Saturday, August 27, 2005

The Not Quite Fantastic Four

I finally saw “Fantastic Four” last night at Scotia Cinema – a great little second-run theater not far from here. The latest Marvel Comics movie was good, but not great.

I really enjoyed the four main characters. I thought the story nailed them – except for Reed Richards, who seemed a little too spineless up until the end of the movie. I don’t remember him ever being quite like that in the comic books (well, except for the terrific “FF vs. X-Men” mini-series from 1987).

The film’s weakest point was the villain. Doctor Doom is the grand-daddy of Marvel Comics villains. So it’s a crime they screwed him up so much. In some regards, Doom resembles Darth Vader, which could be why they monkeyed with him (despite the fact Doom was created about 15 years before “Star Wars”). This version is basically a cross between a watered down Lex Luthor and Norman Osborne from the “Spider-Man” movie – not the disfigured, scientific genius, madman, king of Latveria encased in a suit of armor from the comics.

I really enjoyed the interactions between the four heroes. The story was at its best when focusing on them and their adjustments to their new abilities. But I felt like the Doom character dragged the movie down (that, and the fact there were a couple of scenes with some glaring plot holes that made no sense).

I thought the effects were good. The Invisible Woman is pretty hard to screw up. Some people were critical of the Thing, saying he looked too much like a guy in rubber suit, but I was pleased with his appearance. By the far, the best of the bunch, effects wise, was the Human Torch, who looked awesome in full “flame on” mode. The weakest was Mr. Fantastic, whose stretching abilities always seemed a little cheesy.

The cast was decent. The best of the bunch was Michael Chiklis. I was thrilled when I heard he’d been cast as Ben Grimm, and he lived up to every expectation. I was pleasantly surprised with Jessica Alba. She hardly seemed right for the part when her casting was announced, but she won me over pretty quick.

Of all the Marvel movies released in recent years, easily the best two were the “Spider-Man” films (which one was better is up for debate – it depends on what day of the week you ask me). After those comes “X2: X-Men United” followed by the first “X-Men.” I’d rate “FF” below “X-Men,” but ahead of “Hulk” (granted I haven’t seen “Daredevil,” “Punisher,” “Elektra” or “Blade: Trinity,” but I hear I’m not missing much).

There is definitely some still some good stuff in here. I hope a sequel is made, because this movie could still serve as a good foundation. In the right hands, it can only get better.


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