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Fantastic Four (2005)
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by David Cornelius

"Ten years in the making, and this is all we get?"
1 stars

There is a shot in “Fantastic Four” in which the supervillain, Doctor Doom, emerges slowly from the back of a garbage truck. And I think yeah, that pretty much sums up the movie right there.

The film, based on the flagship title of the Marvel Comics line, shows every minute of its rocky production history. It spent over a decade in Development Hell, with screenwriter after screenwriter being brought in to rework the story to fit whatever angle the producers had concocted lately. Broad comedy, sly satire, straight action-adventure, spoof of reality TV - every conceivable direction was attempted and dropped. Then the superhero boom put the movie in high gear, with bits and pieces of each script being salvaged to compose a screenplay amalgam of sorts… then, of course, rewrite the whole thing while it’s being filmed. (Michael France and Mark Frost get sole writing credit, but it’s been reported that upwards of twelve writers have contributed to what’s on screen.)

What we get is exactly what you’d expect: a movie that looks like it was cobbled together from a handful of other movies that kinda involve the same characters. Making matters worse, this A-list production was given a B-list cast (with no offense to Michael Chiklis, star of TV’s “The Shield,” who’s talented, yes, but still a B-lister) and a C-list director (Tim Story, whose “Barbershop” succeeds because of the script and the cast, not because of the direction, and whose “Taxi” was downright unwatchable). The final nail? The movie suffers from distractingly sloppy editing, what looks at first glance to be the work of somebody trying desperately - and failing - to salvage a muddled story.

(Consider the scene in which Jessica Alba, playing Sue Storm, aka the Invisible Girl, has to sneak past a wall of cops and press. She turns invisible - hence the name - and her teammates inform her that we can still see her clothes. So off comes the shirt and bra. Cut to a quick shot of the crowd. Cut to Alba getting redressed, right next to her teammates. I think they’re down past the cops. So, um, what, exactly, happened here? How did the other non-invisible guys get past everybody? Why did Sue have to strip at all? One gets the feeling that this scene used to make sense, but for whatever reason, a few minutes were left on the cutting room floor, keeping all logic with them.)

But it’s not just sloppiness that kills this movie. It’s - how to put this delicately - everything.

Let’s begin with the script (that is, the final version used to produce what we get on screen). The story is familiar to comic fans, although it’s been tweaked plenty for movie purposes: scientist Reed Richards (Ioan Gruffudd), gruff space pilot Ben Grimm (Chiklis), hottie Sue Storm (Alba), and her dopey brother Johnny (Chris Evans) blast off to a space station owned by multizillionaire Victor Von Doom (Julian McMahon) in order to study a cosmic storm of some kind. The storm gets wacky, the cosmic-ness of it all zaps everyone on board, and back on Earth, they’re discovering that they all have new, neat-o powers. (Sue can get invisible, Johnny can set himself on fire and fly, Reed can get all stretchy, Ben turns into a superstrong rock-man, Von Doom becomes this metal-guy.)

It’s all handled so by-the-book in superhero origin format that the film offers no time to soak it all in, either for the viewers or the characters. Here’s a major life-changing event, and the movie treats it all with a shoulder shrug; the characters, like the filmmakers, seem underwhelmed with the newfound powers.

And when the film does try to go deep on us, it gets everything so hilariously wrong. There’s a subplot in which Ben - now called The Thing - visits his fiancée, who freaks out over seeing him in monster form. Fine, I suppose, but then there’s another scene, right after Ben save the lives of dozens of New Yorkers, where the fiancée shows up again out of nowhere, stares Ben down, takes off her engagement ring, and storms off in disgust. That it’s so silly makes up for the fact that it’s so idiotic.

Even worse, the whole mess of the story lacks such urgency that I’m at a loss to remember half of the plot, especially the parts that explain the whole Doctor Doom thing. I can guess that his transformation from regular business jerk to creepy metal man might drive one insane, but I honestly don’t recall why exactly he spends so much time watching the Fantastic Four work in their decked-out studio apartment/laboratory, thanks to hidden cameras and such other works of peeping tom villainy. And I’m a little fuzzy on what finally causes him to attack the Four for the movie’s big climactic battle; I know that there was a fight, and the script had to set it up, but it must not have been that important.

I do remember, however, that there was this weird scene in which Johnny shows Ben a Thing action figure whipped up by “the marketing people,” and I thought to myself, “what marketing people?!” The film throws our heroes around so much that it’s never quite clear what’s going on with them. We know they’ve become media darlings, but the marketing people? Did that scene get cut, too?

I’m hesitant to blame the rest of the movie’s failure on the cast, as it’s obvious that all involved are aiming for an overplayed, campy comic book vibe. (One of the film’s first lines is that Doom is “just a little larger than life.”) But while I commend Chiklis for doing the best he could with such a poorly written role, and while I can deal with Evans’ too-pat wisecracks (he’s likable enough here that he gets a pass), I found McMahon’s hamminess to be far too overdone to be even watchable. And I also find it hard to believe that Jessica Alba is capable of delicately handled intentional badness. She’s just not that good, and we all know it.

The big offender, however, isn’t Alba - it’s Gruffudd. As a leading man, Gruffudd provides all the charisma of a damp sock. Sure, his character’s supposed to be a bit of an absent-minded professor type, but we should still like the guy, right? As it is, Gruffudd’s so charmless, so bland, so utterly unappealing on screen that one wonders how he landed the top role in one of the decade’s most eagerly awaited comic adaptations. Were the producers hoping that the CGI team could not only give him super powers, but acting ones as well?

So there you have it. We’ve now come to the point in the review where I’m legally obligated by film critic union rules to make some sort of cheap pun in regards to the word “Fantastic” in the title. You know, something along the lines of how the quality of the film is, in fact, quite the opposite of the word used to describe its main characters. All the reviews I’ve read from all the nation’s top critics have featured one of these wordplay gems, and now it’s my turn. Sigh. The best I can do here is something along the lines of:

“Fantastic Four?” Hey, it’s more like “The Hastily Cobbled Together, Poorly Directed, Unentertaining Piece of Crap Four” instead!

OK, so I’m no Gene Shalit. But you get the idea.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=12567&reviewer=392
originally posted: 07/16/05 17:32:36
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User Comments

12/29/17 morris campbell cheesy crap 1 stars
8/05/10 Dr.Lao Could have done with less angst and more action. Oh yeah, and Doom was a huge misfire. 3 stars
8/21/08 The Dork Knight I actually liked Dr Doom despite what everyone says 2 stars
8/06/08 Shaun Wallner This movie was funny!! 5 stars
6/21/08 David V Not good...not good at all. 2 stars
9/25/07 dude yawn 1 stars
7/16/07 MaDmAN Nice looking movie, i liked the villain just too much whining and moaning 4 stars
6/19/07 mr.mike not bad at all (on video).... 4 stars
6/05/07 Blizz POOP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 1 stars
5/24/07 Tracey Chambers boring, ugly, and stupid 1 stars
5/23/07 action movie fan disappointing adaption of very good marvel comic superheros 3 stars
5/15/07 967 What a horrible movie, they try to get get rid of their powers the whole film. WTF? 1 stars
3/19/07 dude crud 2 stars
2/21/07 johnnyfog I liked Dr Doom, but that's about it. Still better than Superman Returns 2 stars
2/20/07 Angie OMG!! How did this ever happened. Not saying it's the end of the world, but seriously. 1 stars
2/16/07 Vip Ebriega It's like reading a comic book. 3 stars
11/26/06 Austin Wertman A BIT OF A BORE. TERRIBLE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 2 stars
11/02/06 David Pollastrini not great, not terrible 3 stars
10/16/06 Anthony Feor This movie and X-Men 3 should never have been made 1 stars
10/07/06 ed terrible on just about every level 1 stars
9/18/06 bullit16 So bad, on so many levels 1 stars
9/02/06 Tricia Not perfect, but not entirely horrible either, IMO.I 4 stars
6/23/06 George It was okay, but The story is undeveloped. 3 stars
5/03/06 Cuenzie Wunzie It's a Joke, right? 1 stars
4/05/06 Fred WOW ! very informative ...and i like those pics of ur nephew , so cute !! can see that u pu 5 stars
4/02/06 JM Synth Not as annoying as it looked from the trailers 3 stars
2/22/06 Indrid Cold Not very good, but neither was SpiderMan, and everyone liked that for some reason. 3 stars
1/28/06 Quigley This movie is so, so bad. it makes the hulk look like a movie worth watching. 1 stars
1/07/06 Jim Not as bad as I expected. Is that praise? 3 stars
1/03/06 AM It sucked! I'm so glad I'm not American. I was a little ambivalent about the comics, but 1 stars
12/30/05 tony BORING!! Why was this movie made? Marvel comics is going down the drain 1 stars
12/24/05 The Grinch Chiklis and McMahon are good, Ian's wasted, Alba can't act, enternaing enough I guess 3 stars
12/07/05 tatum Christ, Stan Lee, sell the rights to your grocery list, too 3 stars
12/04/05 WSH One of the worst movies ever made! 1 stars
11/29/05 Jeff Anderson The worst superhero film to date & I've SEEN Albert Pyun's boring as hell CAPTAIN AMERICA!! 1 stars
11/28/05 Ming Jessica Alba and the spectacular visual effects save this from being a disaster. 3 stars
11/23/05 Angela Renee Garrett I totaly agree with you Mel 1 stars
11/09/05 Erik Van Sant Took a Fantastic concept and shit all over it. Avoid like the plague. 1 stars
11/08/05 Stan L good efx, but not much of story, rent Xmen1or2, Batman, or Spiderman 1or2 instead 2 stars
11/06/05 Angela Garrett I totally agree with Mel Valetine ON Fantastic Four 2 stars
10/31/05 PAG OK, decent film. 3 stars
10/26/05 deadwiz Should and could have been so much better! 3 stars
10/26/05 chris a very poor film indeed a waste of my time and money at the cinema 1 stars
10/11/05 Quigley if it had made like batman begins it would havce rocked, but story didn't watch Incredibles 1 stars
9/19/05 alexander somarriba okay 4 stars
9/18/05 Jonathon Holmes Tim Story should watch "Batman Begins" and hang his head in shame 1 stars
8/18/05 green gremlin Rent the "Xmen" DVD instead !!! 1 stars
8/14/05 .:*paris*:. i was expecting something fantastic but quite dissapointed,but certainly entertaining and f 4 stars
8/10/05 Rob S. Why didn't they follow the original story? Victor Von Doom was not a rich businessman. 2 stars
8/10/05 ES Story should have watched the incredibles and then went back to the drawing board on this 3 stars
8/08/05 jada so bad my 10yr old asked to leave, which i gladly agreed 1 stars
8/06/05 Aaron McGraw Poor camera work, they spent more time fighting one another than the mediocre badguy. 3 stars
8/02/05 Brandy Harrington The only comic book movie that is worse than this crap, is Batman & Robin. 1 stars
8/02/05 Quigley Not engaging like spider-man, and mostly not funny. watch something else, please 3 stars
8/02/05 Clatz Absolute pants 1 stars
7/31/05 Helen Greatest Comic book brought onto the big screen. 5 stars
7/29/05 Anders Torp Maybe even a worse disaster than "The Hulk" (if that's possible). 1 stars
7/29/05 PK Chris Evans is on fire! If he'd keep his shirt off the whole movie, I'd give more stars. 3 stars
7/29/05 Moctezuma More of a monstrosity than an actual film 1 stars
7/25/05 M i just wasted 2 hrs of my life!!!! 1 stars
7/24/05 Snakeboy Lots of gaps in the story but still fun 4 stars
7/22/05 Duffyboy666 SHIT! 1 stars
7/21/05 Quigley good special effects cannot save this movie. it had potential and it failed 3 stars
7/20/05 William Vollmer not bad; not great between xmen & Hulk 3 stars
7/20/05 leta Marshall I loved it ! 5 stars
7/18/05 FFlovr u critic hacks! this movie is ure gold, this instantly became my favorite movie 5 stars
7/18/05 Brandy Harrington Damn, this was worse than HULK. 1 stars
7/18/05 fernando thisw movie is bull shit and fuking movie 1 stars
7/18/05 Dave It could've been better, but it had enough fun moments. 4 stars
7/17/05 Matt Thiel Much better than Catwoman. If you want to see F4, do NOT pay to see it!!! 2 stars
7/16/05 John Bell Sometimes we have to set our high sensiblities aside as ask ourselves: did I enjoy the film 4 stars
7/14/05 tony What a rip off. I should have rented Speed 2. At least i would have enjoyed that. 1 stars
7/14/05 B.E. Total garbage. 1 stars
7/13/05 Anus FANTASTIC BORE! Too much whiny drama, not enough action 2 stars
7/13/05 DK i don't pay to hear slogans from bad tv+comercials.got refund of ticket. 1 stars
7/13/05 Tim O! I actually liked the film. I like the friend/family story line. 4 stars
7/12/05 C.E. Can comic book movies get any worse? 1 stars
7/12/05 Peter Griffin There's no reason for a superhero movie to be this lousy. 1 stars
7/12/05 Ole Man Bourbon Pretty bad, but I've seen worse 3 stars
7/11/05 Jorge Lizarazo Good movie, brings the F4 to life. 4 stars
7/11/05 Robin Lent Fantastic Four is far better than the reviews by maintream media 4 stars
7/11/05 Uncle Salty How about... Duuuuuuuuuuuuuh! 1 stars
7/10/05 KELLEN MATHERS Not enough action, unless you count setting up a sequel 2 stars
7/10/05 8=====D shitty just like the comic 1 stars
7/10/05 Peteca It's great dude!~5 origins in one! You can't ask for more! Go see it!!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
7/10/05 Naka Sucked ass. 1 stars
7/10/05 Burt Ward It's okay, you should see Batman Begins instead though 3 stars
7/10/05 FFFan Holy Crap, not horrible, but not quite mediocre either 2 stars
7/09/05 Lord Jiggy It doesn't cure cancer...not bad for light fun.. Lame story, decent work on characters 4 stars
7/09/05 Dustin Low expectations though made for more enjoyment. Seriously, it wasn't that bad. 4 stars
7/09/05 Charlene Javier It's not as bad as it sounds. 3 stars
7/09/05 Brian chiklis shouldn't be wasting his time on this crap... 1 stars
7/09/05 Dan I don't know what movie you all watched. This was better than Spiderman. 5 stars
7/09/05 RoyAgain The End of the Marvel Era 2 stars
7/09/05 Derek I love my 1985 buick better than this movie!!!! 1 stars
7/09/05 Genericus I really liked it! All these reviews are anti-hype 5 stars
7/09/05 Moctezuma Fantastic Flop 2 stars
7/08/05 BrianWilly I actually really liked it. People need to stop being such snobs. 5 stars
7/08/05 Johnnybgoode Humorous. I found it a welcome relief from this year's consistently dark, tragic fare. 4 stars
7/08/05 Kristina Williams straight up doodoo 1 stars
7/08/05 malcolm better than i expected. alba's gorgeous but should really work on her acting skills. 3 stars
7/08/05 Ray Anyone could see this coming. 1 stars
7/08/05 Sugarfoot All of a sudden Roger Corman doesn't look to bad now. 1 stars
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  08-Jul-2005 (PG-13)
  DVD: 05-Jun-2007



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