Saturday, July 09, 2005

Opening Weekend Film Review: The Fantastic Four

Ultimate fanboy site Ain't It Cool has savaged The Fantastic Four. These guys know from comics, so I almost decided to pass. Late Saturday night the kids were in bed and I decided to indulge even without an authoritative recommend from the fanboys.

The Verdict: The fanboys weren't wrong. They were too severe, but The Fantastic Four is not nearly what it could be.

I don't have the same degree of resentment the professional nerds do because I lived through the many terrible attempts to adapt comics to the screen before the early breakthrough of Christopher Reeve's Superman and the signal event of Tim Burton's Batman, which opened the floodgates for a series of far better efforts than what went before with wretched attempts at portraying heroes like Spiderman and Captain America. Television's The Hulk wasn't bad, but it was an absolute rip-off of The Fugitive and the basic schtick got old fast.

Within the period of reasonably good superhero flicks I have to rank Fantastic Four well below the Sam Raimi Spiderman flicks, below the Batman films except the wretched George Clooney version, and about even with Ben Affleck's Daredevil and Ang Lee's Hulk. (Like how I mix actors and directors? I'm not willing to look up whatever I can't remember about each film. I have to add quickly that Ang Lee's Hulk could have been great, but succumbed to a chaotic plot in the last 45 minutes.)

The problem with Fantastic Four is that it lacks action and takes way too many liberties with the original story. Doctor Doom's handling is particularly egregious. Instead of a man horribly scarred and encased in armor, we have Doom joining the original space incident with the Four and mutating just like they do. He's also no longer a dictator of a small nation, but is instead a business tycoon. No, no, no. It doesn't work. In order to tell an origin story, too many important things end up getting collapsed into more efficient form. Not great here.

There is an upside. Michael Chiklis is very good as The Thing. He looks right both in and out of costume and does a nice job of portraying Ben Grimm's pain at being the one member of the team to be horribly deformed, despite his power.

Again, I have to emphasize that if this film had been released during the bad old days of superhero flicks, I'd be praising it through the roof. But the bar has been long ago raised, and FF trips over it.

6 comments:

The Liberal Anonymous said...

Agreed. It was awful.

Michael Chiklis [...] does a nice job of portraying Ben Grimm's pain

He admitted in an interview that the convincing performance was the result of his incredibly uncomfortable costume. His anguish was real.

Tlaloc said...

The effects were fine and the Thing's makeup was quite impressive. That's where the good stuff ends.

The guy playing Reed was terrible. The love story was totally unbelievable at least in part due to reed reading his line in an unending monotone.

Doom's different backstory didn't bother me. It was similar to the story they wrote for the Ultimate Fantastic Four series. In fact if they had just gone with the Ultimate version the whole thing would have done much better. Cosmic storm causing DNA damage resulting in their powers may have flown in the 60s but today's audience knows that no matter how much DNA damage you might have you'll never develop super powers.

Similar to the spiderman change of making the spider genetically tampered instead of just irradiated.

Don't bother with the movie. The Fantastic Four was never a very interesting comic and it makes just as boring and artificial a movie.

James Elliott said...

I'm quite disappointed by your review of the character of Reed Richards. I am a huge fan of Ioan Gruffudd in the "Horatio Hornblower" movies. Bummer.

Hunter Baker said...

You know, James, I didn't hate Ioan Gruffudd in this film the way Tlaloc and guys at Ain't It Cool did. To me, he was playing the detached scientific mind, a guy who is confused by those who live in a constant swirl of emotion. I thought he made a better Reed than Jessica Alba made a Sue Storm for sure. The guy playing Johnny Storm was perfect for the role, but they should have blonded him up. Ben Grimm makes a joke about blonde ambition and it just doesn't fit.

Tlaloc said...

"You know, James, I didn't hate Ioan Gruffudd in this film the way Tlaloc and guys at Ain't It Cool did. To me, he was playing the detached scientific mind, a guy who is confused by those who live in a constant swirl of emotion."

His rendition really didn't work for me, I know that's what he was trying for but it just fell flat in my opinion.



" I thought he made a better Reed than Jessica Alba made a Sue Storm for sure."

Alba didn't bother me as Sue. I mean she was gratuituous eye candy but then sue never had much of a persona in the comics so that's rather forgivable.


"The guy playing Johnny Storm was perfect for the role, but they should have blonded him up."

I thought he was fine, but then again his role was pretty easy: be a shallow xtreme sport type. What I couldn't believe was that the guy could be an astronaut, even a washed out one.

Hunter Baker said...

Good point about Johnny Storm. It is extremely difficult to believe a guy like him has the gifts of intellect needed for NASA.