Published Jul 01, 2005Reading Fantastic Four comics as a kid, there were a lot of things that never occurred to me, like, "Geez, the Thing is supposed to be made of rocks but he looks all rubbery!" or, "Geez, the way Reed Richards wraps his elasticised body around Dr. Doom is kinda perverse looking and a little embarrassing to watch." These things did occur to me while watching the Tim Story's workmanlike effort to create a movie out of this venerable Marvel Comics institution. Fantastic Four was always great fun as a loopy sci-fi superhero comic, but you can see the strain it took to bring this to the big screen - it comes off as mildly ridiculous, and worst of all, occasionally dull.
Directory Story (Barber Shop) and his screenwriters Mark Frost and Michael France do their best to expedite all the introductory business about cosmic rays and a feud between Reed Richards (Ioan Gruffudd) and Victor Von Doom (Julian McMahon), but then it all gets bogged down in the lab at the Baxter Building ("What happened to us?" "How can we reverse these superpowers?"). Stan Lee and Jack Kirby would have had them fighting off an atomic mole creature by this point. What we get instead is an effort to build some relationships and motivations into a comic franchise that has never, let's face it, held much interest for adults.
Michael Chiklis is convincing as tough guy Ben Grimm, who gets transformed into a less-than-convincing rock creature known as "the Thing." He suffers poignantly and puts in some good "clobberin' time" but it's still one of those visuals that don't translate to the big screen. Oddly enough, it's Johnny Storm (Chris Evans), the Human Torch, who provides the high points of the action (there's a dizzying flying scene through Times Square as a heat-seeking missile chases him down). Reed Richards is suitably humourless and obsessive, and the Invisible Girl (Jessica Alba) has all the expected attributes: plucky, wilful, and well... looks great in a form-fitting blue spandex outfit.
I think the key question in adapting any comic book to the screen is, "do the filmmakers get it?" Tim Story and the writers have missed the hokey, absurd charms of the comic and what they give us is a fairly generic superhero story with kind of a bargain basement look to it (as a director, Story has no idea how to charge an image, and the production designers were all on autopilot). Gone are the dimension-hopping, time-travelling sci-fi head games of the comic. It's only in the last ten minutes, with a wickedly choreographed battle on the streets of Manhattan, that this movie finally unleashes some giddy, ridiculous super-team fun. (Fox)