Fantastic Four Tim Story

Combining superb special effects with engaging characters has made the Spider-man and X-Men franchises the scale by which all current superhero movies are weighed. Unfortunately, Fantastic Four never aspires to nor attains the heights of their Marvel Comics compatriots. Despite the liberties that have been taken with the adaptation of the story, the writers and the mostly b-grade leads do a great job of getting to the essence of the characters, especially Michael Chiklis — the only actor of the five to have read the comic book as a child — brooding under layers of orange prosthetics as the Thing and Chris Evans as extreme wise-ass the Human Torch, impressively improvising most of his lines. And it certainly doesn't hurt that Jessica Alba makes for a super-sexy Susan Storm/Invisible Woman and British actor Ioan Gruffudd's phonetic study of his lines doesn't harm his portrayal of genius team leader Mr Fantastic. About the only real disappointment is Doctor Doom's feeble imitation of Spidey nemesis the Green Goblin, although writers Mark Frost and Michael France are at least partially to blame for the character's similarities. However, Fantastic Four is really all about the money shot: an elaborate rescue scene that takes place on the Brooklyn Bridge. While the scene is a remarkably real recreation of the bridge using a small replica and CGI, it really only serves to underline the fact that more budget could have been spent to improve the effects of the foursome's fantastic powers just that little bit more. In the end, it all fizzles out like the Torch in a snow bank despite the quality performances and better-than-average effects. And aside from the informative, funny feature commentary from the five leads, the special features are less than fantastic. Still, the trailers did get me excited for the upcoming animated Avengers flick. Plus: deleted scenes, music videos, more. (Fox)