Fantastic Four (2005)

Fantastic Four (2005)

4 times the action. 4 times the adventure. 4 times the fantastic.

A group of scientists led by the brilliant Reed Richards inadvertently gain superpowers after exposure to cosmic radiation during a space mission. Upon their return to Earth, they must come to terms with their new powers and use them to defeat the plans of their enemy, Victor Von Doom, who was also on board when the cosmic radiation hit.

 

Another of Marvel’s comic book adaptations come to life, Fantastic Four has always been slumped in the corner whilst its famous companions Spider-Man and X-Men gain most of the fame for the company on the screen. With only two animated series and a previous failed film to its name, the Four never really looked like big success was coming their way despite being one of Marvel’s most popular comics – until now at least. With the surge in popularity of comic book adaptations, what better way to introduce, or should be that re-introduce, the world to Mr Fantastic, Invisible Woman, The Thing and Human Torch.

Fantastic Four might look like one of the best comic books come to life. Not in any sort of brooding Batman-style look but just for the sheer light-hearted and colourful nature it sports. I guess it’s to do with the lower rating that it received for release compared to some of the more adult-themed comic book films. And this might be where the hate and criticism stems from.  Fantastic Four is a colourful, entertaining comic book film not to be confused with anything serious and deep-meaning.

Fantastic Four might have had the same big budget treatment as its more popular relatives but the film experience is ultimately a hollow one. For all of the great action set pieces, the fantastic make-up effects on the Thing and the presence of one of my favourite comic supervillains, there’s a lack of meat to the story. No coming of age drama like in Spider-Man. No brooding Wolverine to latch on to. Despite the Four being reasonably developed as characters both before and after the mission that mutates them, there’s never any real connection to them because the story is so one-dimensional. They turn into these superheroes halfway through the film and then spend the next half trying to turn back. And that’s pretty much the story in a nutshell. Everything seems so low key in scope.

I guess that’s the problem of it being an origin story as most of the film is devoted to constructing these new characters in order to set them up for further sequels. But the origin story is hardly the most thrilling of them all (no end of Krypton, no uncles being shot by robbers, no parents being murdered, no government test subjects – nothing!) and this slowly starts to creep into everything else in the film.

Casting wise, the film is almost spot-on. Ioan Gruffudd makes for an excellently brainy and nerdy Mr Fantastic, the superhero who can stretch his body into all manner of weird shapes but is something of a charisma vacuum (the character that is, not Gruffudd). Michael Chilkis steals the show beneath layers of make-up as The Thing. I always thought he was such a cool-looking creation in the comics and the film does his character justice, bringing to life the emotional toil that his character is now facing up to by looking like a giant rock. Chris Evans is suitably reckless as the Human Torch. It needed someone young and reckless in the role and Evans plays the part perfectly. The special effects are pretty flawless throughout the film. Each character’s special ability is vividly brought to life, with the Human Torch being the obvious pick.

The weaknesses come in the form of the hot but bland Jessica Alba as the Invisible Woman and Julian McMahon as Dr Doom. Not convincing in the slightest as a scientist, the role needed an actresses who could portray hot and clever – Alba just has the hot thing (though I’m not complaining with the lycra suits). And McMahon has no gravitas as the bad guy, more concerned with being smarmy and suave than overly evil and calculating like his comic book counterpart should have been. Being buried under a silly metal mask in the second half only helps him look like some Darth Vader wannabe but even then his motives aren’t world domination, just petty revenge against Mr Fantastic. It’s hardly edge of the seat drama.

And because he doesn’t turn into Dr Doom until the same time as the Four (half-way through), then there’s only one major set piece with good versus evil at the finale as the Four square up against Doom. It’s decent enough but you wonder if they’d pulled the trigger a little earlier in the film, then another fight could have made all the difference. As it stands, Fantastic Four just doesn’t deliver enough action and when it does, it seems as if there has been no build up whatsoever.

 

Fantastic Four isn’t a terrible super hero flick but given the source material and given some of the talent on show, there’s no way this should be as average as it unfortunately turns out. Like the original X-Men, its sole purpose seems to have been to set up the characters for the sequel. It feels more like a missed trick than a bad film and is still highly entertaining: a good superhero film, not a great one.

 

 ★★★★★★★☆☆☆ 

 

 

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