In spite of what many, many others think, I kind of like the original “Fantastic Four” directed by Roger Corman. It’s pretty damn bad, but for entertainment value, it’s so bad it’s good. Well, this new adaptation is basically in the same boat. It’s so poor quality it works only as a guilty pleasure. Word to wise, some times some comic book series shouldn’t be made in to movies, because it will be lost in the translation. Example one. Face it, while “Fantastic Four” was good on the page, you have to take in to consideration that film is extremely literal. And sometimes this type of material just shouldn’t be put to the page. What I found pretty humorous was that during the release, the producers made is perfectly clear, “This is not The Incredibles” over and over to crowds comparing the two.
No need to worry. Trust me, this is no “The Incredibles”. What saddened me was that director Brad Bird took many elements from “Fantastic Four” and injected them in to an excellent action dramedy, but “Fantastic Four” under the charge of director Tim Story (director of “Taxi”) and writers Mark Frost and Michael France turn a campy dark elegy about a dysfunctional family in to a very simple and high quality episode of “Power Rangers”. With clunky dialogue based around one-liners and puns, and a plot that doesn’t take a lot of time to simmer, this new version is just hard to swallow from the beginning. And, call me a fan boy all you want, but the drastically changed storyline is heartbreaking. Sure, Chiklis is the ideal choice for the thing… but everyone else well… let’s begin, shall we?
My one caveat with Marvel comics has always been the xenophobia and utter angst among the superheroes toward their own powers, but Johnny seems to be the only one enjoying what he was given. The angsty superhero has been a zeitgeist for superhero lore for ages since Spawn arrived and many times before that, but Storm looks like he’s having fun. In fact, at rare times, “Fantastic Four” can be entertaining and fun. The banter between Storm and Grimm is often very funny as it should have been. In fact that’s the only thing the writers hit with a bulls eye when referring to the comics. Ben and Johnny always fight, thus they do it here. Evans delivers the lines with zeal spouting lines like “Pebbles”, and “Blockhead”, while Ben charges at him angrily. It’s a good bit they succeeded in, they deserve credit. Evans and Chiklis were the only casting choices that didn’t make me cringe.
Evans is great as the human torch, he’s young, loud, hotheaded, arrogant, and really seems to have this character down cold. As an actor he can’t seem to have a handle on his roles, but he seems to know what Johnny is all about and he’s fun here. Meanwhile Michael Chiklis is an ideal choice for The Thing. It’s impossible to imagine anyone else in that role anymore. With his gravelly voice, gruff exterior, and fierce determination he embodies The Thing without fault. Chiklis is an actor who has managed to prove he’s immensely talented and he does so here by acting beyond his outfit. One of the few changes I enjoyed was the fact that instead of making Grimm and Richard’s partners and friends, Grimm also becomes his protector. He’s a friend who is more like a big brother defending him against Doom’s belittling and evident villainy. It’s a welcome addition that should have spawned more welcome additions.
Iaon Gruffud is a good actor, but hardly presents the distinguishing features and mad genius Reed once had, and his importance is minimized, Alba is as wooden as ever here. A talented actress would have had fun with this role, but she looks very bored. Storm goes from a strict but anal mother figure, to a lame-brained tart. Yeah, yeah, she’s hot, blah blah, but she’s terrible here. Sue is supposed to be a strong feminine aspect of this story, yet she’s whiny, and inept, and bland. Kerry Washington is criminally under-used here sporting only three unimportant scenes, considering she’s a very important part of the story. And Doom is no longer a Latverian immigrant who longs for his family and old country, he’s now an American executive. Doom being my absolute favorite villain in Marvel comics, and basically of all time, it was heart wrenching to see them drastically alter his character. His body armor is no longer self-made but an organic effect of the cosmic rays thus rendering his genius irrelevant. It’s heart-wrenching. It truly is.
Either way, the film continues on with utterly cheesy special effects that never convince us that their powers are genuine but end up resembling pre-filmed video game sequences. And there’s often the incredibly clunky dialogue and one-liners that made me cringe. It’s a shame we went from Corman to Story with no step up. Corman’s version wasn’t good by a mile, but it was fun, and it was very faithful to the comic books, while Story’s bastardization is just challenging to sit through at times. Again, some comics just shouldn’t be turned in to movies. Some should just stay on the page, and “Fantastic Four” is the ultimate example and an unfortunate martyr. Even with a big cast, big studio, big budget and an ass load of special effects, they still don’t get it right. In spite of good performances from Chiklis and Evans, and the occasional fun moments, wooden acting, poor effects, and a boring story make this a waste of time, and a sad one at that.