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Vince Says Fantastic Four Not So Good

Published July 11, 2005 in Movie Reviews
By Vince Palomarez | Images property of 20th Century Fox
Fantastic Four The Fantastic Four
I remember this episode of the TV series Growing Pains where Ben Seaver got to see his idol in concert for the first time. He worshiped this guy and wanted to be just like him. His dad found a way for him to meet his idol backstage and he was everything Ben had hoped for. Right before they left though, Ben realized he forgot something and went back for it only to be shocked at what he saw. His idol turned out to be nothing like he thought he was. Ben was so upset that his idol was a total jerk he wanted nothing to do with him, but his dad told him that even though the guy was a total jerk he could still enjoy what he really liked about the person in the first place, the music.

Fantstic Four Review

Now I bet you are asking yourself why I would spend the first part of my review talking about an episode of Growing Pains. Well after seeing Fantastic Four this weekend I felt exactly like Ben Seaver.

As most of you know, I make no effort to hide the fact that I am a comic book geek to the fullest. I grew up reading Marvel Comics, in particular the Fantastic Four. There was something about that comic that was just so different from the rest of the comics I was reading. Here was a group who were more explorers than super heroes. Part of the fun of reading the book was more about what new universe they were going to discover than whatever villain would come in their way. With every issue though, wherever they went, no matter what trouble faced them they would always deal with it together because they were a family. They never lost that and it's what made them such interesting characters.

With Marvel's recent box office success with Spider-Man and X-Men you knew it was just a matter of time before Marvel's first family, the Fantastic Four, would get their own movie. But numerous directing changes and script rewrites left the film in pre production limbo. A few years ago Avi Arad, head of Marvel Studios, made it a priority to get Fantastic Four on the screen. What looked like a promising film suddenly was bogged down by numerous questionable decisions. First off were the changes to the story to make it more "Hollywood friendly" (usually the first sign of doom). Then after losing two big name directors (Chris Columbus and Payton Reed), Arad decided to go out of the box and pick a director (Tim Story) whose previous 3 films (Barbershop, Barbershop 2, Taxi) combined budget wouldn't equal the budget for Fantastic Four. The end result is a film that could've been so much more, but just came off looking like a B-movie.

Fantastic Four Jessica Alba is Invisible Girl
Right from the get go, Fantastic Four seemed more like a TV movie than a big budget production along the lines of X-Men and Spider-Man. The film was budgeted around $100 million and I have no idea where any of that money went. From the special effects to the music, everything just seemed low budget to me. What could've turned out to be one of the coolest looking characters of the film, Ben Grim/The Thing (Michael Chiklis) looks like a guy in a rubber suit compared to a monster made out of rocks. The films main villain, Dr. Doom (Julian McMahon), comes off looking like a reject from the 80's remake of Flash Gordon. This is where the film really suffers from having an inexperienced director like Tim Story. With a little more emphasis on better quality CGI and effects this film could've been so much better visually. Instead it comes off looking very amateurish and rushed. The music in Fantastic Four doesn't help in any way at all. A good score can even make an average film tolerable, but again it seems like they went the cheap route and got a score that seemed more like it was made for a cheap 80's comedy than a blockbuster summer film. Every time the music played in the film I wanted to cringe cause it was just felt so goofy and out of place.

The story is another big gripe I have with this film. While Fantastic Four does an excellent job of keeping very true to the essence of the characters and the family element that is so important, the changes they made didn't help the film at all. Fantastic Four reminds me a lot like XXX in a way. That film was so ridiculous because of its constant need to try to make the film "cool" to younger viewers and instead came off as goofy and unintentionally very funny. By trying to make Fantastic Four more accessible and cool to non comic book readers they not only alienated the hard core fans they made the film look goofy in the eyes of the casual fan. A lot of the elements that are supposed to make you care about the characters winds up making you laugh, in particular Ben Grimm's struggle with becoming a monster. Here was a storyline that would make you really care for the struggle the character was going through yet I found myself laughing most of the time.

Fantastic Four could've used the help of a more interesting cast. Aside from Chris Evans scene stealing performance as Johnny Storm most of the cast (primarily Julian McMahon and Jessica Alba) seems like they want to be working anywhere else than a comic book film. By just showing a hint of interest in the story, Fantastic Four could be so much better, but instead the performances just seem so uninteresting and one dimensional.

Fantastic Four A good portion of the story revolves around The Thing
With every scene in Fantastic Four where they get it, there are twice as many where they fail miserably. What could've been such a fun joyride in the end looks like a rushed job by an inexperienced director and uninterested cast and crew and the end result is a B level film. Instead of rushing to get this film out for the summer of '06 I would've rather seen Avi Arad and Marvel Studios take their time and find the right director and cast to make this film the blockbuster it deserved to be. I just hope that Marvel Studios sees the lemon they released and decides to not rush X-Men 3 the way they rushed this film because if they don't I see a dark future for more comic book movies. Just like that episode of Growing Pains, I shouldn't give up liking something based off of one bad instance. And even though the movie version of Fantastic Four was a serious disappointment, I will always have the comic book to remind me of why I enjoy these characters so much.


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Vince Palomarez
Sources: Images property of 20th Century Fox

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