ON CONTINUITY WITH THE MARVEL UNIVERSE:
ARTH VADER (AV): It’s 1961 in Cold-War-gripped America and two story-telling visionaries set out, not to change the world but widen our understanding of who heroes really are, sets the comic book genre in wild new directions. The debut of Marvel’s Fantastic Four, created by comic book legends Stan Lee & Jack Kirby, used established characters (like the Human Torch) merged with familiar hero archetypes like a monster strong man, The Thing or Plastic-man knock-off, Mr. Fantastic along with the stealthy Invisible girl/Woman. How do you think this movie held up, Pontificator?
THE PONTIFICATOR (TP): Not many movies line up exactly with the comic continuity, but this one comes close enough that the disparities aren’t really issues. Were they in a ship in the comics and not a space station?...yes. Was Victor Von Doom with them and subject to the same accident?...no. Did the changes work for the movie and deliver a good time?... yes, case closed.
(AV): Agreed! Best friends Reed Richards and Ben Grimm (Mr.F & Thing) and Reed’s girlfriend Sue Storm along with her “hot-headed” (ha-ha, get it?) brother, Johnny Storm, form a close-knit interpersonal team of unlikely heroes, flawed and real, that has captured imaginations and endured for decades. The Fantastic Four is a modern day re-imagining of one of the best pulp fantasy story lines of our time.
CASTING, DIRECTING & ACTING:
(AV): Pontificator, casting is where this movie was a little off. Jessica Alba as Sue Storm? Really? Now don't get me wrong, I fawn over lovely Ms. Alba at every opportunity but she just wouldn’t have been my first choice. Chris Evans’s hunky Human Torch is solid and while I liked Michael Chiklis’s ‘Thing’ while Julian McMahon’s Dr. Doom was too cute and smug for me.
(TP): Arth, I have to disagree with you about Alba... I thought she was great as Sue Storm and the chemistry between here and Gruffudd was very nice. Evans was an absolute riot and my buddy Mike Chiklis (our local compadre from Lowell, Mass) did a... fantastic... job as Ben Grimm. McMahon’s Doom fell a little short. Though entertaining as Victor, none of that translated as truly sinister or scary as Doom.
(AV): The movie direction was as invisible as Sue Storm. FF has lots of cool effects shots but not particularly engaging cinematography. This, like many comic hero movies, needed to feel a bit larger-than-life – instead, it’s quirky and over-acted while the onscreen personalities seemed oddly disconnected.
(TP): Agreed Vader, the direction got a dose of cosmic rays and disappeared almost as much as Sue Storm did. The movie fell short with some campy and cliche parts that seemed deliberate, but could have worked had they not been meant to be so jocular. It just didn’t flow and felt very forced at times.
SPECIAL EFFECTS (SFX):
(TP): The special effects are great and everyone’s power and representation was very well done. Mr. Fantastic had to be the toughest to make believable, along with the Human Torch, and both were handled well enough not to be distractions. The Invisible Woman was handled superbly in our ability to see what we knew couldn’t be seen. It would have been very easy to cop out of her effects and show nothing at all...so I’m very glad they made the effort, and it paid off.
(AV): The SFX in Fantastic Four are very good. It’s hard to write a review six and a half years later when so many strides have been made in visual effects even in the short half-decade since this movie was made. While there was a little cheese in Mr. Fantastic’s effects, the thing and the Torch both looked great. Dr. D was a menacing bad-ass but I must say, hats off the visual effects people for The Invisible Woman's portrayal as a more ghosted apparition, than as simply a person who was no there.
TAKING A DEEPER LOOK:
(AV): This movie is deceptively good, at least on the surface. There are some notable flaws but as I re-watched this flick, it is genuinely true to the original source material, campy, fun and quirky, and each character interacted well with each other. Sure, Ioan Gruffudd’s Mr. Fantastic is a little cardboard but for once, Hollywood didn’t vary much from the original story and – surprise! – it worked. The banter between Ben & Johnny is classic FF and Sue playing the affectionate girlfriend are decent.
(TP): Yes Vader-Nader, I too thought the overall chemistry between certain characters and among the group was very well done, spot on, and gave this film a very unique quality. The mix of drama, action and comedy was very well proportioned although the drama wasn’t very heavy at all. The comedy was brought out by the character driven performances making it feel more like personality quirks instead of punchlines. I found myself laughing at the character more than the joke...even when there wasn’t any.
(AV): I realize that the Invisible girl/woman was created in 1961 but she seemed the most modern to me. Historically, 1961 is still the 1950’s. The woman is beautiful, gentle and commonly seen and not heard in western society. This character does NOT follow that stereotype, literally she is heard but not seen. I like the euphemism a lot! Women’s voices need to be heard and even though she is invisible, her power protects while also having the greatest versatility, (evidenced in the end fight sequence). I wanted to shout out a big “You go, girl friend!” in the theater, but thought better of it for fear of audience reprisal. Hats off, though, for one of the most outspoken heroines in modern comics Marvel. Stan, as ever, you’re the man!
(TP): I would have loved to see a more sinister and driven Doctor Doom with serious motivations for why he must be the one to lead humanity and why that role called for the elimination of Reed Richards. As it was, I never cared about what drove Doom...heck, I didn’t even know he was on the road. This made the final battle anticlimactic because Doom winning didn’t mean anything to anyone except Doom himself. No public or world peril...just petty motivations. On a brighter note, Kerri Washington’s performance didn’t take away from changing Alicia Masters to a black woman, and Stan Lee got some good speaking lines!
(TP): Yep...there was one. Yep...we’ll talk about it...and thoroughly discuss how Rise of the Silver Surfer was a fall that didn’t need to happen. If something else comes along with these characters, and I don’t see any alternative besides reboot or extensive overhaul, there is no excuse for not making a true blockbuster. The makers need to take heed of the lessons already learned. It’s simple really, give the people what they want.
(AV): The follow-up effort; Rise of the Silver Surfer was a movie that held tons of promise – BEFORE hitting theaters! The talks over an FF re-boot have been tabled for months. It should be done. It needs to be done. There is too much to explore with these characters and too many cool villains like the Mole Man, The Skrulls, The frightful four and my favorite FF baddie – Annihilus! How say you, P-Nice?
(TP): Just as long as they don’t make him a swarm of obscure bugs and give you, one of the people I was referring to above, what you want... then that will be one pitfall avoided.
THE PONTIFICATOR Rates The Fantastic Four:
ARTH VADER Rates The Fantastic Four:
Loads of misfires in this movie, shotty casting, mediocre writing and dismal storytelling all conspire to muddy the possibility of greatness. That said, I agree with the Pontificator, the Fantastic Four is a pretty good time. Fan-boys can't look too deep if they intend to enjoy this one, as I had to. All-in-all, I give the FF a solid eight busted blocks.