Comics have had a good run recently on the big screen. Spider-Man 2 was well received (even if I didn’t really appreciate it as much as most), Batman Begins was an incredible cinema experience, and Sin City was the ultimate in live action comics. So, it’s about time that we had a pathetic and inane comic book adaptation.
Fantastic Four confirms the suspicions of the average non comic book reader: they’re nothing more than kids picture books… super powers, silly suits and sexy women. Here we have five victims of an explosion that leaves them not dead, but each with extraordinary (and unique) abilities. Never mind the usual Marvel trick of creating superheroes with a committee in mind, all of these powers have been seen before in some shape or form. (In fact Stan Lee must have been kicking himself when The Incredibles beat his co-creation to the big screen, which arguably stole all the powers for its own heroes.) Forget the human subplots that writers have managed to weave into the extraordinary tales of recent years – there are no debates on the concept of power or how it should be used, no treatises on the nature of fear – this is pure and unrefined escapism.
This film has one of the most uninspired beginnings for a super hero narrative. X-Men has a classic first scene, and even the terribly dull Hulk had a great opening sequence. Fantastic Four has a bunch of guys (all who look like they should be in a shaving commercial) talking about science that (a: we can’t really understand, b: even if we could is completely preposterous, and c: we don’t really care about).
The acting here is about as good as one can expect from such a bare bones script – all five characters do their comic book best. The humour, although never complex, is one of the strong points, and Chris Evans in particular does a great job of getting as many laughs as possible out of some weak humour. The special effects are, um… effective, although there’s nothing particularly thrilling about them.
The majority of the audience enjoyed this film, although it must be pointed out that many of them were under 12. To be honest I didn’t hate Fantastic Four – it’s essentially a kid’s version of X-Men. If you step outside your critical sphere this film has enough of a Hoopla Factor to keep you going – just.
But feel free to wait for DVD.
Review by Stuart Wilson, 8th July 2005
So I was talking to my mate Sean today, and we were discussing the various plotting failures that afflict this latest in the glut of comic book adaptations. We came up with several obvious ones, in only about five minutes of talking, and I’m sure that you, our readers, could add to the list. So please feel free to write in by following the links below, and I’ll add them to my review as a formalised analysis of this disastrous movie.
Although, when I say ‘disastrous’, I was one of those Stuart referred to above that enjoyed this film. Chris Evans has charm to burn, he and Michael Chiklis have a free-flowing banter I enjoyed, and the rare moments of action and CGI effects were generally exciting. It is only when this film tries to be serious or thoughtful that it embarasses itself.
Certainly, comic book adaptations should explore the dark side of power for example, as this is bread and butter for the genre. I’m reliably informed that the beloved comics that non-aficionados like myself refer to disparagingly, are actually intelligent treatises on morals, society and self. Spider-Man 2 and Batman Begins both convey this with dexterity. Unfortunately, Fantastic Four struggles to make any of these supposed serious moments work. The strengths of this film lie in its rapid progression to the discovery of new powers – everyone loves to see superheroes learning of their enhancements for the first time, it’s a no-brainer – and in its final ten minutes. Sadly, the intervening hour or so is plain boring.
Alba and Gruffudd are as free of chemistry as my twenty year old, untouched, still-in-the-box chemistry set. The attempt to give their romantic liaison a dramatic edge falls flat. The progression from Von Doom to Doctor Doom is dull and uninspired, and the way this film deals with The Thing’s choices is clumsy.
Which brings us to the above-mentioned plot holes…
(Highlight to read)
1. Why is there a thank you party thrown for the Fantastic Four after they’ve vanquished Doctor Doom, when he has barely done anything to the city yet, and hasn’t in any way threatened them, and in fact the majority of the damage done has been done by the Four themselves? On that matter, how come comic book heroes are allowed to get away with such wanton destruction of property and collateral damage, when we would never let our employed defenders like the Army or Air Force get away with the same? The Human Torch leading a heat-seeking missile onto a boat, thus causing a major, probably ship-destroying and possibly life-taking, explosion? An entire bridge taken out of commission because The Thing wants to go for a walk? Bizarre.
2. How come Reed Richards made everyone go to space to perform experiments in an uncontrolled environment, if he was capable of replicating the cosmic storm in a box in his living room?
3. When Reed Richards destabilises his DNA in his new machine, and he becomes unable to maintain a stable form, how come simply going to bed improves his basic structure to the point he can wander around and save the world again? END SPOILERS
Sure, seeing Jessica Alba strip down to lingerie is worth the admission price alone, but there are fun moments in this film, and I simply had fun during it. It fails to stand up to any critical evaluation, and has real structural flaws that make it an extremely difficult film to recommend. But it did make me smile at the end of a stressful day.
Review by Mark Lavercombe, 8th July 2005Hoopla Factor: