Fans of the comic book movie genre have had it pretty good over the past fewyears: the X-Men and Spider-Man films, Ghost World,Road to Perdition, American Splendor and Batman Beginshave all been not only great adaptations of their literary sources, but alsodamn fine pieces of cinema.
With the good, of course, comes the bad: Catwoman,Daredevil, Constantine and League of ExtraordinaryGentlemen, among others, are films dreadful enough to make one wish thatthey never saw the light of day, either as a film or comic book. Thelong-gestating film version of Fantastic Four, one of the oldest ofthe Marvel Comics, falls into the latter.
Four is the story of five people who are dramatically altered by amysterious cloud during a space mission. Inventor Reed Richards (IoanGruffudd) gains the ability to stretch his body. His former girlfriend, SueStorm (Jessica Alba), can turn invisible and create force fields. Heryounger brother, Johnny (Chris Evans), gains the ability to control andcover his entire body with fire, while Ben Grimm (Michael Chiklis) is turnedinto a super-strong rock creature.
Then there is Victor Von Doom (Julian McMahon), the fifth member andfinancier of the mission. An arrogant man who happens to be Sue’s new beau,Vic slowly begins to turn metallic, a transformation that amps up his jerkfactor tenfold, making him the bane of the Four’s existence.
Fantastic Four is a film that causes the viewer to ponder the following:”What were they thinking?” “Were they thinking at all?” and mostimportantly, “What was I thinking for sitting through this?” Directed by TimStory (Barbershop) from a screenplay credited to Michael France, MarkPost and an army of uncredited chimpanzees chained to typewriters,Four is nothing but one long, boring, expository-filled set up devoidof any adequate payoff.
Our four heroes are supposed to be smart and charismatic, but they showlittle in the way of intelligence and even less allure than one of thezombies you would find in a George Romero film. They amble in and around NewYork City, arguing and fighting with each other while trying to deal withtheir new powers rather than banding together to fight Dr Doom, the film’salleged bad guy who is about as menacing as bathtub mold. Their bigshowdown, complete with the bargain-basement visual effects the plague therest of the film, is the textbook example of the word “underwhelming”.
A lousy screenplay is one thing; a director who is completely out of hisleague is another. Spider-Man, X-Men and Batman Beginswere lucky enough to have directors who were also comic book fans. Watchingthis movie, you have to wonder if Story has ever even glanced at anissue of Fantastic Four in his life. He coaxes lazy performances outof his entire cast, save Chiklis and Evans, he can’t keep a consistent tonefrom one scene to the next (unless you count dull as a tone) and hishandling of the film’s action scenes (all two of them!) is the stuff of1970s syndicated television.
Fantastic Four may not be the worst comic book adaptation made todate, but it certainly is one of the most underwhelming and forgettable. Ifthere is a sequel, the producers would be wise to start from scratch, yetagain.