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Fantastic Four   C-

20th Century Fox / Marvel Enterprises

Year Released: 2005
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Director: Tim Story
Writer: Mark Frost, Michael France
Cast: Ioan Gruffudd, Jessica Alba, Chris Evans, Michael Chiklis, Julian McMahon, Kerry Washington.

Review by Rob Vaux

Once again, I, Victor Von Doom, must endure another affront to my genius. For too long, the exploits of Marvel's so-called "heroes" have been fodder for the skulking lapdogs of Hollywood studios. Doom has watched their efforts and laughed, knowing that they would be as ants before a colossus when the Dr. Doom movie finally arrived. A pox on Sam Raimi and his Spider-Man foolishness! Fie upon Bryan Singer and his X-Men irrelevance! Their success, their awards, their accolades, all are meaningless. Soon, an adaptation of Doom's exploits would appear -- marked, no doubt, by the minor appearance of Reed Richards and his so-called "Fantastic Four" -- and then the scions of Tinseltown would tremble. For none can stand before the power of Doom, least of all those attending the multiplex during this crucial summer marketing period.

But what's this?! The resultant film is somehow unworthy of me! Aarrgggh!!! Curse you, 20th Century Fox! You dare to put a director such as Tim Story in charge of my tale?! Doom looks upon the man's efforts and sees naught but weak characterization and bumbling action scenes. The drama is poorly justified, the dialogue half-witted and dull. Why, the lowest of my minions could helm a better production than this. The film -- named Fantastic Four rather than Doomapolooza in an act that will cost yon Fox executives dear -- is rife with shortcomings that I can scarcely sully my tongue to utter. Low indeed have Marvel's fortunes sunk when this is the best they can send against their archrival's superior Batman Begins.

The film's lionization of Reed Richards and noted deviations from Marvel canon are to be forgiven. Doom expects a certain amount of creative license in his cinematic adaptations. What cannot be forgiven is the trite and illogical way the story is put forth, which confounds even my mighty brain to understand. Performing an experiment aboard the Von Doom orbital space station, Richards (Ioan Gruffudd) and his colleagues -- Benjamin Grimm (Michael Chiklis), Susan Storm (Jessica Alba, whose faux blonde hair cannot fool the eye of Doom), and Storm's brother Johnny (Chris Evans) -- are bombarded with cosmic radiation, granting them all manner of incredible powers. Doom, too, is subject to this process -- or at least the Doom played on-screen by Julian McMahon is. Once the five of them learn the extent of their abilities, they launch upon a cliché-heavy journey of exploration and conflict; Richards and his quartet scheme to restore themselves to "normality," while McMahon's Doom plots to destroy them and seize vast amounts of power for himself (an admirable policy unjustly maligned by this production).

From the onset, the script has little idea what to do with such towering figures. Story spends some amount of screen time portraying the Four as celebrities who must deal with a public who knows about (and is fascinated by) their powers. But the notion is poorly handled and awkward, depending largely on badly motivated impressions from the gawking crowds. Character interaction, too, is strung together with the feeblest justifications. The four "heroes" relate to each other as mindless automatons would: assigned to fill specific tasks with little reasoning or humanity. The actors can do naught with their material, save Chiklis who, Doom admits, achieves a certain sincerity in conveying his character's painful affliction (Grimm, unlike the others, cannot simply turn his powers on and off, and is thus trapped in the form of a rocky orange monstrosity). The other performers are trapped in overly simplistic roles that demand far too little of their talents. Evans is intended to be droll, but simply comes across as arrogant, Gruffudd seems feckless when he should be thoughtful, and though armed with the all-powerful Smart Chick Glasses, Alba is little more than a pretty face. I reserve special attention for McMahon, whose portrayal bears little resemblance to my own commanding majesty. And what manner of eyebrow is he affecting? Doom likes it not! Pluck it from his visage and inform me of what unholy fabric it is composed. It shall be banned from the shores of Latveria henceforth!

Though Doom expects graceful exposition and believable characters from all his movie pleasures, he can indulge occasional lapses if the action and special effects are above par. Here too, Story's effort fails to amuse me. Though some effects retain a certain kinetic grandeur, too many feel mannered and unduly artificial, while the perils and challenges they depict simply fail to excite. Feeble corporate efforts to tie the drama in with a marketable demographic, such as Johnny Storm's appearance at the X-Games, speak more to homogenized money managing than any effort to tell an enticing story. In every way and on every level, Fantastic Four falls short of Doom's expectations. I concede that it does not sink as far as some comic-book adaptations, such as the odious Catwoman or the incompetent Punisher, but that proves nothing. Figures as steeped in comic mythology as myself -- and even my hated nemeses, the Fantastic Four -- deserve far better than this ambulatory mess can provide.

Indeed, such a failure must not be permitted to reach the theaters. Doom demands that the perpetrators of Fantastic Four, along with all existing copies, be turned over to his minions for disposal as he sees fit. Defiance of my wishes would be most unwise, for there are myriad ways to bring you to your knees, O Hollywood fools. Already, I have arranged for a number of previously untouchable "celebrities" to be injected with a psychotropic drug, causing them to immolate their careers in brazen displays of public boobery. Witness their destruction and tremble, miscreants! Thus is the fate of all who do not cower before the might of Doom!

With apologies to Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.

Review published 07.07.2005.

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