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Jessica Alba is Hot, Fantastic Four is Not
A review of Fantastic Four
by J. D. Rummel

I'm writing this review months after the film came out. Why? Because I can, having a pal with a movie review site has its perks.

Director: Tim Story

Stars: Ioan Gruffudd, Michael Chiklis, Jessica Alba, Chris Evans, Hamish Linklater

Rating: PG-13

Release: 07-08-2005

Time: 106 minutes

Buy Movie at As I sat in my living room watching The Fantastic Four I was aware that I was more excited anticipating the film than actually seeing it. The idea of seeing the film far outstripped the reality. I was disappointed on at least two levels, as a fanboy who remembers buying and loving Lee and Kirby FF comics for 12 cents brand new off the spinner and as movie-goer and writer.

As a written, crafted vehicle this movie fails to tell a living story. The heroes and villain are jammed into a space with a minimum amount of logic and have powers imposed on them. With the sometime exception of the Thing story line the heroes don't behave at all like people experiencing extraordinary changes in their lives. The Johnny Storm character revels in his powers but isn't concerned about the potential danger of them. That may be a reflection of how some of us would handle the abilities but it causes us to doubt the hero somewhat and it weakens this story. I can suspend disbelief on the science but please make me believe in and recognize the people when the fantastic happens. I only come close with the Thing, everyone else is essentially one-dimensional. As the FF comic evolved we, as readers, came to care about them because they were a family with issues like our own (to see this dynamic created brilliantly and used to season a story see The Incredibles). Fantastic Four the movie is a bunch of gorgeous scraps that sewn together do not make a working quilt.

If you don't know the source material you won't know why it is such a disappointment to fans. Because the movie does not honor the fundamentals it cannot succeed for the true fan. Fans will nod if you point out the weakness of the four-folks-steal-a-rocket-ship origin and will let you try to retro fix that, they won't let you make Reed Richards a genius loser who seeks the help of Victor Von Doom. That betrays the essence of the canonical texts. Like saying Pharaoh really helped Moses free the Israelites. It's an interesting discussion but don't tell it that way when shooting The Ten Commandments.

Reed Richards as a genius loser? Wrong. He is Von Doom's intellectual equal and better because he uses his gifts to help all mankind. Reed as portrayed by the script and played here is not a leader and barely a man. The "real" Reed may be boring but the fan knows that Reed is the smartest man in the world and we can always trust his brain.

Julian McMahon is wrongly cast as Victor Von Doom. The part as written is utterly, terribly wrong. Dr. Doom is one of the great villains of pop culture. (Without him there is no Darth Vader.) He is a towering, complex figure by super hero comic book standards and the movie completely abandons this rich, fascinating content and gives us Donald Trump crossed with a Jacob's ladder. If the "real" Doom did run a corporation no board would dare think of a power play against him (his very arrival would cause business men to evacuate in their pants) let alone have his back to the wall. Doom should have been masked from the git go and a wicked voice the focus of his scenes. Doom is a scarred, evil genius in a metal mask. We don't need a face in that role.

This movie had the source material to breath new life to a genre (that's what the FF did for comics) and instead, the talent involved tried to "fix" too many things they did not grasp the rightness of. I give the movie a D+ because the effects are great and the energy is often on the mark. But the movie fails both as a comic book adaptation and as an original story. As an enterprise it stinks of cowardice and corporate compromise. In terms of how far it fell the Fantastic Four is a disaster.