Fantastic Four

Faithful Version of Comic Book Stops Short

Marvel Comics has been a gold mine for movie studios in recent years. Ever since Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man broke box office records in 2002, tons of Marvel adaptations have hit the silver screen, with varied success. Now we have Fantastic Four, a movie version of Marvel’s first family. Does this film live up to the bar set by Spidey? Or do we get another Elektra?

In an effort to understand the evolution of human DNA, Reed Richards (Ioan Gruffud), Susan Storm (Jessica Alba), her brother Johnny (Chris Evans), Benjamin Grimm (Michael Chiklis) and Victor Von Doom (Julian McMahon) venture into earth’s orbit to study a cosmic storm. When it approaches too rapidly, all are exposed to alien radiation, with super-powers being the result (in the real world, they would all just die of cancer, but in any comic universe, any exposure to anything gives you cool powers). Reed becomes Mr. Fantastic with stretching ability, Sue is now Invisible Girl with the ability to project force fields, hothead Johnny is literally The Human Torch and Ben is the super-strong and hard-as-rock Thing. Victor is also changing, but not in a good way…

All the actors do a decent job (and Alba is very easy on the eyes), but the standout is Chiklis as The Thing. He has to act through a ton of prosthetic appliances glued all over his body, and it’s a credit to him that he still manages to create such a sympathetic character (“I’d give anything to be invisible…”). I’m very grateful the filmmakers did not make him computer-generated (like Hulk), but let Chiklis bring him to life.

In the comic book, Dr. Doom is a powerful nemesis for the Four, a raging disfigured psychopath who is truly evil. As played by pretty boy McMahon, he is toned down quite a bit, and loses a lot of his potential menace. Without a great villain, there’s minimal suspense, and little worry for our heroes.

The action is done well, but we have all been exposed to a lot of superhero stuff in recent years, and it is all starting to feel the same. What this movie needed was some standout sequences, which we don’t get. There are some nice moments (as when Sue contains a dangerous explosion in a nifty slo-mo shot, or several emotional moments involving Ben), but I wanted more.

While Fantastic Four does a decent job of bringing the comic book to life, it doesn’t break out. Despite some nice small touches, not much in this film begs to be seen again. Fans of the comic will probably be satisfied (myself included), but there isn’t a lot here that we haven’t seen done better elsewhere.