Worth A Look: 10%
Pretty Bad: 22%
Total Crap: 43%
16 reviews, 104 user ratings
|Fantastic Four (2005)
by Scott Weinberg
There's just no excuse for failing a test when you've been given all the answers ahead of time. All it takes is one half-glance towards "Spider-Man," "X-Men," and "Batman Begins" to figure out the superhero formula: Give the audience an actual foundation of heart, drama, and character -- and you're halfway to making an excellent superhero flick. The precedents have been set and the results are crystal-clear. Apparently none of these memos have made their way into the "Fantastic Four" production office.There's a bona-fide laundry list of things that are wrong with Fantastic Four: the acting is almost completely atrocious across the board, the screenplay is a mawkish and uncomfortable collection of corny gags and painful exchanges, the direction could be charitably described as "the pinnacle of all things pedestrian," the pacing is all off, the characters are boring and dry ... and about a half-dozen other missteps.
"Fantastic Snore / Chore / Bore / Spoor -- Take your pick."
But the biggest problem is that Fantastic Four is as boring as it is hopelessly silly. That's not to say that every superhero movie must be overstuffed to the gills with wall-to-wall action mayhem; the key is to balance the talky bits with the flashy spectacle, while both sections of the film manage to actively engage an audience. Not only does Fantastic Four boast a meager two action sequences (both of which are pretty darn laughable), but the "in-between" stuff is sitcom fodder all the way ... when it's not trying to be a fluffy little soap opera story.
Here's the gist: A scientist, a girl scientist, a sidekick, a pilot, and a billionaire shoot themselves into space so they can collect samples from a glowing red cloud of some sort. It's their hope that said cloud particles can do wonderful things for humankind, so off they go. The cloud reacts differently than previously anticipated, and our five goofy pals find themselves packing some newly rejiggered DNA strands.
Our "leader" becomes a man who can stretch his body like Silly Putty. The girl scientist gets to do the Claude Rains schtick -- and yes, she must be naked to be entirely invisible. The hotshot pilot becomes a human ball of flame, and the lunky sidekick guy gets turned into a giant rock-man thing. Ah, and the billionaire turns into (all together now!) an evil arch-villain with a grudge and metallic skin.
The next 80 minutes consist of these five idiots running around, whining about their bizarre new powers, staring into microscopes, courting the media, and participating in oh-so-adorable musical montages in which Rubber Man fetches toilet paper from another room (without leaving his toilet!) while the grouchy rock-man gets smeared with shaving cream.
Let's just be kind and say that what works in the classic Marvel comic book series does not translate well to the big screen. And that's an understatement on par with "Hey that Grand Canyon's kinda big, ain't it?" While it's clear that the stunningly out of his league director Tim Story was shooting for a light and amiable little chestnut of a superhero story, the result is a movie so dull, so goofy, and so damn poorly written that it all but erases thoughts of charitable criticism from one's arsenal.
This is a pretty damn bad movie. F4 starts out on the wrong foot entirely by giving Jessica Alba a role that requires actual speaking. Yeah, I can plainly see what assets she can bring to a movie -- but this girl is one woefully under-talented actress. (Buy a box of M&M's on your way into Fantastic Four, and eat one (1) candy every time Ms. Alba offers a new facial expression. You'll be going home with a mega-full box of M&M's, trust me.) As the wishy-washy whine-box that is the "leader" of a new superheroic crime-fighting team, Ioan Gruffuud is simply overwhelmed by the ineptitude surrounding him. Want proof that a gifted actor can look like a talentless dolt just by signing on for the wrong project? Look no further, because his performance here basically redefines the word "wood." As the fiery rebel boy, Chris Evans spits out his stock snark with some color and personality, while poor Mike Chiklis is buried beneath one of the silliest costumes since that blue freaky thing in The Fifth Element.
It's been widely reported that Fantastic Four, during its exceedingly lengthy gestation period, saw the entrance and exit of several directors (Chris Columbus, Peter Segal, Raja Gosnell, Peyton Reed, and Brian Helgeland among them) and the frenzied assistance of dozens of screenwriters. OK, that's not that big a deal, really. Lots of big-budget movies, both very good and very bad, go through long and painful conceptions. But in the case of Fantastic Four, one just has to wonder: With so many talented and creative people pitching in over the course of about ten years ... how is it that the final product looks, feels, and tastes so stomach-turningly undercooked? Credited screenwriters Michael France and Mark Frost have done some darn fine work in the past, so perhaps they're not the ones to blame for dialogue like:
"When will you stop treating me like a child?"
"When you stop acting like one!"
I suspect that the blame for the borderline disaster that is Fantastic Four will fall directly upon the shoulders of director Tim Story -- and that's just not fair, really. Astute movie fans from around the globe knew it from the outset: "Um, no offense to Mr. Story, but how can you give a movie like Fantastic Four to a guy who directed 1. A dialogue-driven ensemble comedy (Barbershop), 2. One of the worst car-chase comedies of all time (Taxi), and 3. Nothing else at all? Mr. Story is not a visionary young comics geek like Bryan Singer, nor is he a genre-loving mad genius like Sam Raimi. He's a rather bland director-for-hire who got stuck swimming in the deep end of the pool.
I say the blame for the hilarious turkey that is Fantastic Four should rest firmly on the scalps of the Fox executives who just had to get the movie ready by July of 2005. Didn't matter if the special effects were done (because they sure don't look it), if the actors were even delivering the appropriate line readings, or if the screenplay was one of the most unintentionally amusing things ever set down on paper. Fox just wanted that summertime tentpole flick -- and here it is. Basically, a very difficult project somehow ended up as a flimsy little rush job, and trust me, it shows.
Charitable food-for-thought: I'll go on record with the opinion that Marvel's "Fantastic Four" comic book makes for a fairly unfilmable project. No matter how "faithfully" you try to adapt these characters for the big screen, I'd contend that the end result would look pretty darn ridiculous -- and I believe the flick's checkered history effectively illustrates this opinion. But that doesn't mean one should automatically forgive a final product this outrageously clueless. Instead of simply dismissing the project as unfit for cinematic adaptation, the studio folks trudged greedily forward, hoping that the current superhero craze would afford this gawky, misshapen mass at least one weekend of popularity. Frankly, they should have shelved the concept long ago and never looked back.Every movie geek in the world knows that there was a previous movie version of "Fantastic Four." It was made on the (very) cheap in a (very) big hurry by Lord of Schlock Roger Corman. Despite the fact that Corman's version has never been released in any (legitimate) form, I've actually seen it, and I can tell you that it's a very bad film indeed. But here's what's scary: Corman slapped his "Fantastic Four" together for under 2 million bucks. This swanky new version cost over $110 million -- and it's just. as. stupid.
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originally posted: 07/08/05 14:07:02
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