FANTASTIC FOUR20th Century Fox
2005
PG-13

“Typical of Victor Von Doom to build a 30 foot statue of himself.”

During a scientific mission in space, four scientists and their billionaire industrialist benefactor are doused with cosmic radiation, which results in some heavy-duty genetic mutation in each of them. After coming to grips with their powers (sort of), this “fantastic four” must deal with threats both outside and inside of the group…

I kept vowing to myself that I wouldn’t see this movie adaptation of the Marvel comic. While I’ve never really been a ravenous fan of the book, the Fantastic Four was one of those commodities that, like Spider-Man, Bat Man, Superman, or even Star Wars, even if you’ve never picked up a comic or watched the movie, you still knew something about them. While I’ve never owned a FF comic in my life, I knew that the group got their powers after getting hit by cosmic rays in space. I knew that Mr. Fantastic was the stretchy genius, the Invisible Girl / Woman was Mr. Fantastic’s wife and turned invisible (and, as I learned later, could put up psionic force fields and blasts), the Human Torch had a mouth on him and was literally and figuratively a hot head, and the Thing was made of orange rock and looked good in those blue speedos. Even Dr. Victor Von Doom I held in high esteem, the ruler of Latveria, nemesis of Reed Richards and all-around fashion plate for the armor enthusiast. And while I understand some changes have to be made from the comic book source to make something like this work for a movie (take the costume designs from the X-Men movies, for example), I was not looking forward to this recent adaptation of Marvel Comic’s First Family, and vowed to never actually see it, out of respect for the comic geek in me…

Then I got over myself and rented it. Eh, it happens…

Really, this slick, effects-heavy treatment of the Fantastic Four amounts to the cinematic equivalent of a meringue pie: looks good, but it’s mostly fluff. The effects are good. Breathtaking at times, in fact. The rendering of Ben Grimm / The Thing was just wonderful, bringing a classic Kirby-drawn character to believable life. The CGI used for Mr. Fantastic’s stretching was handled well, as was the Invisible Girl’s trademark power. The tip of the hat, though, does go to the awesome CGI rendering of Johnny Storm’s “flame on” scenes…they just nailed the look of the comic perfectly. And Doom…well, he didn’t really get to be Doom until the last reel, which sucked for this geekity-geek, but when he did…meh. I mean, a trench coat? With a hoodie? At least they kept the indispensable double-medallion-thingies on his lapels, but since it isn’t a cape, what’s the point? And thanks for keeping that trademark mask…had they used something different, I would have had the mother of all hissy fits…

Unfortunately, if I may go back to my meringue analogy, there really isn’t much substance here to offset the air-fluffed sweet eye candy that’s presented here. Reed Richard and Sue Storm’s chemistry is…non existent, with both characters coming off as wooden caricatures. The Johnny Storm character is just over-the-top stupid, playing his vapid pretty-boy daredevil ladies man persona to its two-dimensional hilt. About the only character I really dug on was Grimm. Michael Chiklis was a good fit for the lovable hunk of granite, your personification of the gruff guy with a hard exterior and a heart of gold…or at least iron pyrite.

Now, a few words about the Doom character: Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong! What made Doom cool in the comics, beyond that iron mask he wears underneath that dark green cloak, is the fact that he’s the dictator of Latveria, is a brilliant scientist, an accomplished and powerful sorcerer (second in line for the title Sorcerer Supreme, I might add), who donned the armor because of a facial scar, but put on the mask when it was too hot thereby permanently damaging his face for life. Here in the movie, instead of that kind of pedigree, we have a billionaire industrialist who doesn’t have any kind of accent to indicate he’s from Latveria (that place was mentioned, which shows that Hollywood script writers aren’t complete idiots), making Von Doom more of a Lex Luthor character than the magic-wielding armor-clad despot we would expect. Actually, Lex Luthor has more depth to him than what they rendered Doom as here- a two-dimensional slimy businessman character that never goes beyond just that. Even when he’s proposing to Sue Storm, he says “Consider this more of a promotion.” I mean, co’mon. What book of cliche’s did they get that one out of? Yeesh. And to top it all off, instead of actual armor, his skin is now an organic metal that’s a result of the cosmic whatchamahoosit, with his power (shooting lightning out of his hands…*yaaaaaawn*) also being a direct result of that. At least they kept the mask. And at least they didn’t call him Victor Van Damme like they were rumored to do…that would have sucked rancid tacos there…

In the end, Fantastic Four is a good way to waste 90 minutes. It’ll keep you going with the shiny effects and fairly exciting action sequences (both of them), but get prepared to sit through a bunch scenes where the FF are sitting around talking, bickering, and just plain fighting amongst each other while discovering their powers. A comic-based sci-fi action movie that’s worth at least one watch, but you’ll be hard pressed to remember much of it after the credits roll..