Four, but where does the fantastic come in?
BASED ON the original Marvel Comic characters of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, the story begins with Reed Richard (Gruffudd) and his best friend Ben Grimm (Chiklis) making a presentation to the wealthy Von Doom (McMahon). Reed wants to take a crew to Dooms’ space station to study how cosmic rays affect living creatures. Reed, good soul that he is, thinks that what he discovers could help all of humanity, whereas Doom just considers what’s in it for him.
So Reed, Doom, Ben (Doom’s assistant), Sue Storm (Alba) and her brother Johnny Storm (Evans) board the space station. The trip gets dicey when the cosmic storm they’re studying does a whole lot worse than stir up a bad case of sun spots – it alters their DNA and messes up their television reception.
Back on earth, they are put in quarantine only to discover they’ve been upgraded to superhuman status. Reed becomes elastic man, able to stretch his body to incredible proportions, Susan, Reed’s ex-girlfriend, can become invisible and emit a force field, Johnny Storm is transformed into the human torch and can fire up his entire body and fly. Ben Grimm, well he becomes the thing, a rock-like creature with enormous strength and, as a special twist, you get Doctor Doom, the bad guy, who has always been power hungry but is now able to soak up electricity and use it as a weapon. He decides to use his powers for his own ends, instead of helping mankind, and his body is starting to grow its own coat of armour – handy.
What these superheroes lack is attitude. Richards feels guilty, Grimm, after losing his fiancé, mopes about feeling sorry for himself, Johnny uses his uniqueness to gain celebrity status and Sue is isolated as the voice of reason. You can sympathise with Ben, who shocks everyone by his appearance, but it’s hard to understand why the others aren’t out helping firefighters and police officers, seeing as they are superheroes. Instead, they spend most of their time squabbling among themselves, worrying about dating and romance and complaining about their powers.
Fantastic Four pales in comparison to its comic book predecessors such as X Men, Spider Man and the cape crusader. Fantastic Four is as shallow as a page of a comic and about half as thought provoking with every cheesy cliché on display.
Reed can’t communicate his true feelings to ex-girlfriend Susan, who’s seeing Doom only to see if that’ll get Reed to express how he really feels; Ben becomes a monster and is quite grumpy about it, whereas Johnny embraces his new power, trying to gain fame and score with the ladies.
The characters are two-dimensional, so you don’t get interested in them as people. They don’t appear to have real personalities and they’re given one-dimensional stock ones instead: the nerd, the hothead, the guy with the gruff exterior but warm interior, and the smart, sexy woman. It almost seems as though no one wanted to give them a real chance.
It is a child of a movie wanting to sit at the adult’s table with Spider Man, but told to go to the other side of the room and play with its toys.
Fantastic Four has potential for an interesting theme – the cult of celebrity. These heroes don’t have secret identities. After their public appearance, they are followed around by a curious public, eager to see more of the freak show. They each react in their own way: Johnny revels in it, Susan hides from it and Reed just carries on as normal. The movie sets up an interesting situation and then does nothing with it.