Marvel Movie Madness! Part 5: Fantastic Four (2005)

Does this movie trip the Fantastic?

by | May 19, 2011 | Comments

Enter Marvel Movie Madness, wherein Rotten Tomatoes watches all of the significant Marvel movies ever made. Full Marvel Movie Madness list here. Tune in! We give you our thoughts, and you give us yours.

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Part 5: Fantastic Four (2005, 27% @ 202 reviews)

Directed by Tim Story, starring Ioan Gruffudd, Jessica Alba, Michael Chiklis, Chris Evans

Jeff: The 1994 edition of Fantastic Four was reportedly filmed with a $1.5 million budget. The 2005 version cost $100 million to make. Here’s how that extra $98.5 million paid off for audiences: Loads of awesome special effects, a couple of solid performances struggling to get out from under a cast loaded with dead weight, and a script that might actually be worse than the original.

It isn’t just that FF lurches unsteadily between moments of corny comedy and high drama, or that it plays fast and loose with the comics version of the team’s origin — it’s that, aside from a few brief moments of well-staged action, this is one extraordinarily dull film. One of the reason these characters have been Marvel cornerstones for over 40 years is that, in the books, they blend incredible adventures with the kind of petty family squabbling everyone can understand. Here, they’re just vanilla archetypes who spend most of the movie either moping around a lab or causing accidental property damage.

Matt: I remember being mostly disappointed with this movie when it came out, but it’s not quite as awful as I remembered. That might be because I had just watched the Corman version, and so this seemed a lot easier to watch, or it might be that I watched it with a seven-year-old, and his enjoyment of it colored mine (we both shouted “Wilhelm” simultaneously when we heard one in a fight scene). If you view this as a superhero movie you can watch with the kids, it’s not terrible.

The best and worst thing about this movie is the casting. I’ll go out on a limb here and say that Chris Evans as the wisecracking, irresponsible Human Torch is the best match of an actor and a comic book hero since Christopher Reeve played Superman (though Ron Perlman as Hellboy is also in the top three). And Michael Chiklis finds the perfect note for the ever-lovin’, blue-eyed Thing. But the casting of Mr. Fantastic and the Invisible Girl is disastrous. Ioan Gruffudd comes off like more like a salesman quoting technical specs that he doesn’t actually understand, and less like one of the smartest men on the planet. And the less said about Jessica Alba’s casting, the better.

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Jeff: My experience mirrored yours to an extent, Matt — although the first time I watched this movie, it was in the theater with a seven-year-old next to me, and his sheer enjoyment did nothing to improve my experience. I braced myself for the worst this time around, and it wasn’t as awful as I’d remembered, but Ioan Gruffudd (whose name looks like something you might read on a bottle of moderately expensive Scotch) and Jessica Alba (who makes for the least convincing movie scientist since Christmas Jones) don’t do themselves any favors. It’s all about Chris Evans — at times, it’s almost like he’s acting in a different film.

Alex: Chris Evans carries this. I’ve only otherwise seen his great brief appearance in Scott Pilgrim, and now I’m really looking forward to see what he does with Captain America. As for the movie overall, I’ve got no complaints. Like Thor, Fantastic Four has a bit of fun with ridiculous premise though the movie admittedly lacks Thor‘s walloping action. The fight scenes here feel small and pedestrian, I guess about what you would expect from the guy who made Barbershop.

Say what you will about the casting (no real opinion on Gruffudd or Alba; I liked Chiklis when he was costumed up but otherwise he felt a TV actor gruffing his way through movie land), together this group does the job. The script is nimble when it tires, whipping you through various state of emotions with all the characters – I simultaneously pitied The Thing, love/hated The Human Torch, and resisted the urge to yell for Mr. Fantastic to freaking grow a pair. These are big, weird characters exposed for the first time, and in those moments when the movie is firing on all cylinders it’s a little joy to see them bounce off each other. Good ensemble work. Again, about what you would expect from the guy who made Barbershop.


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