|In just a few short years, the business of bringing famous comic books to the big screen bas become a titanic industry where the movies sport giant budgets and the summer fortunes of big league film distributors are made or broken. Although the "genre" is something of a hybrid of a hero-based action movie and a science fiction romp, filmmakers too often ignore the rules of sensible filmmaking in their zeal to rush the next comic book to the screen. Adapting a comic book to feature film form has its pitfalls just like any other genre of book, but far too often these stories are mediocre and hasty renditions of a product that's taken an author or artist years to create.|
There are bound to be a few trips and falls by filmmakers in bringing so many comic book based movies to the screen so quickly, but words like "bland" and "dorky" are becoming much more the norm than not in attempts to describe these films. There are so many films like Fantastic Four currently flooding the production schedules of various film companies that the summer blockbuster season is not the only time when these huge films come out to play. But the Fantastic Four of 2005 is definitely a film made in the spirit of summer blockbusters.
Although its box office take will certainly lag behind contemporaries such as Spider-Man and X-Men, both of which presented a viable franchise in their first installments where the audience wasn't treated to a two-hour long "set-up" for films yet to be made. Each of those franchises has actually improved with age and there was an effort in each of those films to create a story belonging only to that film. Although Spider-Man certainly set the audience up for a sequel, the film's inherent purpose of creating a franchise wasn't so blatantly obvious.
Fantastic Four is nothing but a two hour set-up to get audiences introduced to the potential Fantastic franchise and the many movies down the road that the folks at 20th Century Fox and Marvel would like to foist on the public. It's not just the [expected] tag at the end that reveals that the bad guy isn't truly "finished," it's more that the film's story and characters don't have the emotional stamina to carry this film to an interesting finish. Although there is the welcome humanity and comedy present in most scenes from a talented and enthusiastic cast, the film is full of fits and starts in its attempts to get viewers to the closing credits.
The emotional difficulties that "Ben Grimm" (played by a fantastic Michael Chiklis) has to overcome regarding his physical appearance after his transformation into a giant rock-based life form is heartening and emotional, but it's not strong enough to carry and entire film. And the love triangle between "Sue Storm" (played by Jessica Alba in a varying performance), "Victor Von Doom" (played with boredom by Julian McMahon), and "Reed Richards" (played with heart by Ioan Gruffudd) is at best interesting, but hardly enough to carry the audience's interest for too many reels.
And neither can the enthusiastic "Johnny Storm," (played rather well by Chris Evans) who has a penchant for death-defying stunts, support the weight of an entire feature film. Each of the problems the "Fantastic Four" have in dealing with their new powers would have been a good sub-plot to plump up the film's story, but audiences might find themselves bored when they realize their difficulty is the story. The entire story. It's all about Sue Storm finding herself caught in a love triangle between the brainy Reed Richards and the evil Victor Von Doom. And it's about Ben Grimm's coming to terms with his hideous appearance as a giant rock.
These character transformations are simply not impressive enough (nor would they ever be) to base an entire film on. It's like the director attempted to put the philosophy of a Woody Allen movie (where it's all character and talk) right into the middle of a film whose very nature requires a quickly moving and plot-driven story. The successful films in this genre fully allow the plot to drive a major portion of the movie, but still make various character foibles a fluid part of the story. Fantastic Four is simply a two-hour investigation into the psychology of these characters and has absolutely no plot.
And it doesn't help that the bad guy (Victor Von Doom) doesn't have much to do and is really nothing more than a menace with unbeatable powers. His entire reason for being evil and taking that path is based on the love triangle. There is a mention or two of his wanting to be all powerful and successful, but the story keeps falling back toward his jealousy over losing his girlfriend. A good motivation, but that still doesn't give the plot any weight.
The film's presentation is almost haphazard in its pacing, owing almost entirely to its lack of plot, but also to a very badly written script. It's debatable whether a film of this nature can exist successfully if the dialogue is bad (interesting special effects and a good plot combined with tight performances can sometimes overcome hokey dialogue), but the Fantastic Four don't really have many interesting things to say. Who cares if their predicament is predictable. They should at least be able to go about their predictable ways with something interesting to say.
The film's technical aspects vary in strength as much as the plot and the amount of CGI elements in each shot is sometimes painfully obvious. One has to expect that a film of this nature would be stuffed wall to wall with digital effects, but someone needs to find the artists responsible for Mr. Fantastic's stretching ability and ask them what grade school graphics program they created their effects with. On the one hand viewers are treated to incredible displays of fiery pyrotechnics courtesy of Johnny Storm's human torch ability and on the other viewers are handed the poorly realized rubbery effects for Mr. Fantastic.
With the high-flying cinematography, the strongly imagined musical score, and some incredible prosthetic work, there are indeed several impressive elements to be had in this film. There are just a few things in the realm of special effects that don't quite match the overall technical agility. But that sentiment, the idea of selective mediocrity, can be applied to the entirety of the film, as so many of its elements aren't necessarily badly done, but simply uneven (save the plot, since there isn't any evidence of one). Director Tim Story has not been able to reign in all the elements of this wildly varying film and audiences will find his 106 minute movie a very long introduction to the world of the Fantastic Four.
Review by Kelsey Wyatt.