A HESITANT THUMBS UP FILM REVIEW RATING!
There are serious SF films then there are entertaining SF films and, as of late, the film industry has seen fit to adapt several comic book SF characters onto the silver screen. Whether or not these are serious or entertaining is often left up to the viewer’s discretion. Some have been great (Spiderman) and some not-so-great (Catwoman). Then we have this movie, the FANTASTIC FOUR.
Debuting in 1961 (Marvel Comics), the Fantastic Four hit on new ground: a dysfunctional family of sorts who fight amongst themselves as much as they do against the forces of evil. Unable to decide on costumes, they really had none for several episodes. All of them gained their superpowers from exposure to cosmic rays while visiting a space-station.
Jump to 2005 and we get the entire dysfunctional dynamic rolled into a 105 minute film; not an easy task. But director Tim Story does an admirable job with writers Mark Frost and Michael France’s screenplay. The space-station, the problems with costumes, the infighting, it’s all there (thus my thumbs up rating).
The beautiful Jessica Alba stars as the sexy, kick-ass Sue Storm/The Invisible Woman. Her powers include the ability to manipulate matter and light. Chris Evans (whom I’ve given top billing) brings to life the role of Johnny Storm (“The Human Torch”), Sue’s immature younger brother who can spark up any room with his powers and his wit. And Mr. Evans instills some much needed comedy into the flick by playing pranks on the other three as well as having some great dialogue. Ioan Gruffudd bends the silver screen as Reed Richards/Mr. Fantastic, the flexible rubberman who is the defacto leader of the Fantastic Four (and who’s also in love with Sue Storm). Then we have Ben Grimm (Michael Chiklis) who’s increased mass and stone-like structure have given him incredible strength …and some problems at home. He’s uneffectually called The Thing and his wife leaves him posthaste when she discovers his altered physical structure.
The great thing about the film is that it really looks at the issues surrounding being a newly developed superhero and how people might respond to such a thing. For one thing, when Ben Grimm’s wife leaves him, she pulls off her wedding ring and Ben/The Thing tries to pick it up but can’t because of his bulky hands. It’s actually a fairly touching scene and we can feel Ben’s frustration. Also there’s the lost love between Sue Storm and Reed Richards which is always in the background and causes flare-ups and fights constantly. Then there’s Johnny Storm’s discovery of his flaming superpowers and his difficulty in controlling them (or lack of wanting to control them). He’s a cocky upstart who brings an entirely new dynamic to the group …which is why I gave him top billing.
The film’s faults are easily seen as we’re rushed through certain aspects (how they plan to get back to normal using a machine created by Richard) and several convenient plot twists (not uncommon, though, for comic books).
This is a fun film. It’s not at the level of Spiderman, but it’s way, way above Catwoman.