Friday, April 27, 2007

Fantastic Four (2005)

Fantastic Four (2005)

Over hated. For some reason, people (and by people I mean film fans and comic book buffs) loathe this movie like Wile E. Coyote loathes the Road Runner. This adaptation of the Fantastic Four comic book series was met with derision before and following its release. I'm bemused, because while I'm not a fan of the film, I think it's decent enough, and it seems to be true to what little I know of the Fantastic Four. It certainly seems more accurate an adaptation than X-Men, which was much better received.

'Fantastic Four' tells the story of Reed Richards (Ioan Gruffudd), Ben Grimm (Michael Chiklis), Sue Storm (Jessica Alba), Johnny Storm (Chris Evans), and shady corporate millionaire Victor Von Doom (Julian McMahon), five people who have some history between them. It all begins peacefully enough, when all five of them go to Von Doom's space station to carry out an experiment devised by Reed. Things go pear shaped and all of them are exposed to some form of radiation. Back on Earth, the four heroes discover that the radiation has altered them - Reed can stretch his body, Sue can turn invisible, Johnny's whole body can ignite into flames, and Ben becomes permanently transformed into a rocky Hulk like figure. When they use their powers to save lives during a disaster, they are embraced as heroes by the public and dubbed the 'Fantastic Four'. Unbeknownst to everyone, Von Doom also gains powers, which he uses for evil. The Fantastic Four, who have personal issues with each other, work to try and find a 'cure' for their problem. When Doom attempts to wipe them out, they are forced to put aside their difference and unite against him.

Hmm, that's a pretty accurate summary of the plot, which isn't great but isn't exactly terrible either. The film works as a comedy drama with action, and most of the time the focus is on the personalities, problems, and interactions of the Fantastic Four as opposed to the plot. It's a light hearted superhero film, at odds with the typically action heavy, serious, and 'dark' comic book adaptations - this fact seems to have annoyed people more than anything else. To me, it's a valid approach - I always thought comical character interaction was what the Fantastic Four was about. The writing isn't great, but it works for the most part, and it's often quite funny - some of the faux techno-babble is hilarious, though I found it hard to tell if it was always intentional. The characterization isn't deep, but it's effective and befits the film's tone. The cast are a mixed bag - Alba and Gruffudd are bland but adequate in their roles, and McMahon is one dimensionally villainous. Evans and Chiklis are the highlight though - their exaggerated and larger than life approaches are the most entertaining aspects of the film.

The film is a mixed bag in more ways than one - there's nothing memorable about it visually, with occasionally dodgy effects and bland production design. Director Tim Story's effort is nondescript, and it's the performances and writing that wind up carrying the film. The action sequences are not particularly great, but the way the Four use their powers in battle (and throughout the film) is ultimately satisfactory.

While my assessment of the different aspects of the film seems less than enthusiastic, the overall mix of mostly mediocre elements with a few great elements results in a film that is fairly enjoyable overall. It ain't great, but it's not as bad as some people make it out to be.

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