Thursday Night Movie Club
Fantastic Four
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Release Date: July 8, 2005

Director: Tim Story
Ioan Gruffudd
Jessica Alba
Chris Evans
Michael Chiklis
Julian McMahon
Hamish Linklater
Kerry Washington
Laurie Holden
David Parker
Kevin McNulty
Maria Menounos
Michael Kopsa
Andrew Airlie
Pascale Hutton
G. Michael Gray
Reed Richards
Sue Storm
Johnny Storm
Ben Grimm
Victor Von Doom
Alicia Masters
Debbie McIlvane
Jimmy O'Hoolihan
Sexy Nurse
Ned Cecil
Compound Doctor
Nightclub Girlfriend
Nightclub Boyfriend
Fantaatic Four poster
Photo of the Fantastic Four Finally! Someone has got the comic right! The Spider-man movies are extremely good, but they are missing one vital characteristic: humor. Fantastic Four has all of the right elements: humor, very good characterizations, pathos, caring, human relationships. Unfortunately, the movie lacks suspense. Other than that, it is right on target.

At the onset, we learn about the normal lives of people who are on the eve of being fantastically changed. Reed Richard is the smartest man on the planet. But, as Dr. Victor Von Doom says, "Richards doesn't know what he has." While Von Doom is "fantastically" wealthy, Richards is perptually down on his luck. As smart as he is, Richards just can't seem to find success in his life, although he keeps trying. His approach to life is to be flexible and always answer every mathematical question before he makes a decision. At his faithful side is Ben Grimm, the man who does all of the physical labor of Richard's projects. What would the Lone Ranger be without his faithful companion?

Richards has come upon a discovery. A massive cosmic cloud is going to hit the Earth. The world is protected by it's atmosphere. Richards believes studying this cloud will expand our knowledge of Life's building blocks, the genetic code. Richards has come to beg Von Doom for the use of his orbital space station for first-hand knowledge.

Jessica Alba as Sue Storm Upon his meeting with Von Doom, Richards meets up with his former girl friend, Sue Storm. Sue is like the vanishing wall flower. Something holds her back from telling people how she really feels. The final piece of the exploration team is put in place as the pilot for the mission is chosen, Sue's brother, the impetuous hot-head, Johnny.

Once on the space station, events go horribly wrong. The cosmic storm has changed it's speed. Richard's calculations are wrong. The storm hits the five people on the unshielded station. The cosmic storm alters them all, expanding on what these people are at their very core, their genetic code. The cosmic storm enhances who these people truly are. The waffling Richards develops the ability to stretch his body. Wallflower Sue develops the ability to hide and repel people. She can turn invisible and repel people with a force field. Hot-head Johnny literally burns up from his hyperactive hormones. Ben, the most sympathetic character, turns into the "Rock of Gibralter". Von Doom craves power and he gets it in spades!

But the Fantastic Four are differnt from all other super heroes. Their accident in space was witnessed by everyone on planet Earth. Ben Grimm's private life crashes around him as he becomes "The Thing". His wife can't cope with his change. He heads for the largest bridge in New York with the plan of ending it all. He finds he is not alone. Another man comes up next to Ben with the same idea. Ben looks at the man and in as much of a straight face as the "man of rock" can muster, he calmly tells the man, "You think you've got problems? Look at me! Your problems are nothing compared to me." (Give or take on the quote)

Michael Chiklis as The ThingThe man panics and sets in motion events that form the Fantastic Four. Ben, acting as a shield, saves the man from an oncoming semitruck. Johnny uses his flaming abilities to saves a young girl as the car beside them explodes. Sue uses her force screen to protect the pedestrians on the bridge from the exploding car. As Ben struggles to pull a crashed fire truck from plunging into the river, Reed stretches out to save a falling fire fighter. All of this happens in plain view of the public. The Four become instant heroes.

What would a comic book story be without a villain? Dr. Victor Von Doom is also changing. As Ben's body turns to stone, Von Doom's body is changing into metal. He can absorb electric current. As his financial empire crumbles around him, Von Doom looks upon the new celebrity of the Fantastic Four with loathing. His relationship with Richards in college is returning. Richards was always better than Von Doom back then and he is better than Von Doom now.

Holding true to form, Von Doom makes yet another mistake. His bitternes drives him to destroy Richards. But he can't accomplish his task without employing the time honored tradition of "divide and conquer". Big Mistake! The only thing Dr. Doom accomplishes is solidifying the Fantastic Four into one cohesive unit.

The forming relationship of the Four is tenuous at best. As they struggle with their new abilities and their instant celebrity status, Richards tries to find a way to reverse the effects on them. Here is where The Fantastic Four changes course from all other comics. They can't hide behind masks, costumes and hidden identities. The whole world knows who they are and what their abilities are. No other comic book hero is in this situation. All the cosmic storm has done is to solidify who these people are. As much as Sue tries to hide, the bottom line is: none of them can hide from who they really are. A very interesting concept. All they can do is accept who they trully are!

Photo of Chris Evans as the Human Torch At it's very heart, Fantastic Four is a personal movie. This is a journey of discovery for four people who have trouble coming to terms with who they are. It takes a catasrophic calamity to force these people to finally understand who they are.

Did I forget to mention the humor? Where the Spider-man movies lacked in humor, this one gets it perfect. The by-play between Ben and Johnny before and after their misphap shows us the human spirit, playful and ultimately, trusting. You are who you are! Do what Ben did and accept it. You can live your life alone, but it is much better being part of a team. Ain't friendship wonderful!

The most touching scene is Ben struggling with his true self. He goes to his favorite neighborhood bar to drown his solace only to break his glass. He meets a woman who can see right through him, even though he can't. As it turns out, she is blind. She asks Ben if she can "see" him. Ben accepts. As her hands wander over the man turned to granite, she studies his face. "So much sadness", she says. The scene is pegged perfectly. Ben needs someone to show him that all he has done is become himself. Wonderful!

All of the acting is very good. The byplay between Michael Chiklis and Chris Evans is priceless. Jessica Alba and Julian McMahon are good. Ioan Gruffudd is the only odd man of the group. His portrayal alone is the only one that is subpar. We really don't see the change that makes Reed Richards the true leader of the Fantastic Four. All we get is his taking control of the team at the conclusion to defeat Dr. Doom. Unfortunately, it is not enough.

BUT, just the comic byplay between The Thing and The Human Torch is enough for me to anxiously look forward to more.

There are so many more elements of this movie that I liked that I hope I can comment on more fully another time. It is a wonderfully fun comic/summer movie. Have fun!