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Marvel Movies Project: Fantastic Four

Poster for Fantastic Four (2005)

This movie has a 5.7 rating on IMDb, a lowly 27% on Rotten Tomatoes, and a slightly better 40 on Metacritic. But I can’t help it … I like it. A brilliant cinematic achievement? Well, no. But it’s light and funny and it does a fairly good job of bringing the FF and their dysfunctional family dynamic to life.

Fantastic Four (2005) stars Ioan Gruffudd as Reed Richards, Jessica Alba as Sue Storm, Michael Chiklis as Ben Grimm, and Chris Evans as Johnny Storm. The FF’s archnemesis, Victor Von Doom, is played by Julian McMahon. (In some dark corner of the internet I’m sure there’s a Nip/Tuck-Fantastic Four mashup in which Dr. Christian Troy asks Doctor Doom what he doesn’t like about himself and Doctor Doom says he needs to do something about that scar, but I haven’t found it yet.) The great thing about this cast is that they have chemistry. I thought about the problems I had with Blade: Trinity a lot while I was watching Fantastic Four this time around. While Blade and Hannibal King butting heads in Blade: Trinity leads to nothing but painfully unfunny awkwardness, the tensions between team members in Fantastic Four drive the story and make the movie fun to watch. Ben’s paranoia about Reed putting his feelings for Sue ahead of everything else allows Doom to manipulate him and bring on the final showdown. Johnny’s brash personality leads to a lot of conflict, as well as some very funny moments as he drives Ben crazy. Sue’s frustration with Reed’s constant focus on science is also amusing.

This is probably the funniest of the Marvel movies so far. The FF have pretty good lives compared to certain other Marvel heroes — somewhere, Spider-Man watches the media and public fawning over them and cries — so the mostly comedic tone of this movie is appropriate. The script is quippy, with lots of puntastic and silly dialogue: Reed is said to be “always stretching,” Ben feels “solid,” and just after Victor tells Sue he has four little words that will change their lives forever, Reed rushes in to announce that “the cloud is accelerating!”

Much of the humour comes thanks to Chris Evans’ hilarious performance. Johnny is egotistical, mischievous, and totally unfazed by going to space and coming back with superpowers. Evans, who gets almost all the best lines, plays him with lots of energy and a great sense of fun, not to mention perfect comic timing. Who’d have thought he’d go on to do an equally good job playing the rather more straight-laced Captain America? Chris Evans is truly one of the Marvel Movies MVPs.

Chris Evans as Johnny Storm, greeting his adoring public.

Michael Chiklis is also very well cast as Ben Grimm, a role he’d apparently always wanted to play. (He later played a similar character in No Ordinary Family, the short-lived, fairly FF-ish TV series about a family who develop superpowers after a plane crash.) I like the fact that they didn’t use CGI to create The Thing, even if I’m not totally sold on the actual costume and makeup job that appear in the film. It looks a little awkward to me, but the face is well done: Chiklis’ expressions come through vividly.

I’ve never been convinced that Jessica Alba was the right choice to play Sue Storm, but she does a decent job with the role as it’s written and works well with the rest of the cast. Ioan Gruffudd is good, but Reed is not a standout character here: he’s mostly playing straight man to everyone else. I think one problem with putting Reed Richards in a movie is that when you see them in “reality” as opposed to on the pages of a comic book, his stretch powers really are, as Johnny says, kind of gross. Ultimately, Gruffudd and Alba both are just plain overshadowed by Chiklis and Evans. Alba and Gruffudd’s romantic chemistry is just okay; on the other hand, Chiklis and Evans are, well, fantastic together. Ben and Johnny’s rivalry and the larger group dynamic make much more of an impression than Sue and Reed’s love story.

I can’t say that this is one of the best movies I’ve ever seen, but it’s certainly entertaining: something to put on when the weather is bad and you want some brainless fun. If nothing else, it’s worth watching just for Chris Evans.