Fantastic Four

Fantastic Four

Cast: Ioan Gruffudd, Jessica Alba, Chris Evans, Michael Chiklis, Julian McMahon, Kerry Washington, Laurie Holden, Hamish Linklater, Maria Menounos
Director: Tim Story
Screenplay: Mark Frost and Michael France
Genre: Action/Adventure
Rated: PG mild stylised violence
Running Time: 106 Minutes

Prepare For The Fantastic

Inventor, astronaut and scientist Dr. Reed Richards' (Ioan Gruffudd) lifelong dream is close to being realized. He is spearheading a trip to outer space, to the center of a cosmic storm. There he hopes to unlock the secrets of the human genetic codes for the benefit of all humanity. Extensive government grant cutbacks nearly dashed the visionary's hopes of the historic flight, until Reed accepted a financing deal with his old college rival, Victor Von Doom (Julian McMahon), now a billionaire industrialist.

Reed's crew for the mission includes his best friend, astronaut Ben Grimm (Michael Chiklis); Sue Storm (Jessica Alba), Von Doom's director of genetic research and Reed's ex-girlfriend; and Sue's hotheaded younger brother, pilot Johnny Storm (Chris Evans). With benefactor Von Doom in tow, the four set off for the exploration of a lifetime.

The mission is uneventful - until Reed discovers a miscalculation of the speed of the approaching storm. Within minutes, the event threshold is upon them. Turbulent clouds of cosmic radiation, which genetically transforms the crew, engulf the space station. Their DNA is irrevocably altered... and so is their future.

Together, they turn tragedy into triumph and catastrophe into coalition, using their unique and formidable powers to thwart the evil plans of their now steely-eyed, iron-fisted nemesis Dr. Doom and to protect the citizens of New York City against any threat that may arise.

My Verdict:
'Fantastic Four' is a based on Marvel Comics longest running book series, created by Stan Lee (who has a role in the movie - Willie Lumpkin) and Jack Kirby. After a glut of recent comic-book adaptations, along comes one of this genre where the main characters do not have alter egos. In 'Fantastic Four', the superheroes do not have secret identities and become real people living in the real world, which makes them vulnerable, especially The Thing who struggles with his appearance and this is what makes 'Fantastic Four' slightly different to the others. This is just as well; otherwise this could easily have fallen into the not-another-comic-book-adaptation heading.

Loaded with special effects and plenty of computer generated images, 'Fantastic Four' is a pretty lightweight affair that is really an introduction to the origin of the characters and a their realisation of who they have become, along with a small battle with the one "evil" character - Dr Doom. There is not great plot here, just plenty of time given to showing off some fancy visual effects, which by the way are great fun, if not sometimes a little too obviously computer generated.

After convincing the egomaniacal billionaire Victor Von Doom (Julian McMahon) to fund a space research experiment, Dr Reed Richards (Ioan Gruffudd) heads to a space station along with his best friend, the often grumpy and cynical Ben Grimm (Michael Chiklis), Richards' ex, scientist Sue Storm (Jessica Alba), Sue's younger impetuous brother (who just also happens to be a scientist), Johnny Storm (Chris Evans) and Von Doom comes along for the ride. Along comes a space storm which catches them unawares and they are all stuck by the forces of the storm which somehow alters their DNA, giving each of the five a unique power or force which slowly becomes apparent after their rescue and return to earth. Von Doom is the one who uses his special power in an evil manner, whilst the other four join forces to become the "Fantastic Four".

Reed Richards becomes Mr Fantastic who is basically totally elastic, which is excellent to watch and is played with a fairly serious if not staid approach by Gruffudd. Ben Grimm becomes The Thing, a super strong rock-like person whose exterior belies his inner core. Michael Chiklis somehow seems perfect for this role. Sue Storm becomes the Invisible Woman and is often the case with the female leads in these adaptations could be a contender for the Miss Universe pageant of which Jessica Alba fits the bill. Johnny Storm becomes the Human Torch, which sits nicely with his fiery personality, which Chris Evans manages well. Dr Doom develops a magnetic and electrical power, which slowly transforms his appearance to a metallic-like appearance. Julian McMahon somehow slots well into a narcissistic role although he could have been a bit meaner. Keep trying Julian.

There is plenty of humour with the often corny dialogue which seems to be a given for comic-book literature. Each of the characters struggles to accept their fate (who wouldn't?) as they try to discover a way of reversing the effect of the storm, then eventually realising that they could use their talents for the good of the world (or bad in the case of Dr Doom). Pretty standard fare as far as storylines go.

'Fantastic Four' is at times fantastic and at others stretching the imagination a little too far. It is not a mind-bending experience but there is still enough to keep most moviegoers happy. A special effects treat, this is far-fetched fun that shouldn't be taken seriously.

Rating : ***