|Fantastic Four (2005)
Starring: Michael Chiklis, Jessica Alba, Ioan Gruffudd, Chris Evans, Julian McMahon, Kerry Washington
Director: Tim Story
It’s no surprise that Pixar’s “The Incredibles,” was so well-received when it was released in theaters last year, but most people probably don't realize how closely the basic premise resembles Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s Marvel series, “Fantastic Four.” Created in 1961 by the famous comic book duo, “Fantastic Four” introduced the genre’s very first superhero family with special powers a little too similar to that of Pixar’s latest creation. But if you enjoyed “The Incredibles,” then you’ll probably like “Fantastic Four,” the summer's first real blockbuster and the most enjoyable comic book movie since 2002's "Spider-Man."
Research astronauts Reed Richards (Ioan Gruffudd) and Ben Grimm (Michael Chiklis) are in desperate need of financial backing for a scientific study on DNA that could change the lives of millions. The only man willing to invest the money is Dr. Victor Von Doom (Julian McMahon), a billionaire playboy who also happens to own the equipment needed for the task. Along for the ride is Reed’s ex-flame and Doom associate Susan Storm (Jessica Alba), as well as her hot-headed brother Johnny (Chris Evans). After a cosmic space storm interrupts their experiment and alters their DNA, they all emerge with super powers.
Director Tim Story doesn’t waste any time in getting to the core of his tale, gleefully skipping through the events leading up to the quartet’s miraculous transformations within the first 15 minutes. Along with their newly gained powers, the astronauts also give themselves nicknames: Reed is now Mr. Fantastic, who can stretch any part of his body like rubber; Sue is the Invisible Woman, who can project a force field by bending light in addition to her more obvious power of invincibility; Johnny is the Human Torch, who can ignite like a matchstick; and Ben is the Thing, a rock-skinned hulk with the strength of a hundred men. Dr. Doom doesn’t miss out on the festivities either, blessed with a metal skeletal system and the ability to manipulate electricity. But after witnessing the self-proclaimed Fantastic Four become television celebrities overnight, he decides to make use of his super powers by eliminating the tight-knit group.
“Fantastic Four” is not without its faults, and the special effects aren’t exactly groundbreaking, but the final product is more than adequate for the average moviegoer to enjoy. Especially satisfying are the spot-on performances by Michael Chiklis and Chris Evans as the Thing and Johnny Storm, respectively. Chiklis breathes fresh life into perhaps the silliest comic book character adapted for the big screen with a genuine humanity that can be felt even through the bulky foam costume, while Evans delivers a comic flair that was an essential element of the comic. It’s almost as if both of these actors were born for their individual roles, and the sibling-like chemistry that subsists creates the perfect conduit for comic relief.
Audiences may bicker and complain about the film’s use of comedy throughout the story, but what many people don’t know is that the comic book is, and always has been, a family comedy about normal people learning to cope with their newly gained powers. It's not quite a complete package like Sam Raimi's “Spider-Man” was able to do, but it's still an entertaining summer popcorn flick that's worthy of a sequel.
The widescreen DVD release of "Fantastic Four" includes a cast commentary, three deleted scenes, a short making-of featurette, and a tour of the set. Other extras include features on casting and a behind-the-scenes look at the making of a scene, as well as two music videos and a sneak peek at "X-Men 3."