Sunday, July 10, 2005

Fantastic Four:
Just as I seem to be out of step with the majority of comics buyers relating to the two event stories going on at DC and Marvel, I also seem to be somewhat out of step with the consensus on comic book movies so far.

Because honestly, I liked Fantastic Four. Certainly better than Batman Begins. Why? Well, mostly it comes down to fun. Batman Begins is dour and lifeless, Fantastic Four feels like the sort of fun I'd rather have in my comics. It is true, in a lot of ways, to the spirit of the team that was instilled by Lee and Kirby in their legendary run.

I'm not saying it was a great movie. There are any number of logical inconsistencies that add up, and if you let yourself keep asking questions about the variations in science, the bizarre flip-flops in characterization that a few characters suffer (poor Doom worst of all) or why on Earth someone thought it was a good idea to use that music at that time, you'll probably hate it.

However, if you can go with a flow and ignore some of the Hollywoodisms (and these days, to enjoy an event movie you pretty much have to ignore some Hollywoodism), Fantastic Four is a pretty fun, even action-packed take on these characters that does justice to at least 3 1/2 of them. Doom gets short shrift in the script, but it's nothing that couldn't be fixed with a sequel that has him taking over Latveria and becoming the Doom we'd all prefer, and I like to think that Julian McMahon could handle that role and that the missteps as Doom in this movie are due more to script failures. Jessica Alba is, as with Sin City, a bit miscast, as she doesn't quite make me buy into her as smart scientist Sue Storm (btw, I like changing Sue from '50s housewife to Reed's scientific equal, whether it's here or in Ultimate FF), but in general she's still pretty good. Michael Chiklis, as expected, is great as The Thing, and the effects actually work to make us believe him as the Thing. A little old school, maybe, could have used a bit more CGI touch-up maybe, but certainly not as bad as early shots would have led you to believe. Ioan Gruffudd is given the difficult job of bringing major-league stiff Reed Richards to life, and he pulls it off admirably.

Of course, Chris Evans as Johnny Storm steals the movie. He's the guy actually enjoying himself when the powers comes along, he gets some of the best special effects and some of the most effective humor and action sequences. I would have guessed before seeing the movie that Chiklis was the best bit of casting, but Evans is the real find, he just embodies everything that Johnny Storm should be. Oh, and I like the change that he is the team's pilot, not just Sue's younger brother who tagged along on the mission. I wasn't down with all the changes made in this story from the original (Doom as business tycoon feels like lazy writing, for example) but I did like quite a few of them.

Maybe it's lowered expectations, maybe I'm willing to forgive a lot in the name of fun... but unlike Batman Begins, I see myself buying Fantastic Four when it comes out on DVD. And although Batman will get a sequel and FF might not, truthfully I'd rather see that reversed, because I'd love to see these actors meet again, this time with Doom at the head of Latveria, as he should be, and with all the origin stuff pushed out of the way to make way for a stronger story.

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