Fantastic Four

A Somewhat Biased Film Review By The Mike

Rating:RATED PG-13 for Action Sequences, Sexual References, and a Lot of People Getting Naked to Use Powers.
Starring: Ioan Gruffudd, Jessica Alba, Chris Evans, Michael Chiklis, Julian McMahon
Directed By: Tim Story

Final Grade:

Finally, I get a chance to be a fanboy. Ever since I was 10 years old and got a library card, I’ve wanted to see one movie exist. Now, that movie is in theaters and the quartet I grew up loving is making their mark on the summer movie market.

They are the crown jewel of Marvel Comics – The Fantastic Four. Before Spider-Man, The Hulk, or X-Men, they put Stan Lee and the boys on the map, and gave comics a new look. Unfortunately, that look doesn’t fit into today’s world of cinematic superheroes very well.

Director Tim Story does an admirable job juggling the four heroes and their villain, the diabolical Dr. Doom, but it’s evident the film needed more time with each. It manages to highlight the key aspects of the F4, from the dysfunctional family dynamics to The Thing’s insecurities, but is a bit too short at a mere 106 minutes. Particularly lacking is the subplot involving Alicia Masters, The Thing’s muse, who becomes more of a random prophet in her two scenes than an actual character. There’s also a lack of reasoning in Dr. Doom’s ways, and he could have used a few calmer scenes in which his madness was explained in ways that didn’t involve choking or electrocuting people.

The depth the film lacks is replaced by fantastic performances, some perfectly corny dialogue, and some excellent visual effects, all of which make the film much easier to digest. Particularly impressive in all the above categories is The Thing, the beast that’s really the heart of the group. He’s played by Michael Chiklis with a ferociously gruff voice that’s incredibly effective when he’s lamenting the loss of his wife or the fact that he’s been transformed into an earless mass of orange rock. Chris Evans (as The Human Torch) and Julian McMahon (as Doc Doom) also shine, with Evans getting a lot of great Wolverine-ish bits and McMahon getting to brood and snarl as much as possible. Ioan Gruffudd and Jessica Alba are the least interesting of the stars, but they’re both very serviceable in their roles, completing the surprisingly effective cast.

The most fantastic asset that I listed above is the film’s script and dialogue, a joyous recreation of the type of one-liners and jokes amongst the family that made these relationships (particularly between The Thing and The Torch) so enjoyable in print. Chiklis and Evans get to banter back and forth (and with everyone else) with great success, and Mr. Fantastic and Dr. Doom’s rivalry is perfectly stated through all the things they learned in Chemistry 101. OK, it’s a little cheesy. But it’s also a comic book movie.

I’ve realized for sometime that this movie would end up a scapegoat in the summer movie season. Unlike other Marvel flicks, this one didn’t discard the cheesiness that was essential to the comic. It didn’t put all its faith in a big name cast or director, and it didn’t try to be anything more than a representation of the Fantastic Four as they were created. Hence, it’s a movie that plays out as a corny soap opera with some effect filled set pieces, instead of the big-budget spectacle today’s audiences have come to expect.

But for those (like myself) that remember the Fantastic Four more for its lighthearted family nature than its action, this is a film that will be treasured for a long time. When all is said and done, it will live long as a cult film, as I think it does justice to the source and its fans. And, despite a critical backlash from those looking for something more conventional, I think it could gain success as a summer diversion for those looking for a couple hours of entertainment.

I certainly hope it will, as I had far too much fun watching this movie to even come close to considering its faults as anything more than speedbumps in the road. Here’s hoping the sequel irons that road out even more.

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