Reviewed by

Bud Carlson

None of the big-budget releases from summer 2005 created less buzz than the movie version of Marvel Comics’ Fantastic Four. After all, it had no big-name stars and a small fan base, and it could even be argued that The Incredibles (a parody of FF) stole a lot of its thunder. And prior to its big-screen release, there was even some speculation that its studio’s support for this movie was slipping. In fact, before seeing the movie, I was afraid that we had another The Hulk on our hands (which I regard as being the most disappointing comic book movie I have ever seen).

But when all is said and done, Fantastic Four ends up being a rather pleasant surprise. Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t anything that we haven’t seen before in the summer movie season, but it’s certainly interesting enough to warrant a look on DVD. It avoids the pretentiousness of The Hulk, the dark psychology of X-Men, the teen-angst of Spider-Man, and the silly romance of Daredevil. FF stands on its own. And while it is instantly forgettable, it does provide a momentary enjoyment that many other comic book movies don’t. In short, it could have been worse.

Fantastic Four is about four research astronauts – Reed Richards (Ioan Gruffudd), Bed Grimm (Michael Chiklis), Susan Storm (Jessica Alba) and her brother Johnny (Chris Evans) – who experience a cosmic storm in space that alters their DNA and gives them superpowers. So they emerge, respectfully, as Mr. Fantastic (who can stretch his body like a rubber band), the Thing (a rock-man not dissimilar from the Hulk), the Invisible Girl (who can also project force fields), and the Human Torch (a flaming flying rocket). There’s also Dr Victor von Doom (Julian McMahon), a billionaire entrepreneur whose company owned the space station where it all began. Dr. Doom also acquired

superpowers, but uses them for his own greedy purposes.

Fantastic Four was one of the original Marvel comics, and was the subject of a couple of television series and even an unreleased 1994 feature film, and many of the ideas of this comic book series have been borrowed by other later superheroes over the years. But the script for this movie seems to be aware that these characters are now somewhat a cliché, and does its best to give an original twist to its situations. The film also avoids wildly overplaying its special effects sequences (unlike most other comic book movies). Specifically, the movie focuses on the plight of the four people struggling to adjust to their new superpowers, and focuses less on the tired-old “battle between good and evil” plotline that is so played out by these movies. It’s not exactly a character piece, but his film has a depth to it that was pleasantly surprising.

One area of the DVD that was a bit disappointing was the special features. Don’t get me wrong, it seems that there are hours and hours and hours of things to watch, but most of them relate to how the film was marketed. Like the half-hour documentary of the actors’ tour of Australia … who really cares? The only special feature worth watching, in my opinion, was a short story about how the Brooklyn Bridge scene was filmed; the rest was just filler.

This movie is not nearly as good as Batman Begins, which was released a couple months before FF was. But if you take it on its own lighthearted terms, chances are that you will enjoy it.

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