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Four-get about the ‘Fantastic Four’

Photo courtesy of Twentieth Cenury Fox
Chris Evans heats things up as Johnny Storm, aka The Human Torch, in the otherwise lukewarm “Fantastic Four.”
By Kylee Dawson
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday, July 13, 2005
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If the surface is the substance of a film, “Fantastic Four” has got plenty of it with all its snazzy special effects and witty one-liners.

But if you want to watch a film with a strong plot and interesting lead characters, this is not the film for you.

The film begins with scientist Reed Richards and his guard dog, Ben Grimm, requesting funding from corporate guy Victor Von Doom for some clichéd and extremely general project he hopes to use for world peace or some noble cause like that.

Enter Richard’s ex-girlfriend Sue Storm and her pilot brother Johnny and you’ve got the main characters of the film. When the five of them travel to a space station to conduct Richard’s previously untested experiment, a galactic storm ahead of schedule crashes into them, exposing them to radiation which fundamentally alters their DNA, as one character explains to another multiple times just to make sure the audience knows what’s happened.

The result: four accidental superheroes, who are made up of two flat main characters and two entertaining sidekicks, and one extremely gorgeous, but-not-as-evil-as-he-should-be villain.

Known simply as Mr. Fantastic, who in actuality is an asexual geek, Richard develops the ability to stretch and contort his body into practically any form. Sue, apparently a fellow scientist now dating Doom, can create force fields and make herself invisible, hence the wildly creative nickname, Invisible Woman.

Fantastic Four

5 out of 10

Johnny, aka the Human Torch, is an extreme sport-loving semi-hedonist able to generate fire all over his body, destroying his clothing but without so much as singing a hair on his head. Ben Grimm, deemed The Thing, apparently gets the brunt of that cosmic storm’s anger, which transforms his body into a rock-like mass, rendering him hideous. Though he performs astonishing acts of strength and bravery, his appearance still repels his wife and everyone who looks at him.

Back on earth, they spend the majority of the film learning how to deal with their powers before a meager showdown with their corporate-foe-turned-super-villain Doom, who just goes by “Doom” since it is such a cool name for a bad guy.

Because we’ve been psyched up to believe that Mr. Fantastic is the head superhero in charge, while Invisible Woman is his main squeeze, it’s boggling to see the sidekicks seize all the attention with superior performances and much better lines making them the only redeeming qualities of the film.

Played by Michael Chiklis (the bald guy from “The Shield”), The Thing, in his monstrous form, is the most humanized character because he is unable to conceal his deformity. Perhaps it isn’t an award-winning performance, but the Commish admirably delivers.

With his love ‘em and leave ‘em ways and a propensity to crack smartass comments, Chris Evans dominates the show as the aesthetically and chemically hot Human Torch. And though his arrogance sounds obnoxious on paper, he literally carries the entire film on his enflamed shoulders.

In stark contrast, Mr. Fantastic and Invisible Woman seem lobotomized. Not only is Richard a workaholic, but he’s a royal screw up too, hence getting himself and his coworkers fried up in that cosmic storm due to one of his many miscalculations.

What Jessica Alba lacks in acting ability as Invisible Woman she definitely makes up for with cleavage exposure. But nice tits aren’t enough to save the film. Firstly, it’s painfully obvious Invisible Woman is not as Caucasian as her on-screen sibling, but stylists have futilely tried to conceal her Latina heritage with a bad blonde dye job and blue contact lenses. Secondly, trying to convince audiences Alba is a scientist is like convincing us that Velveeta is actually cheese.

Welsh actor Ioan Gruffudd, who played the sword-wielding badass Lancelot in 2004’s King Arthur, is just a loser oozing zero sexuality. By contrast, his personal nemesis, Doom, played by Nip/Tuck’s highly lickable Julian McMahon, is smooth and confident as the super-evil rich guy.

Unfortunately, even in all his hotness, Doom is good at being an asshole, but is an overall pathetic villain and is in no way the super genius Doom is in the comic. But, as you’ve probably guessed, the four foil his evil plans, which proves he’s just a pushover who looks good in a suit. (Hell, he’d look good in anything.)

However, instead of being attracted to this super-evil rich guy, Sue falls for the good-hearted but hapless Richard. It’s not such a bad choice, considering we’ve seen this love match so many times. But the sexual chemistry between Richard and Sue rivals that of Ellen DeGeneres and Bill Pullman in “Mr. Wrong.”

Though the disappointing qualities of “Fantastic Four” don’t significantly overshadow the redeemable ones, they’re just too nagging to ignore. Granted, this is only the beginning and we can undoubtedly look forward to a sequel which might blow this one right out of the water (Hey, it happened with the “Spider-Man” series), so all hope is not lost.

If you’ve watched “The Incredibles,” don’t think the producers of “Fantastic Four” have ripped Disney off simply because the characters exhibit identical super powers. The only difference is The Incredibles characters had substance and were not nearly as two-dimensional as this film’s Mr. Fantastic and Invisible Woman.

Like all Marvel comics turned into films, this film is no different in that writers and producers have pissed all over the original storyline to create something more Hollywood-friendly.

Call them the underdogs of superheroes, but creator Stan Lee’s purpose in creating the “Fantastic Four” is sagacious considering he has developed a comic in which characters with differences are forced to work together because of and in spite of them. Though their powers as superheroes complimented each other, the personalities of the Fantastic Four should have been consistent.

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