Fantastic Four

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The ViewAuckland Review

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Review byMatthew Turner20/07/2005

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 106 mins

Fantastic Four is not without its flaws, but it’s still a lot of fun and nowhere near the disaster you might have heard - at least the film-makers erred on the side of trying to appeal to the fans.

Fantastic Four has come in for such a viciously superpowered kicking in the States that it’s almost as if critics were attempting to atone for having heaped so much praise on Batman Begins – after all, to be seen to love two superhero movies in a row might be seen as overly geeky. Fortunately, Fantastic Four is nowhere near as bad as its across-the-board terrible reviews suggest. If you’re prepared to accept that it’s “just” a comic book movie and forgive the occasional flaw, then it’s actually a lot of fun.

The Plot

As with Spider-Man, Fantastic Four gives us the superhero ‘origin’ story before pitting its heroes against an evil supervillain. In this case, genius bankrupt scientist Reed Richards (Ioan Gruffud) receives financial backing from billionaire industrialist Victor Von Doom (Julian McMahon) and assembles a team to go into space, in order to unlock the secrets of something or other.

The team includes Reed’s best friend Ben Grimm (Michael Chiklis), his ex-girlfriend Susan Storm (Jessica Alba) and her hot-headed brother Johnny (Chris Evans), with Von Doom also along for the ride.

Not surprisingly, things go Horribly Wrong and the entire team are exposed to – gasp! - Cosmic Rays. Once back on earth, they begin to develop strange powers: Reed becomes Mr Fantastic and discovers he can stretch his body and mould it into shapes; Sue (The Invisible Woman) finds she can turn invisible and project force-fields; Johnny (The Human Torch) is delighted to discover he can set his body alight and maybe even fly; and poor old Ben finds himself turned into a rock-like creature with superhuman strength – someone says “What IS that thing?” and the name sticks so he becomes The Thing.

Meanwhile, Von Doom has also been developing powers and he decides to use them for EEEEEVIL and crush the Fantastic Four for no adequately explained reason.

Apart from the obvious tweaking to include Doom in the origin story, the film is surprisingly faithful to the comics, with some scenes forming mini-tributes to classic comic plots, e.g. Ben being persuaded that Reed doesn’t have time for him; Reed trying to turn The Thing back into Ben Grimm; Reed testing machines on himself, etc. The script also captures the bickering relationship between the four.

The Effects

The effects look good throughout, particularly in the detail of the Thing’s body, which must have been the biggest worry going in. The action sequences are also well handled, especially the set-piece on the bridge, in which the four use their powers for the first time.

The Performances

The performances are good, although Gruffud is too young (the Cosmic Rays somehow contrive to give him his trademarked greying temples to make up for it) and the audience laughs when Alba is introduced as a “director of genetic research”. McMahon gives good sneering villain, but the stand-outs are Chris Evans (perfectly cast) and Michael Chiklis, whose performance as Ben Grimm is surprisingly sensitive, despite the fact that he looks like Grant Mitchell.

The Flaws

There are several flaws in the film (the two scenes with Laurie Holden as Ben’s fiancée are laughably bad), as well as a notably offensive moment of product placement and a poorly edited montage scene, but there’s also an infectious enthusiasm to the whole thing (notably when Johnny’s onscreen – the fim literally, ahem, lights up when he’s around) and the script is peppered with surprisingly funny gags and one-liners as well as some delightful throwaway moments.

The Concllusion

In short, there’s something to be said for a superhero movie that doesn’t take itself too seriously and if you surrender yourself to it, Fantastic Four is surprisingly good fun. It’s also about 100 times more enjoyable than Daredevil. Recommended.

Film Trailer

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Content updated: 19/01/2020 19:52

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