Main cast: Ioan Gruffudd (Reed Richards/Mr Fantastic), Jessica Alba (Sue Storm/Invisible Girl), Chris Evans (Johnny Storm/Human Torch), Michael Chiklis (Ben Grimm/The Thing), and Julian McMahon (Victor Von Doom/Dr Doom)
Director: Tim Story
A movie doesn’t have to be dramatic or intense to work with me. Therefore, even if Fantastic Four doesn’t have much character development or deep drama, it will still work for me as I am not expecting these things from the movie in the first place. That is, if it isn’t such a schizophrenic movie unsure of whether it wants to be tongue-in-cheek or not. Ultimately the result is a mess of a movie.
This big-time blockbuster-ization of the popular Fantastic Four comics attempts to tell the story of how these people get their superpowers. Sue Storm and Reed Logan aren’t married yet in this movie, they are instead ex-lovers who broke up in a plot straight out of a Sweet Valley University novel with our villain Victor Von Doom playing the third person in the love triangle. Ben Grimm is the doormat/assistant of our nerd scientist hero Reed while Johnny Storm is the womanizing braindead himbo brother of Sue. The story begins when Reed approaches Victor Von Doom, a millionaire of sorts, for funds and a chance to use one of Victor’s space stations to study some space meteor cloud thingie that Reed believes will, um, do something good for people everywhere, I suppose.
Unfortunately, Reed proves that there is a good reason why he can’t get a grant anywhere else when he miscalculates and the cloud hits the space station earlier than he expected. Everyone gets transformed into people with special abilities as a result (although thinking isn’t among these abilities, unfortunately). Poor Victor’s reputation is shredded as a result of this failure and his investors close in around him like sharks. In the meantime, Reed steals Sue, the woman Victor wants to marry, from him. And then Reed romances Sue while wasting time in his attempt to build a machine that will revert poor ostracized Ben (who turns into a rock monster – not to be confused with the Rock guy, of course) until Victor finally comes up with the machine that Reed can’t completely come up with. And how does Ben repay Victor for his kindness? Hmmph.
I don’t think this movie intentionally demonizes Reed and his three buddies as complete self-absorbed idiots but alas, that’s what it does. Sue is pretty dumb because she holds out for an emotionally-closeted selfish loser like Reed as opposed to a rich and studly man who wants to give her everything, like Victor. Ben Grimm is a doormat who is happiest when he’s becoming Reed’s unpaid and barely appreciated slave. As for Johnny Storm, the only reason I won’t wish his death is because he looks pretty wearing as little as possible, but unfortunately, he isn’t naked enough in this movie to make me happy. He’s annoying.
Jessica Alba, by the way, is miscast. She looks too young compared to Ioan Gruffudd when Reed and Sue are supposed to be about the same age and she carries herself more like a highschool cheerleader than a brilliant researcher. Ioan Gruffudd doesn’t have much to do here as Reed is as bland as soggy bread, but I guess this role is a step-up from 102 Dalmatians. Michael Chiklis is perfect and steals the role as the badly-written Ben Grimm while Julian McMahon is becoming dangerously typecasted as his Victor Von Doom is yet another Cole Turner or Christian Troy. Still, he’s smoking in that role. What can I say? I’m only human and I have hormones. Chris Evans is also playing a role that he is going to be typecasted as if he’s not careful: the dumb himbo jock.
The camerawork is a little erratic and the editing feels choppy, with transitions from scene to scene often coming off too abruptly. The special effects are quite iffy too. Johnny Storm is right for just one time when he describes Reed’s abilities to stretch his plastic limbs as “gross” because the special effects of Reed stretching his limb are, well, gross.
The biggest disappointment in this movie, however, is how it builds up Ben’s alienation in being the guy people find ugly or scary compared to the other three photogenic members of the Fantastic Four only to resolve it by having Ben happily accepting his lot at the end of the day because a blind woman is willing to be his girlfriend. The movie makes a big deal about how Ben lost his wife and is sinking into depression only to have him being happy because he’s finally getting some again. The movie makes him clash with Johnny because Johnny is unreasonable and reckless but have them becoming buddies in the end because Johnny burns up things and causes explosions left and right. Huh? For a long time Fantastic Four seems to be trying to insert some realistic human drama into the story only to wrap things up in a juvenile manner.
Oh, and memo to the scriptwriter: please don’t have the characters say “Chemistry 101” if you’re going to follow that up with scenes that are scientifically inaccurate. It’s not wise to announce your own stupidity to the world in such a gauche manner.
Maybe if Fantastic Four doesn’t pretend to be a character-driven action movie for so long only to drop the ball in the last fifteen minutes of the show, I would enjoy this movie better as the insipid drivel it is. I feel cheated and more importantly, I feel like I’ve wasted nearly two hours of my life watching this movie.