Fantastic Four

In the near future, Victor Von Doom (Julian McMahon) of the Von Doom corporation agrees to fund the space research programme of the bankrupt Reed Richards (Ioan Gruffud) and his lunky friend Ben Grimm (Michael Chiklis) into a cosmic storm of interesting scientific proportions. Matters are complicated by the fact that Von Doom is now both employing and dating Richards’ ex-girlfriend Sue Storm (Jessica Alba) and assigns Storm’s brother, Johnny (Chris Evans… no, not that Chris Evans) to pilot the mission, much to the chagrin of his ex-NASA superior Grimm.

On the space station, the cosmic storm arrives way ahead of schedule, irradiating Richards, Grimm, Storm and Storm, as well as Von Doom, who is also on the space station for some reason.

Arriving back on Earth, it is revealed that they have been given super powers. Johnny Storm can set his body on fire at will, Sue Storm can become invisible at will, Reed Richards can stretch his body at will, and Ben Grimm becomes a massive orange latex man. His superpower is that he is massive and strong and no longer has any ears. Together the four save some NEW YORK FIREFIGHTERS GOD BLESS THEM from falling off a bridge, and they are lauded as heroes. This is because if you do anything nice to a NEW YORK FIREFIGHTER in this POST 9/11 CLIMATE you are IMMEDIATELY A FRIEND OF NEW YORK AND AGAINST TERROR.

Von Doom also changes. He can now control electricity, because his body is turning into metal. He is also now bankrupt because of the failure of the space mission, and because he never got to ask Sue to marry him, ergo he is pissed off, ergo he is homicidal, ergo he is the supervillain Doctor Doom. Although never referred to as such. He attempts to break up the Fantastic Four by turning Ben Grimm back into a human, and by shooting a heatseeking missile at Johnny Storm. He also kidnaps Reed Richards and freezes him, but I can’t remember why.

Anyway, the whole thing culminates in some sort of culmination and NEW YORK has a NEW PROTECTION AGAINST TERROR in the family superhero antics of the Fantastic Four.

Where Batman Begins was life-threateningly serious, this is – like most comic books – for the kids. Dealing with a very vocal minority of comic-reading dudes on the internet must now be in the Top Five of “Hollywood Producers’ irritating day-to-day trials”, along with getting the cocaine out of their carpets, and the tendency in recent years has been to make everything adult, everything explained, everything psychological and “dark” and not very much fun. What the producers of “Fantastic Four” have attempted is to make light, frothy, family entertainment, that’ll sell some action figures and some lunchboxes.

The trouble is, the film is totally bobbins.

To start with, the characters are bland, bland, bland. The key parental figures of Reed and Sue are given pretty much bugger all to do. Johnny Storm is reasonably cheeky and mischievous, but is a one-note character. The “back-story” that “haunts” Ben Grimm – his fiancee, running around the Bronx in a negligee, rejects Grimm now he’s turned into a massive orange rock man – is so hammily set-up and so pathetically dealt with, that he remains just an hilarious massive orange rock man, and not the Cyrano De Bergerac that the producers would have wished. (There’s a scene where his fiancee puts their engagement ring on the ground, and walks away, and Grimm can’t pick it up because of his massive rock fingers. It’s not tragic, or even interesting. It’s kind of comic.)

The dialogue is workmanlike at best, wisecracky and horrible at worst. “Look at me,” demands the Invisible Girl. “I can’t,” joshes Mr Fantastic. It’s like that for 90 minutes. The direction is there somewhere, but who knows where? Director Tim Story made his name on the “Barbershop” movie series, starring Ice Cube, so that’s the level we’re dealing with.

So, I suppose this film is entertaining, but it matches that entertainment pound-for-pound with being facile and stupid. It’s a bit like the “Lost In Space” remake in tone, but without the acting calibre of William Hurt, Gary Oldman, even Matt Le Blanc, and without the story, or set-ups, or direction. Or effects.

There is, therefore, no reason to go and see this film, unless you are a 6-year-old boy. And even then, you’d probably sit around for an hour after it, drinking milkshakes and picking holes in its story. Ah, what a life…

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