**** (out of 5)
July 8, 2005
Ioan Gruffudd as REED RICHARDS
Jessica Alba as SUE STORM
Chris Evans as JOHNNY STORM
Michael Chiklis as BEN GRIMM
Julian McMahon as VICTOR VON DOOM
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Directed by: Tim Story
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
With all the Marvel comic book properties being made into movies nowadays, I find myself sounding like a broken record. I’m constantly explaining (and ultimately apologizing) that I never collected Marvel comics as a kid. I just don’t have the knowledge of the Marvel universe that I do for DC.
Because of this, most of my knowledge of the Fantastic Four comes from the cartoons. I’ve watched the old show on Boomerang reruns with my kids, and I recently got the mid-90s animated series on DVD. So, I’m not coming to the new Fantastic Four movie completely ignorant.
Considering my background, I find this new film to be actually quite true to the spirit of the characters. Sure, the characters are a bit two-dimensional, but that’s how I’ve always remembered them to be. Reed Richards is a science geek. Johnny Storm is the ladies man. Ben Grimm always settles things with his fists. And Sue Storm is the mediator.
This new “Fantastic Four” film locks the actors into these roles, and while they are full of cliches, it just seems to work. Ioan Gruffudd as Reed Richards and Chris Evans as Johnny Storm are spot on. Already, people are talking a lot of trash about Jessica Alba as Sue Storm, and I’ll admit that it’s a bit hard to swallow her as a brilliant scientist. But she actually holds her own in this film. She’s not that bad, and she’s easy on the eyes.
I’d take Jessica Alba over Katie Holmes any day. In “Fantastic Four,” Alba just delivers her lines and gets out. However, Holmes projected a level of pretension in “Batman Begins” that was utterly uncalled for. At least Alba seems to have her own career in check and is content to just be the eye candy that she is.
But the real acting kudos goes to Michael Chiklis as Ben Grimm, aka The Thing. Throughout the cartoon, it’s always been a theme that The Thing is the one member of the team who sacrifices the most. After all, he’s permanently deformed where the other three can turn their powers on and off. Chiklis brings a level of empathy and understanding to the character that is critical to making things work. And the fact that he can act through all that make-up shows his strengths.
Say what you want about the cast, but it was appropriate at the very least. There’s no insanely stupid casting choices, like Richard Pryor as a super villain. I bought everything that was offered in this version of “Fantastic Four.”
The real treat in the film is Julian McMahon as Victor Von Doom, aka Doctor Doom. Sure, the comic book purists are going to have a fit over the way this character was changed from the books. However, I liked this new version so much better. In the past, Doctor Doom was nothing more than a Lex Luthor in a steel mask. Here, he’s actually got super powers, and this makes him a much more worthy adversary to the Fantastic Four.
But ultimately, the movie isn’t about the Fantastic Four fighting Doctor Doom. Instead, it’s a story about four normal people who wake up one day with super powers – and how they deal with this in their daily lives. Their situations are sometimes humorous, and even mundane and silly. But it’s what you might expect to go through if you had to deal with powers like these.
Another interesting facet to the whole Fantastic Four story is that these heroes don’t have secret identities. With the exception of mystical beings like Swamp Thing and the Silver Surfer, I can’t think of any major superhero who doesn’t have a secret identity. In some ways, this makes the Fantastic Four more intriguing of a story because they live their entire lives as the heroes.
The bottom line is that I loved “Fantastic Four.” It was great fun. There was nothing about it that I could point to and say, “Well, that was stupid,” and considering the atomic wasteland of superhero properties that have been committed to film, that’s saying a lot.
The movie is more campy than what we’ve seen in the past, but for me, that was part of its charm. It just took me back to Saturday mornings as a kid. And, it’s the first comic book movie that has actually made me curious about reading the original comics.