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STUDIO: 20th Century Fox
RUNNING TIME: 106 Minutes
• 3 deleted scenes
• Fantastic Four Video Diary: Exclusive behind-the-scenes home video hosted by the entire cast
• Making of Fantastic Four
• Fox Movie Channel Presents Casting Session & Making A Scene
• Music videos: Everything Burns, Come On Come In, Music
• Exclusive inside look at X-Men 3 – hosted by producer Avi Arad
I can recall that as Fantastic Four was in production, there was the usual amount of negativity on the standard websites by everybody and everybody’s grandmother who were convinced that the film was going to blow ass even before they saw a frame of film. When they did see some footage, the negativity spiked hotter than the Human Torch. Considering that this is arguably the most loved Marvel comic franchise ever, and considering that there was a failed (miserably failed according to those who have seen it) attempt to create an FF movie once before, hopes weren’t very high that this film would even work, let alone be good. A Gen-X Reed Richards? Honey as Sue Storm? Some guy named Evans as Johnny Storm? Vic Mackey as a maninsuit Thing? And a Nip/Tuck-er as Von Doom? This thing must be DOA. Then possibly the most shocking review of the year came in when the esteemed Devin Faraci weighed in on the theatrical version (here) and (Dear Lord it can’t be) actually liked it. What?! This thing can’t actually not suck…can it?
"Okay, Sue, you take the one who can turn into a cloud, Johnny, you handle the one who flies with a rainbow behind her, I’ll take the one who floats and Ben, you pound the shit out of the little whiny one who disintegrates things…"
It pleases me to agree and say no, it didn’t. There’re issues to be sure – which we’ll get to – but overall I didn’t walk out of the theatre wanting to kill myself (or someone else) like I did when Blade: Trinity, the last comic book flick I’d seen, bent me over and gave it to me dry. I had two buddies who saw it with me who disagree (strenuously), but screw them anyway. One of them hated The Matrix when he first saw it, so what the hell do they know? Regardless, I think that the film adequately – not spectacularly – but adequately captured the essence of the comic, which I read for several years.
When Galactus had gas, it was truly a bitch…
Starting off, you’ve got Reed Richards, portrayed at least 10 years younger and much geekier than the confident brainiac that saves the universe with some insane piece of technology in the comics on a regular basis. The Reed of the comics can look at practically any situation, explain it in Stephen Hawking-ese, MacGyver together a trans-dimensional doohickey or inverse-neutrino thingamajig in the time it takes to down a Venti latte and be perfectly confident that it’ll work no problem. Here, Reed is equally brilliant, but a complete 180 in terms of confidence. In the comics he’s the undisputed leader of the team, here he’s appointed, by Sue no less. I wasn’t that familiar with much of Ioan Gruffud’s work, but apparently he’s been big on the Hornblower circuit in the last few years. I thought he was fine for what was asked of him as Reed, though. He didn’t jump out as the character like another member of the cast, but I didn’t have any major issues considering that Reed wasn’t really designed to be a scenery chewer in this film.
You don’t want to know where the rest of Reed is…
As for Sue back during the FF origins in the comics, she was the typical whimsical damsel who happened to tag along when Reed decided to test his experimental rocket. Throw in the cosmic storm shower and she’s still the whimsical damsel (think Gwen Stacy, Mary Jane or The Wasp circa 1970), who can now turn invisible. You look back at the earlier FF comics, and she had to be saved as much as she did any saving. Only over a couple of decades, did she grow into someone who kicked ass and truly pulled her weight. She also looked to Reed for guidance in many instances and trusted in him implicitly to make the big choices. In the movie, Sue is Reed’s intellectual equal, a go-getter and assumes much of the early decision making. I’ve been a fan of Jessica Alba (mostly her hotness…actually 99% because of her hotness) ever since Dark Angel, but I can readily admit that she hasn’t found a theatrical character that challenges her to be more than just eye candy mainly. I can’t include Honey, though because I haven’t yet had the opportunity to watch the movie without actually paying for it. As Susan, this holds to be true, but goddamned if she ain’t smokin’ in blue spandex.
Truer to the comics is Johnny Storm, a brash, impulsive youngster who revels in his newfound powers. He embodied the childlike joy that readers of the comics surely would feel if they were put in a similar situation. In the film, Johnny is notched up in practically every regard, being an extreme, motorcycle riding, wisecracking pain in the ass who jumps at the chance to be a superhero and loves everything about it. Chris Evans as Johnny is simply a revelation in this flick, nearly up there with Hugh Jackman as Wolverine. Johnny was written to be the scenery chewer in this story and Evans is absolutely great in the role.
WTF?! Where’s my nads?!
And truest to the comics is Ben Grimm, who gets the shittier end of the cosmic mutation stick when he turns into the Thing. Not exactly thrilled, and unable to turn it off like the others, Ben has to adjust to life as a monster and trust that Reed will find a way to fix things. Chiklis is equally good in the role, although he’s the complete opposite of Johnny’s character. His scenes with Evans were the highlight of the film, especially the confrontation in front of the arena and the little bit with the shaving cream. Chiklis had to take the harder route in embodying his role than Evans did, however, because he had to convey Grimm’s loneliness and frustration, and he did it well. And having him as maninsuit rather than Hulk-ing him in CGI was absolutely the right way to go. The costume was fine and very reminiscent as the earlier slagheap version of Thing in the comics. My money is on them making him even more rocklike in the sequel.
Then there’s Doom, possibly the greatest villain in the Marvel Universe. Doing justice to him wasn’t going to be easy, probably next to impossible in fact. In the comics, Doom is the most ego-driven character in the pantheon, which explains why he ruined his face after a simple scar “disfigured” him. The best exploration of his character or showcase for him that I ever read was the original Secret Wars. I’ve read about most of how people on the message boards hated pretty much everything about Doom in this movie. But I think that it makes sense in the way they had his origins lock in with the FF’s. What would be more logical, Doom develops an electrical bio-physique as a result of the storm or decides to go evil and quickly invents a set of super armor to combat them? He could have had his company working on something like that as a weapons system I suppose, but then you get into Spider-Man Norman Osborne territory. I think the bio-armor is directly akin to organic web shooters in fact. As for Julian McMahon as Doom, love him on Nip/Tuck, and I probably didn’t mind him here as much as others simply didn’t like him for the role.
Insert man-goo joke here…
As for the issues to get to, I’ve got a couple, which probably have been brought up before. The first is obviously the Sue strip scene on the bridge. Other than to give a taste of Alba smokiness, what was that all about? She disappears to sneak by the crowd/police, then rejoins her teammates, who somehow got by the crowd/police anyway. Yes that was dumb. Hot, but dumb. Then you have Doom, who has cameras in on the Baxter Building. Maybe I missed where they explained why or how that was the case. The F/X, I thought for the most part, were fine, except for the well-known close-ups of Reed and Johnny doing their thing. From a bit of distance though, pretty decent. As for Doom’s costume, I agree it’s lame for the most part, but come on, you want him running around in a green kilt? It was a pretty faithful adaptation actually. It’s just one of those deals where it looks good in the comics, but isn’t going to translate into reality. I agree that his just deciding to put it on was abrupt. They should have played up Doom’s vanity much more in deciding to don the helmet. Here’s it’s more of a “Hey, a mask, why not?” kind of situation. Also, I concur that Reed should have been the one to design the FF suits.
Honestly, does anybody understand these Highlander flicks anymore?
There’s also the issue of Alicia Masters as a homegirl in the form of Kerry Washington – another example of comic characters switching races (Nick Fury in the comics, The Kingpin in Daredevil). Actually, that’s not an issue at all for me. Get somebody who can do the role and go with it. Then there’s another Stan Lee cameo. Stan Lee is pretty much God in the comic world, but enough of the friggin’ cameos already. Finally, the ending fight needed to be longer. Trash New York a bit more. Not that I have anything against the Big Apple, I just like seeing shit blow up. Give me a little bit of the Superman II superfight in Metropolis, that was good stuff. All in all, I think that Fantastic Four was geared more for families, and that’s fine. It’s definitely the lightest of the recent Marvel comic book movies to come along and for the most part, I dug it.
7.0 out of 10
It was more than a little awkward when Chiklis didn’t have time to get out of his Thing suit to hustle off to Columbo audition…
Aside from the aforementioned questionable F/X in certain shots, the film looks really good. I think the character designs were faithful to the comics yet modern enough to work. The Thing suit – which was probably the hardest adaptation – was good, and Alba in a body hugger is the complete opposite of sucking. 2:35 to 1 is always welcome and director of photography Oliver Wood, who shot U-571, the two Bourne movies and The Adventures of Ford Fairlane (I had to throw that one in) has shot another great-looking film. The transfer here is for the most part pretty flawless.
8.6 out of 10
Sadly, this is more fire than was shown in the Ghost Rider trailer…
The sound doesn’t disappoint in either 5.1 DTS or Dolby 5.1. I continue to find it a disappointment, however, in these Marvel comics adaptations that a truly great score isn’t developed ala Superman or Batman, or even at least a decent one like Batman Forever. All we keep getting is pedestrian musical accompaniment and one of these times someone’s going to hit it out of the park like Williams or Elfman (definitely not including either of the Spider-Man flicks). This again, however, isn’t one of those times.
7.7 out of 10
• Cast Commentary with Jessica Alba, Ioan Gruffud and Michael Chiklis: I really wanted to hear Chris Evans’ take on things since he was the undisputed breakout star of this movie. As it is, the other three stars’ riffing is okay, although unspectacular. No outstanding humorous anecdotes other than how heavy the Thing suit was or how stretchy the costumes were or how cool the effects were. Yawn…
The Thing’s reaction upon seeing how freaky Reed and Sue’s sex tape got was understandable…
• Three deleted scenes: One of Reed testing flowers in the machine that wasn’t necessary, a different take on the riverfront scene where Reed and Sue admit their feelings that takes place in a planetarium, and the same riverfront scene where there’s a surprise cameo of another Marvel superhero via Reed’s stretchy-face.
• Fantastic Four Video Diary: A 20-minute piece that follows the cast on promo tours to Australia, Mexico, New York and the premiere on Liberty Island. The camera work is pretty much what you’d expect from a handheld ca, especially when Alba deicdes to go auteur and shoot things sideways. A pretty good peak into what I takes to promote a movie these days.
• Making of Fantastic Four: Five-minute standard making-of with highlights on the origins, F/X and cast interviews.
• Fox Movie Channel Presents Casting Session & Making A Scene: Two eight-minute pieces, one of the casting and making the bridge rescue scene. These along with the previous feature would have been better if they were combined into one featurette. As it is, they’re pretty run-of-the-mill, with the Making A Scene probably the best.
The wrong thing is disappearing here…
• Music videos: Everything Burns, Come On Come In: The first video by Ben Moody featuring Anastacia and the other by Velvet Revolver. Two music videos. That’s more than MTV currently has in roatation…
• Exclusive inside look at X-Men 3 hosted by producer Avi Arad: a 90-second piece featuring not a lick of footage from the upcoming movie. Uh, why bother then?
6.7 out of 10
The reworked art from the one sheet is fine, although they could have thrown the Doom mask in the background along the lines of Vader. What I really didn’t need was to be told that the film is fun, fast and fantastic.
7.1 out of 10