|Chris Evans. On the left.|
He regrets this movie. Or at least I hope
Fantastic Four (2004)
Before Marvel Studios was off making billions of dollars with some of the best superhero movies ever fucking made and breaking box-office records like it's nobody's business, they made films which... left a lot to be desired. In 2004, Sony had the rights to their poster-boy Spiderman and were producing campy-as-shit blockbusters in the Marvel name. Marvel Studios wanted to do something which would keep them relevant, on the map, and not outshined by their rivals. So, they thought, let's do a movie about the Fantastic Four! There's a great way of doing a film with tons of awesome superpowers and great characters! This is gonna be great!
The reason why I'm including Fantastic Four in my Halloween month of Super Sundays is not just because the Four create great costume designs, but because this is simply a horrifficly mediocre superhero film. It tries to defy all logic to create these awesome moments that don't feel as awesome because their characterisations mean that we don't feel anything. When Johnny Storm goes skiing with his nurse over some mountain ranges to a bitchin' rock soundtrack, the immediate thought is not, "omg awesome!" but rather, "why the hell is she doing that?" Also, the vast majority of the characters are either unlikable douchebags or just cripplingly unrealistic.
Ioan Gruffudd's Richard Reed is a workaholic scientist, being funded by the asshat Victor Von Doom (Julian McMahon) and helped by old flame Susan Storm (an annoying Jessica Alba), her brother Johnny (a pre-Captain America Chris Evans, in a role that he's still trying to make up for) and his old and unlucky friend Ben (No Ordinary Family's Mike Chiklis). They develop powers after they're caught in a solar storm and become superheroes - Mr. Fantastic with his amazing flexibility, The Invisible Woman, The Human Torch and, to Ben's annoyance, The Thing. These characterisations are what funamentally cause the film to be such a shambles.
Susan is annoyingly smarmy and her entire character seems like an excuse for Jessica Alba to be "hot", including one scene in which she has to strip down to her panties for little good reason. Yay for Feminism! Ben Grimm's Thing is played almost schizophrenically - I don't know whether it was supposed to be tragic, funny, a decent mix of both... the film can't decide which to use. By far the worst character is Chris Evans' Johnny Storm, whose arrogant mix of Wesley Crusher and Sean Connery brings us some of the film's worst moments. My favourite character is probably Victor Von Doom, though, as despite his very thin characterisation he comes out the most sympathisable. The project and later the team themselves basically ruin his life, and his desire to get rid of them is perfectly justified. Also, his powers are awesome. And would totally be the powers I'd want if I was a superhero.
Fantastic Four was aiming to become bigger than Spiderman, and that didn't happen. It did create a sequel, The Rise of the Silver Surfer, but that bombed harder than Dresden in 1944. (Too soon?) The Fantastic Four was stripped from Marvel canon and their next venture would be four years later, when Spiderman was done for and they had room to start an entirely new Universe... starting with one Tony Stark. While Fantastic Four certainly wasn't anything to write home about, it was important as the kick up the backside for Marvel to do something interesting that it really needed.
NEXT WEEK: After two years, I take another look at a series of very, very Unfortunate Events.VFD out of here.