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Movie Review: Fantastic Four

Fantastic Four
Directed by Tim Story
Written by Mark Frost and Michael France from the comic book by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby
Fox, 2005

Fantastic Four came out in the summer of 2005 and was immediately inferior to the reinvention of Batman that had occurred just a few weeks earlier with Batman Begins and the Pixar film The Incredibles that came out at the end of 2004.  Sure, The Incredibles took much of its superhero models from the comic book Fantastic Four, but it was a great movie with a good dose of originality nonetheless.

Batman Begins showed that an origin story could be exciting and not be saddled with large amounts of exposition.  With Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer coming out this summer, I’m hearing excuses from the cast and crew concerning this heavily-panned original that the origin story slowed them down.  I ask, then, how are movies like Spider-Man and Batman Begins able to do them with such aplomb?

In Fantastic Four, we follow scientist Reed Richards (Ioan Gruffudd) and his pal Ben Grimm (Michael Chiklis) as they try to sell one of their latest ideas to wealthy businessman Victor Von Doom (Julian McMahon).  It involves going into space for the greater good of humankind.  Von Doom, with an agreement that weights the profit percentages heavily in his favor, takes his lovely assistant and former Reed flame Sue Storm (Jessica Alba) and her brother, hotshot pilot Johnny (Chris Evans).

Things go horribly wrong when cosmic rays crash into their ship.  They survive, but in comic book style they all slowly begin to realize some after-effects.  Reed turns into a rubbery man who can stretch to great lengths, Ben becomes a huge rock-covered brute with immense strength, Sue can turn invisible and create force fields, and Johnny can engulf his body entirely into flames.  Von Doom becomes one with electricity and serves as the antagonist.

But much of the movie is spent with our heroes trying to find a cure for the after-effects, and thus the film is dead in the water.  And yeah, I can see why: Ben’s (now The Thing) wife can’t love him anymore…well, that’s about it really.  At least Johnny is on board with his new powers.  Is it any wonder that Chris Evans steals this entire movie?

Finally, Von Doom, much like many wealthy businessmen in comic books, loses the comforts of his normal life and opens the door for his supernatural powers to take over, and towards the end of the film the Fantastic Four realize they need their powers to stop him.

So, the big problem with this movie is just that it wastes too much time in the set-up, and then the awful “let’s find a cure” stretch.  There’s an action sequence in the middle of the film that doesn’t serve any real purpose other than to make the four mutants a media spectacle.  Big deal.  Since this scene isn’t a part of the plot, or doesn’t spark the plot in any way, it’s pretty worthless.

I’m actually looking forward to the sequel, though.  But I’m cautiously optimistic.  In 2005, Fantastic Four raked in a little over $150 million and ended up #13 for the year.

Next: Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer 

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