Thursday, July 07, 2005

Fantastic Four

Fantastic Four (Director: Tim Story)

Story directed the fun Barbershop, and then there's last year's Taxi, which I didn't see but heard was atrocious. Based on Stan Lee and Jack Kirby's hit comic, the screenplay is from Michael France (Hulk, The Punisher) and Mark Frost.

I heard a little bit of whining from the creators of Fantastic Four when The Incredibles came out. Boo-hoo, the movie is so similar to ours, it's a ripoff, and so on. The creators of Fantastic Four could not have been pleased to see that The Incredibles was a nearly perfect movie. Time to up the ante, right?

The story of this film follows astronauts Reed Richards (Ioan Gruffudd), Ben Grimm (Michael Chiklis), Susan Storm (Jessica Alba), Johnny Storm (Chris Evans), and Victor Von Doom (Julian McMahon from "Nip/Tuck") as they go into space to do some research that will float them tons of money, especially for Doom, who is funding the project. Things go wrong, the astronauts get sucked into a matrix of space matter, and when they return to Earth, everyone's got powers (known in the movie as "symptoms"). Reed becomes Mr. Fantastic, the rubbery-limbed member of the group; Ben becomes The Thing, the hulking man made of stone; Susan becomes The Invisible Woman, who can also emanate a force field; and Johnny becomes The Human Torch, a guy who can fly and cover himself in star-hot flames. Of course, Doom becomes Dr. Doom, and he's evil.

The whole movie focuses on the Fantastic Four trying to find the "cure" for their symptoms. Their social lives have taken a turn for the worse, except for Johnny's, who uses his powers to win fame and get laid a lot. After failing to find the cure, Dr. Doom steps in with his plans of world domination, and so the Fantastic Four must stop him. It really isn't much more of an exciting premise than that. Where Batman Begins succeeds in that sense of wonder, that sense of becoming a superhero, Fantastic Four shies way too much away from it. This is why Chris Evans as The Human Torch steals this entire movie--think Tobey Maguire in the original Spider-Man when he discovers his powers. It's infectious.

There are some cool things in here, but the movie can be a bore in many ways. As much as I'd like to have an intimate evening with Jessica Alba, she really can suck the life out of a scene. And I guess I can kiss my chances of ever sleeping with her goodbye when I say that she has no charisma. She proved that in this year's Sin City. I also thought Michael Chiklis was way off his usual good self, too, giving line readings not unlike Edgar from "24," the lovable clunky computer guy from the past season. I feel like Gruffudd has acting chops, but after this and King Arthur, he still sits where Clive Owen did after that movie (and then we finally got to see the real Owen in Closer). Director Story is not the problem here--it's clearly the story's problem, no pun intended. I know it took a long time to get this filmed, and many took turns at writing and directing this, and it always ended up in development hell. Sorry, maybe more time was needed.


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