The Fantastic Four dont begin as fantastic. They begin as normal human beings. Reed Richards (Ioan Gruffudd) is an inventor, astronaut and scientist with plenty of ideas and very little funding. His best friend and frequent collaborator is Ben Grimm (Michael Chiklis). Then there is his ex-love and fellow scientist Sue Storm (Jessica Alba) and her daredevil brother Johnny (Chris Evans). In order to finance his latest project, he goes to Victor Von Doom (Julian McMahon) a former college rival whos now a billionaire industrialist and angling to marry the attractive Sue. Von Doom funds the mission, a trip into space to explore a cosmic storm, but things go wrong and the space station is engulfed by clouds of radiation which genetically transform the crew. Reed develops the ability to stretch; Sue can turn invisible; Johnny can ignite and fly; and Ben becomes the stony Thing. Their transformations take the four by surprise and they do not fully understand what has happened or exactly what these changes mean. Von Doom has also been altered but while the other four end up using their powers to help others, Von Doom has only selfish, evil plans in mind.
Fantastic Four is like Batman Begins it lays the groundwork for a franchise. Not being familiar with the comic source, I cannot attest to how faithful it is to the original. But the fact that the comics co-creator Stan Lee appears in a brief cameo, suggests that it has his seal of approval. From a filmmaking perspective, it serves up fun summer entertainment without any innovation. It lacks the hard edge of the first two Blade films and fails to find the humanity of its superheroes as Sam Raimi did in his Spider-Man movies. It is much more a live action cartoon than a movie with the action kept simple and plenty of one-line zingers to keep people entertained.
Director Tim Story proved his ability to create an ensemble of characters with his Barbershop and he tries to duplicate that feel in Fantastic Four. And while he gets appealing performances, he seems less at home with the action.
Fantastic Four (rated PG-13 for some material that may be inappropriate for young children) is a decent popcorn movie. But with films such as Sin City, Spider-Man and even Batman Begins taking comics and graphic novel film adaptations to new ground, Fantastic Four just seems tame and predictable.
Companion viewing: Spider-Man, Blade, Batman Begins -----