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"Fantastic Four"

Directed by Tim Story ("Barbershop").
Written by Michael France and Mark Frost.  Based on the comic series by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.
Starring Ioan Gruffudd, Jessica Alba, Chris Evans and Michael Chiklis.

Release Year:  2005
Review Date:  7/18/2005


"Fantastic Four" feels from the get-go like the prologue to a long franchise of motion pictures; as such, it's "much ado about nothing" from the start as well.  It's big, it's loud, there's a bunch of stuff going on...but, ultimately it just sets the table for bigger, louder, more interesting sequels in the very near future.

A comic series that I never read but heard a ton about through friends, The Fantastic Four are four people caught in a classic "wrong place, wrong time" situation that leaves them with a special power that makes absolutely no sense.  During a space mission aboard the vessel of nefarious billionaire Victor Von Doom (Julian McMahon), our four heroes are all hit by the same blast of radioactive (uh, I'm forgetting) storm rays but all end up with different side effects.  The team's hero, Reed Richards (Ioan Gruffudd, my vote for best excuse for a stage name ever), ends up with skin that can stretch on command; the ship's pilot, Johnny Storm (Chris Evans), can light himself on fire and fly; his sister Sue (Jessica Alba) can turn invisible when her emotions flare, while Reed's best friend Ben (Michael Chiklis) has turned into a fucking walking rock.

The foursome return from the mission and try to uncover the origins of these new afflictions; Von Doom comes home and realizes that he is slowly turning into a natural conductor of electricity.  This would be the time to hit the panic button!  Good fights evil, blah blah blah.

I saw this with my friend Jennifer and both of us agreed--amidst a slew of other superhero/comic book adaptations, "Fantastic Four" is just another bump in the road.  The biggest problem with the movie?  You've got exactly two scenes with the foursome working together to save lives, which would seem to be the strength of any film features heroes of this type.  The rest is all set up, laying the groundwork for the inevitable sequels that follow.  The special effects are cool and it's cool watching each person seem wowed by their new powers; there's a few laughs sprinkled in (intentional and unintentional; when Ben--newly turned into The Thing--tries to pick up a fallen wedding ring, it's clearly meant to be sad but I was laughing my head off).  McMahon was actually pretty good as the bad guy, but he isn't really evil until he starts offing people halfway through the film; he just didn't seem, well, evil enough.

And then, some of the writing here just didn't make sense, which brought the film down to earth as well.  Why does Von Doom's company go from robust to near bankruptcy after the space mission goes awry?  I don't remember a scene where Von Doom said he was betting his entire company on Reed's prediction of a successful mission.  Why give us the chance at a great showdown between Von Doom and the F4 and then, after 30 seconds, have it end?  The F4 gets famous right away, which almost feels like a joke, since it just gives the filmmakers the chance to give them all their names--"Mr. Fantastic", etc.--when we could have used a couple of scenes where they perform minor miracles BEFORE getting big-time.  My biggest question of all--why does everyone have such different powers?  I still don't get why only one of them--Torch--can fly, or why only one of them can create a shield (Invisible Woman) even though her powers don't have anything to do with creating shields; i.e., she can make herself disappear to the eyes but her hands can stop lightning bolts in a snap?  Really, really lost.

Bottom line, "Fantastic Four" makes you feel like it is nothing special; you certainly won't want to see it again and you might get the feeling that you are wasting your time by being there while you are watching it.  I have to believe that the next sequel will be more interesting since it won't waste any time with introductions, but it will need a serious influx of action in order to make hardcore F4 fans come back for seconds. 

Rating:  Rental


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09