Review: Fantastic Four

Kam and I finally saw Fantastic Four. It was, pretty much as expected, fun fluff. Better than Daredevil (which I didn't hate as much as some people did, but didn't think was that good either), not nearly as good as the X-Men movies.

A few assorted thoughts (with only very small spoilers for a couple of minor plot elements):

I kept being surprised by the looks of the characters. Partly because they didn't look much like I expected; partly because Reed and Sue looked a lot younger than I think of them looking (even at the beginning of their story); and partly, I think, just because they weren't played by movie stars; I kept looking at them and thinking I should recognize the actors but not recognizing them. (In the making-of material, Stan Lee indicates that the actors are a perfect match for the roles; that surprised me too. Though I was charmed to hear that Michael Chiklis has wanted to play The Thing ever since he was a kid.)

The special effects were remarkably realistic-looking to my eye. In particular, I wouldn't have thought they could make Reed stretch in a way that would look like it was happening in the real world, but they mostly pulled it off. And I wouldn't have thought that their version of the Thing could possibly strike the right balance between looking rocky and moving like the surface of a living being, but they managed that too.

I know this is kinda racist of me ('cause it's always villains who have the accents), but I kept wanting Doom to have a thick Eastern European accent. After all, Latveria is near Hungary and Serbia and Romania and all those mysterious exotic places. :)

I thought they did a pretty good job of reimagining/reworking the story, keeping enough of the essential elements to make it basically the same story while updating some stuff and throwing out other stuff that might not have worked as well. This sparked a bunch of incoherent thoughts about adaptations, but that'll wait for another entry.

I had to keep reminding myself that this was comic-book science and that I was not allowed to nitpick it or make fun of it.

I thought it was interesting that they retained the idea of the FF as celebrity superheroes. I would've been a little happier with the first scene in which they get public applause if they hadn't also caused the mayhem that they were trying to resolve; I kept wondering who was going to get the bill for the bridge, and whether anyone cared about the people who died in the car crashes.

I thought Doom's electro powers were interesting; not canon (as far as I know), but they certainly had to give him some sort of actual powers in order to fit him into this story.

Overall, I thought it was fun, and worth seeing. But if you only have time to see one Fantastic Four-based movie, it should probably be The Incredibles instead; even though that's only loosely (and unofficially) FF-inspired, I liked it significantly more than this one.

One more note: Kam asks why "20th Century Fox" is still using that name, which makes them sound a little outdated now. I made some sort of glib answer, but now she's got me wondering too. Anyone know?

4 Responses to “Review: Fantastic Four”

  1. Tom Galloway

    It was noted by a number of reviewers when it came out that the FF are extremely passive in this movie. Their only significant actions are due to having caused (even if inadvertantly) the problem in the first place or in defense against Doom. No sense of exploring the unknown (save for the bit necessary to give them an origin) or heroism.

    Doom’s powers (and transformation) aren’t canon, nor was his presence in the origin scenes.

    The other place where you have to wonder about the name is the British sf comic weekly 2000 A.D., which started back around the 1970s/1980s but has kept the title for the past 6+ years.

  2. Ted

    There’s a sequel planned, which may give the FF more opportunity to take initiative.

    I’ve always thought that the first movie of any comic-book-adaptation series is handicapped by the need to include both the origin story and a battle with a major villain. The second movie is usually better. (I think the Superman, Batman, X-Men, and Spiderman movies all follow this pattern.)

  3. Jed

    Tom: Interesting re passivity. Perhaps relatedly, although Reed is supposed to be a Sooper Genius, in the movie almost nothing he geniuses about goes right. (And I was initially pleased that they made Sue a scientist, but later mildly annoyed that she didn’t do anything sciencey.)

    Good point re 2000 A.D. Perhaps it will turn into a magazine of retro nostalgia.

    Ted: Good point about first-movie adaptations. …I wonder if they could skip the origin story, or do it as a quick prologue (like the one-paragraph character intro/origin at the beginning of a comic book). But I suppose if they thought they could get away with that, they’d have done it with one of the ones you mentioned, which are probably the best-known comics they could adapt. (But I don’t remember the first Batman or Superman movies well enough to remember whether they kept the origin parts brief or not.)

  4. logisticslad

    I enjoyed FF despite its limitations. It definitely had the right look to it, with the powers and effects. But the characters were drawn differently enough from the source material to jar and annoy me. Reed and Sue had very little chemistry together, and neither used their smarts very effectively. Ben didn’t quite ring true either, his personality has often been very extreme and here he wasn’t self-pitying enough or enjoying being powerful enough. Victor didn’t exude proud royalty and control the way I would have expected. I think that Johnny nailed his devil-may-care attitude the best (and looked great while doing it). There were various problems with the plot (or perhaps it was bad editing), most notably in the use of the depowering machine that Reed whipped up. But the most disappointing element was the lack of heroism and adventure that has defined these characters for the last 40+ years!


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