Two items I must dispel immediately about the Fantastic Four movie:
1. It was not Catwoman bad.
2. I did not notice the marketing as much as my friend Mondo. But there is still way way way too much of that.
What I Disliked
The movie Doctor Doom was neutered. Supposedly, this was because the studio execs were worried about Doom being compared to Darth Vader. Why in the hell not, you morons? George Lucas said that Doom was part of the inspiration for Darth. Frankly, I think the comic book Doom would kick Darth’s ass. He would certainly win a staring match; Doom does not blink and does not run. Doom has bested Galactus, who snacks on entire planets.
In the comics, Doom wants to rule the world. In the movie, he wants to bonk Sue Storm and have a hot IPO. In the comics, he is the ultimate self-made villain; started as a penniless child gypsy, ended as super-scientific dictator of an entire country. And he did that with a disfigured face and no super-powers, so he got no boost from People magazine. In the movie, his business petered out after a pinprick of bad publicity. Really, would a guy as smart as Doom bet his entire business on a cosmic storm? Come to think of it, this movie had little evidence of Doom’s cranial capacity. Mr. Fantastic had a lab full of super-science toys; Doom had a boardroom full of disgruntled investors. In the comics, Doom makes most heroes soil their undies with a glance. In the movie: the investors, the public, the Four; nobody was really scared of Doom. I bet this movie’s Alicia (see my likes below) woulda laughed in his face. The actor playing Doom has talent; watch him in Nip/Tuck. But Siskel and Ebert said it best: the hero is judged by the strength of the villain. All this villain did for his finale was stomp around and break stuff while trying to best the Four in a schoolyard-type fight. Loftier goals, please.
That explanation for the cosmic storm and why they wanted to see it up close was a load of crap. A bunch of radiation might lead to understanding DNA and curing diseases? Yeah, that’s why Hiroshima survivors were so dang healthy. And Johnny Storm can ignite the entire atmosphere if he gets too hot? What, someone soaked all of Earth’s air with gasoline? That’s just dumb dialog. Better tech jargon, please.
On top of that dumbing, the script was 2 stars at best. Even now, just after the movie, the best lines leak outta my mind, and since I have a slight sore throat and headache from a touch of summer cold, I don’t feel like Googling my brain. (OK, I now remember Chiklas responding to Doom: “And no Thing in the way.”) Note to Hollywood: if you have people with super-powers, have more than one fight scene with the villain, instead of just one at the end. Sure, they had the proper amount of family-type bickering with the Four; that is essential Fantastic Four, the first dysfunctional super-hero team. But there seemed to be so much filler (one too many scenes of Johnny hot-dogging, and that racetrack scene could have been a lot shorter except that you would have lost ALL THOSE REALLY IMPORTANT-FOR-MARKETING PRODUCT PLACEMENTS THERE, and by the way, was it really necessary to fill the entire screen with a Jiffy-Pop lid?). Maybe they wanted to appeal to the NASCAR crowd. Newsflash: NASCAR guys don’t read comics. The plot took forever to take off, and it did not fly far once it got there. Tighter script, please.
Jessica Alba looks great in the catsuit, I mean Fantastic Four suit. I coulda used at least one scene of her doing a Seven-of-Nine-type walk down a corridor, front AND back. And she looks spectacular in bra and panties. But she sounds like a pouty teenager, and she has fewer facial expressions than Anikin Skywalker. More acting lessons, please.
Mr. Fantastic needed to be more of a leader. Was it really necessary to make him a total failure in business, a “dumb(est) smart guy?” The only reason the movie treated him that way was to make it necessary for Doom to bankroll the space shot. Heck, I could think of better reasons for the bankroll in two minutes. Would you make this guy the leader in a crisis, when he seems barely capable of balancing a checkbook? Smarter Mr. Fantastic, please.
What I Liked
The Thing. Chiklis was perfect. If you have seen him in The Shield, you know he can deliver tons of emotion with his eyes. Good thing too, since he spends a lot of this movie buried under latex. Pathos time when he tried to pick up his fiance’s ring from where she dropped it on the road, but could not due to his huge fingers.
Alicia (Thing’s blind girlfriend). The movie Alicia, independent, spirited, and big-hearted, was a helluva improvement on the comic book Alicia, a fragile little weepy thing. When Alicia gives a very depressed Thing a pep talk in a bar, you know why he will later fall in love her.
Johnny Storm was a great hothead. He had great lust for life. Constantly cracking jokes, hitting on babes all the time (after a literal flameout in a skiing accident, he knows how to use an instant snow-bound hot tub) and needling the Thing (c’mon, anyone who needles a guy who can bench press a pickup with one arm has guts). And he showed what a lot of people would show upon gaining super-powers: pure joy. (The movie did not give him blonde hair, and he did not need it.)
Fie upon those who say the special effects were not good. They were plenty good enough! The torch flying away from the heat-seeker was a great chase, and you could still read his facial expression. And do you know how hard it is to do stretching convincingly? They pulled that off EVERY TIME, especially when Mr. Fantastic stretched all over the Thing to stop his rampage. Doing the Thing in latex instead of computer animation was right (but I still say the animation worked fine for the Hulk). Chiklis can emote with his eyes from under latex, but not from inside a Unix box.
If you have to see the Fantastic Four movie, rent it cheap on DVD. Better yet, see it at a friend’s place when he rents it on DVD (you can bring cheap soft drinks). Even better yet, go buy one of the early Stan Lee and Jack Kirby issues: they are now collected in fairly cheap, nice-and-thick, black-and-white paperbacks; you get dozens in one volume! As far as the movie goes, Chiklis’s Thing and Johnny Storm’s hot-dogging and Alba’s hot bod are not nearly enough to overcome the absolutely unforgivable treatment of Doctor Doom, the pathetic Mr. Fantastic, the dumb tech jargon, and the boring script.
P.S. I now hear there will be a sequel. Three words for Hollywood: IMPROVE DOCTOR DOOM.
P.P.S. Excuse me, I was gonna write more, but I really have this powerful urge to consume some Jiffy Pop.