A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

The Fantastic Four

June 9, 2010

Fantastic Four

Sadly there’s probably no way we can attain a legitimate copy of the infamously bad Roger Corman Fantastic Four movie (I’d buy it if I could) so tonight we’re watching the 2005 movie about Marvel’s first big successful monthly title. I’ll admit that I haven’t really read many Fantastic Four books. The problem was that the comics were too cartoonish for me. Particularly Reed’s character. You see, the titular Fantastic Four are four people who have, through exposure to a cosmic storm, been imbued with super powers. Sue Storm can turn invisible and project force fields. Her brother Johnny is the human torch. He can set himself on fire and fly. Ben Grimm is The Thing (by far the coolest member of the team) and is like the Hulk – but orange, made of stone, and never turns back to human. The leader of the four of them is Mister Fantastic, the brilliant scientist Reed Richards, who has one of the stupidest looking super powers out there – he’s made of living rubber and can stretch himself into wacky shapes at will. It’s all fine for a comic book – which is traditionally a genre that involves a lot of visually strange stuff and can get away with a lot of pretty campy things, but in a movie it’s inevitably going to look silly. Which must have been a major challenge for the film makers.

Keep in mind that this movie came out after the very successful X-Men and Spiderman movies. There was a lot of pressure to mine other Marvel properties for additional summer blockbuster movie franchises. (Hulk, at the time, was on moratorium after Ang Lee’s movie… which I actually really liked.) So as improbable as it might seem they went ahead and made a movie about the origin of this peculiar team. And just for fun they show an origin story for their arch nemesis Doctor Doom as well. (I am amused by some of the trappings the movie gives Victor Von Doom prior to his transformation into an arch villain. In particular I chuckled a little to see that his space station is shaped like a big V.) I do kind of wish they had chosen to show Doom more as the hard-hearted ruler of the kingdom of Latveria than as this kind of rich but impotent business maven. He seems more whiny than megalomaniacal. An odd choice for one of the most dreaded super villains in the Marvel cannon.

This movie pretty much knows that it can’t really take itself seriously. Almost the whole thing is played for laughs. Particularly any time that Johnny is on the screen. Chris Evans (who links this movie to our Monday review as part of our Kevin Bacon week) is a delight. He hams it up for all he’s worth, and gets all the best lines. He clearly knows exactly what kind of movie he’s in. (A movie that has, for example, a scene at a NASCAR sponsored motorcycle stunt show with product placement billboards prominently surrounding it.)

As for the other team members, well Jessica Alba does alright as Sue Storm, given that pretty much all she’s provided to do is look attractive and be the girl Doom and Richards both want. Things go less well for Ioan Gruffudd as Mister Fantastic. His transformation into a computer generated effect was inevitably going to look silly. But even more than that, his bizarre contortions look really creepy when performed by a human character in a movie. Much more so than in a comic book.

Strangely, given that Sue, Johnny and Reed are digital creations whenever they use their super powers, the film makers chose to create The Thing entirely using makeup. I’m not sure I quite agree with the decision. Maybe it’s that the design of Michael Chiklis’ extensive make-up doesn’t quite capture the look of The Thing as I recall him from the comic. (He lacks the prominent jaw and big rectangular eyebrows that are The Thing’s trademark look.) Maybe it’s the fact that rubber prosthetics just don’t quite look like living rock. It’s in the texture, I think. In the way the prosthetics bunch and stretch. I’m guessing that they chose to go this route because Ben is meant to be the human heart of the movie, so they wanted Michael’s performance to drive the character. Sadly, it just doesn’t quite work for me.

Still – even if this movie is no Iron Man or X-Men – it is still a fun popcorn movie. It tells its basic story and gives everybody some scenery to chew and involves a lot of computer effects and explosions. It’s far from being the worst comic book adaptation I own. And I suppose it did well enough in the cinema to warrant a sequel. Which we’ll review tomorrow.

June 9, 2010 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , ,

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