Fantastic Four
Grade: D+
Year: 2005
Director: Tim Story
Writers: Michael France, Mark Frost & Jack Kirby
Genre: Action/Sci-Fi
Rated: PG-13
By Scott Spicciati


What happens when during a space mission to a) propose to your girlfriend and b) find a cure for cancer - a cosmic storm "alters our DNA" after the shields fail to do what they're supposed to do? You become fantastic, that's what. Or at least this movie tries to make us believe that anyway and completely misses the mark.

"Fantastic Four," Marvel's latest comic-to-movie production is about a group of "scientists" who look more like sexy actors than their job descriptions on a quest to do good before a cosmic storm turns them all into freaks…some more drastically so than others.

As a result of the cosmic explosion, Reed Richards (Ioan Gruffudd), the group's leader learns his body has become taffy and can stretch like rubber bands. He's dubbed Mr. Fantastic being that he's the leader of the group, and having the ability to unlock doors from underneath is mighty fantastic. Ben Grimm (Michael Chiklis) becomes the Thing because no one wanted to come up with a more clever name for a guy who's turned into nothing more than a mass of rock. Sue Storm (Jessica Alba) becomes Invisible Girl - able to turn invisible and generate force fields because a) it's a convenient power and b) her last name is Storm. Her brother Johnny (Chris Evans) becomes the Human Torch, calls Ben Grimm a "monster" because he's an ass and loves his newfound scorching ability way too much.

Accompanying the foursome on the mission is the financier, Victor Von Doom (Julian McMahon) -- yes, you heard correctly; Von Doom -- whose ominous skyscraper reaches into the New York City stratosphere reminding us of when two great towers once did the same thing.

Doom too was affected by the storm but has decided to conceal this fact from the public and the foursome because he doesn't want to jeopardize his position at the top of his billion dollar corporation.

The bad press on the failing company which you'd expect would be really good after producing the "Fantastic Four" forces Von Doom off the board and out of work. At this point, Doom has lost the billions he invested into his own company and has basically hit rock bottom. But the revelation of his DNA altering should come as a blessing, right? With his ability to zap stuff he could become the fifth fantastic. Think about it, Fantastic Five sounds just as good as Fantastic Four.

Alas, the guy's name is Doom and has no choice but to don a creepy metallic mask that was molded for no apparent reason other than to give a face to a villain who has no apparent reason for being a villain.

Just what does Dr. Doom plan to do? Frankly, I have no idea. I'm pretty sure he's the villain. I guess this because all comic book movies must have a villain. That Dr. Doom kills people for the fun of it and has the last name Doom only strengthens my hypothesis. Beyond that however is nothing. Absolutely nothing.

A friend of mine has a good yet simple test for movie villains and it goes like this: to be a good movie villain one must aspire to accomplish more than simply kill people for the sake of killing people. With this test as the standard Dr. Doom is officially the worst Marvel-to-movie villain to come to the big screen.

But I guess you don't really need a villain when the heroes of the film lack the motivation to do any superheroing, save for the one scene early on when they save a fire truck from falling off a bridge.

Since that moment Richards becomes determined to find a cure for their ailment and confines the foursome to his elaborate apartment/laboratory where the group does nothing but mope around and argue about relationships.

Great, if I wanted to watch the Real World I would have just turned on MTV.

Instead of saving the world the Fantastics engage in a series of montages that has nothing to do with what we expect from comic movies. Torch, who is clearly as bored as we are, puts shaving cream in the hands of Thing while he sleeps, causing him to wake up in a grumpy mood yelling "Johnnyyyyy!"

When he's not trying to figure out how to bring the group back to normal Reed vents his regret for not being more assertive in his short relationship with Sue, who is now dating Von Doom for some reason. Yes, because after learning my DNA has changed so much that I can stretch from one block to another the first thing I want to know is why some chick is dating some guy other than me.

The special effects are grossly sub-par considering "War of the Worlds" is playing in the room next door. Some scenes, such as the one where Reed unlocks the door to Ben's room, are downright cartoonish and look as if they were taken from Gumby.

The product placement is as offensive as it gets. At one point ads for dozens of products are supposed to be in the background at a stunt racing event but are given clear focus and screen position by the camera. Torch actually lights up a billboard featuring Burger King's flame-broiled Whopper, with flames strategically placed in the right spots alluding to how the burgers are cooked - broiling the whopper suggesting that after the movie you should go to Burger King and order a flame broiled Whopper.

When "Batman Begins" is still playing, and "War of the Worlds" there's no reason to venture into "Fantastic Four" which is more of a product placement stint and extension of the Real World than genuine action hero movie. Flame-on indeed.

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