a many-car pileup, a runaway fire truck, volatile explosive gas canisters, and Jessica Alba in lingerie in order to reveal each of the quartet's respective superpowers. Therein lies the problem with origin movies. Story is in such a hurry to introduce the audience to his characters that he rushes everything. Their original ascent into space is so hastily explained in order to reveal background stories that it makes no sense whatsoever. Story is just eager to skip the formalities of introductions and get to the good stuff.
Problem is, the good stuff really isn't as good as it should be. Armed with a bloated budget that is put to decent use in the creation of spectacular visuals, a terrible script and absurd plot holes are letdowns in the fast-paced action. Von Doom's egomaniacal plot seems more like petty jealousy over a stolen girlfriend than anything to be forcefully reckoned with. A script packed with poorly written one-liners fails to illicit anything but a few reluctant chuckles from the audience. Even the action scenes are somewhat of a letdown and fail to truly capitalise on the enormous resources the producers have with the advance of CGI and stunt work.
Gruffudd's lack of charisma and character sinks Mr. Fantastic, to levels even beyond the original character's boringness. Alba serves as nothing more than eye candy, you wish she would say a lot less than she does. Chiklis is given almost nothing to work with, failing to convince anyone of the wisecracking, yet melancholy of the original Thing. Evans is perfectly cast as the Human Torch, exuding brashness and confidence and even showing a knack for comic delivery with the movie's only effective one-liners.
This review portrays the movie as a disaster. It really isn't. In the echelon of comic-book movies, it does not venture near the lofty plateaus of such heavyweights as "X-men 2", "Spiderman 2", and "Batman Begins". However, it is also vastly superior to disasters such as "Daredevil" and "The Incredible Hulk". As an origin movie, it does fairly well with what it can, with future sequels sure to build on a decently laid foundation. As previously mentioned, it embraces what it is - a fluffy, popcorn flick. It's fun, brainless, entertaining, emotionally vacant, and enjoyable. In other words, the quintessential Summer movie. Cinema Online, 23 September 2008