This review, like all my reviews, assumes the reader has SEEN the movie! It is FULL of spoilers! In fact, there's
practically a spoiler in every sentence. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED! Proceed at your own risk as...
Robby Reed Reviews...
I liked it! It certainly wasnt the best superhero movie ever made -- which is to say it wasnt Richard Donners Superman The Movie -- but it was far superior to the $100 million train wreck known as Daredevil. I didn't love the FF movie, but I enjoyed watching it, and I was never bored, or horrified at the psychotic level of destruction and violence, as I was with Batman Begins.
One major problem with the FF film is this: In the comic book world, Superman came first, then Batman, then the FF. When the FF comic premiered, it transformed comics by infusing the heroic ideal with a touch of realism, something comics had never seen before. However, in the reel world of Hollywood, things were different. The Superman movie came first, then the Batman movie -- but then the X-Men movie came out! And then Spider-Man! Then came The Incredibles.
The Incredibles was little more than a thinly-disguised FF rip-off, but it beat the real thing to the marketplace, and so in the public mind it came first. Now, finally, with the general public under the impression that every comic book hero in existence had already starred in at least two movies -- NOW comes the Fantastic Four.
Coming after The X-Men and The Incredibles, the once ground-breaking FF have been put in the awkward position of looking like knock-offs. Of course, comic fans know its the OTHER guys that are the real knock offs. but the public is both unaware and uninterested in such trivialities. They simply want to see a good movie -- a Summer blockbuster, full of action, laughs, and SEX! Err... I mean romance.
But Fantastic Four isn't a standard Summer blockbuster-type action movie. Its not about good vs. evil. In the end, the bad guy doesn't try to blow up the entire city with some contrived device. And the movie is certainly not a special effects showcase, because with the exception of the Human Torchs flames, the effects range from the clichéd to the cheesy. It looks like most of the FX budget went to throwing cars and trucks and electrical bolts around, and creating big colorful holographic displays that mean nothing but look pretty.
So what kind of movie is it? Surprisingly, its a character movie. There's little plot -- its mostly about people trying to adjust to newly-gained superpowers. The movie understands that the relationships between the members of the Fantastic Four is the core of the groups appeal, and it displays these relationships beautifully. What the movie does not understand at all is the character of Victor von Doom. But Im getting ahead of myself. Lets start at the beginning.
The movie begins by getting the team into space, already wearing blue jumpsuits made out of unstable molecules, which, of course, as we all know, were invented by ... Dr. Doom?! OK, whatever. (Reed! Call Matt Murdoch! Sue! Sue!) As we all know, it is depressingly mandatory in superhero movies to have the villain present during the heros origin -- apparently even if it completely destroys the character of that villain, as is the case here.
Anyway, the team and Doom fly to space with all due haste, and get irradiated with Cosmic Rays, which give them all super powers. The scene where each team member gets zapped is pretty cool, and a plausible new bit of information is added to the FF canon: Ben is OUTSIDE the ship when the rays hit, neatly explaining why he alone got stuck with a monstrous form. Also, pre-transformation Ben has no hair in this movie, explaining why the Thing doesn't either.
Once the team gets irradiated, we follow each member as their individual powers slowly manifest themselves. Perhaps this movie should have been called The Origin of the Fantastic Four, because exploring the powers takes up the bulk of the movie. That's not necessarily a bad thing, Im just pointing it out. Its actually great fun watching Johnny snap his fingers and make them burst into flame, and seeing Reed stretch his hand under a door, only to have Johnny declare That's gross.
The weakest character, in my view, is Reed. Hes portrayed as an absent-minded science nerd with zero gravitas. Has actor Ioan Gruffudd ever read any FF comics? Or did he just see a few Prof. Frink episodes of the Simpsons, and get confused? Or did the director tell him to play Reed as a sort of hyper-activated nerd case? Whatever happened, this is not the Reed Richards I know and love -- a man whos gone toe-to-toe with Galactus, and lived to tell about it. Still, the portrayal was tolerable enough for this FF fan.
Reed gets the short end of the special-effects stick, too. A while back, there was a rumor going around the internet that after the premiere of The Incredibles, with its stretching super-heroine, the FF filmmakers realized that Mr. Fantastics stretching scenes looked sickly in comparison. They decided to retool the movie, and shot new stretching scenes for Reed.
I dont know if this rumor was true or not -- but if it was, then Reed must have had no stretching at all in the original cut. Almost all of his stretching scenes feature some very bad special effects. Many are embarrassingly blue-screen looking, and are so obviously inferior the filmmakers dare not show Reed stretching for more than a moment.
Reeds would-be love interest, the Invisible Girl/Woman Sue Storm, is portrayed about as she is in early FF comics -- a mostly ineffectual piece of decoration. Jessica Alba is gorgeous decoration, mind you, but shes still decoration. Shes sexy and interesting in this movie, and has ample cleavage which is often on display, but somehow shes just not very consequential.
Ben Grimm carries the pathos, bringing the brooding Thing to the screen with believable style. After he is transformed into a walking pile of orange rocks, he looks wonderfully like the early Kirby versions of the Thing.
Theres no big transformation scene. It all happens off camera, then Ben sulks off to find his pre-transformation girlfriend Debbie, another new addition to the FF canon.
We dont see Bens face until the big reveal -- but since the filmmakers have distributed about a million publicity photos showing the face of the Thing to every conceivable media outlet for months now, the big reveal is highly UNdramatic. And at times, actor Michael Chiklis looks like hes wearing a suit made of orange foam rubber. But it's not that bad. At least I, Robby Reed, creator of this, the World's Greatest Blogazine, didn't think so.
Bens big scene on the bridge with the Thing rescuing a fire truck is exciting, well done, and pleasingly reminiscent of the scene in the first FF comic where Ben gets hit by a car (pictured above).
Overall, Id say Chiklis, even buried beneath pounds of crapola, handles an extremely difficult character with considerable charm. His pathos is evidenced in his scenes with his new girlfriend, the blind Alicia, who has inexplicably become a black woman!
Remember when Lois Lane did that once? She wanted to live 24 hours as a black woman? Maybe Alicia read that issue, and wanted to try the same thing. At any rate, if this new black Alicia is really blind, she really needs to write a book called Beauty Secrets for the Blind, because she is absolutely stunning. Wonder who helps her with her make-up?
So if Reed is a nerd, Ben brings the pathos, Sue is invisible both power-wise and character-wise, where is all the FIRE in this movie? Exactly where it should be -- in the Human Torch. He's supposed to be the hothead of the group, and so he is! Hes a wise-cracking, skirt-chasing, extreme-sport playing, Generation X poster boy. If he isn't doing flaming daredevil flips on ESPN, hes snow-boarding down a mountain like a flammable James Bond. He's bound to be a favorite with the MTV crowd.
The Torchs flaming flying scenes, though few in number, are the best effect in the movie. He tosses a fireball and even draws a flaming 4 up in the sky just for the hell of it! I can't wait for the next movie to see him do more flame tricks.
The movie captures Johnnys relationship with Ben to perfection, and the practical jokes he plays on Ben are like sleepaway camp pranks for the superhero set. Some of them seem to have come directly from the comic book, where Johnny and Ben have kept a running feud going for more than four decades now.
Just as the comic book version of Johnny brings the flaming fun to the FF, its the movie Johnny (Chris Evans) who christens the quartet the Fantastic Four, gives cool "superhero" names to each FF member, and adds the 4 logo to the blue jumpsuits -- its Johnny who makes this movie fun! Theres no question that the Human Torch is the breakout star of this enterprise. Lets sum Johnny up "Variety" style: He flames, he flies, he's fun -- he steals the show!
The character whos done the most violence by the filmmakers is Dr. Doom. First of all, the name Dr. Doom should be a name one enjoys pronouncing with the proper degree of villainous panache. Dr. Dooooom! But in this movie, theyre so embarrassed by Dooms corny name, they dont even say it a single time. Doom remarks to Reed that Were both doctors, and we know his name is von Doom, but never do we hear the name Dr. Doom spoken aloud. This is not a good sign.
In this movie, Dr. Doom is like the evil businessman version of Lex Luthor combined with Electro and Donald Trump. He even shouts Youre fired! as he shoots electri-blasts from his hands. This version of the character is not totally unwatchably awful, its just that its not the Dr. Doom I know and love ... to hate!
The big finale is brief and somewhat anti-climactic. Doom's plan to freeze Reed so he can't stretch did not strike me as highly original. I might be wrong, but I think Doom got his plot from reading old JLA comic books. You know, the one where Batman has plans to freeze Plastic Man if he ever goes berserk, and Ras Al Ghul gets hold of the plans, and uses them on the whole JLA ... oh never mind. You know the story. Mark Waid wrote it. I'm "sure" he'll be getting royalties for his idea!
Anyway, in the end, an electrified Dr. Doom tries to kill the FF with some hastily-assembled weapons, and fails. But dont worry, the ending, which makes it clear that the filmmakers desire a sequel, strongly implies that Dr. Doom is on his way to Latveria, and will soon become its rightful evil tyrant king, as he should be. Will there BE a sequel? Thats up to the movie-going public.
Once, long ago, comic fans were looking for heroes they could relate to -- heroes who were imperfect and flawed, just like them. Then the first issue of the Fantastic Four hit newsstands like a bolt of lightning, and things were never the same again. Will moviegoers get behind Fantastic Four, a movie that is imperfect and flawed, yet still quite enjoyable? Can the Fantastic Four make lightning strike twice? Time will tell.
Super Heroes magazine!
Here's the original cover of "Super Heroes" (1966), a Warren publication which I, Robby Reed, creator of this, the World's Greatest Blogazine, Photoshopped to make the fake cover at the top of this page. This black and white magazine featured superhero movies starring Superman, Batman, Captain America, The Phantom, Flash Gordon and the Shazam Captain Marvel.
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