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Time for another installment of one of my favorite features. This is a brand new set in a series where I go through old comic book adaptations and see what went right or what went wrong, and sometimes even both. To set off the year on a good note let’s start with an easy one – Fantastic Four (2005).
This is an uncommon comic book film mainly due to the staunchly average opinion people seem to have of it. Neither really praised nor truly lambasted, it occupies a weirdly singular gray area. Off the bat once can firmly say one thing with absolute certainty – Ben and Johnny were the best things about the movie. They were the best cast, the best acted, and the best written. Michael Chiklis and Chris Evans truly embodied their roles like no one else in the movie.
The other thing that can be said with some certainty is that the movie was colorful and frenetic in a lot of the right ways. The shots always pop and are never drab or boring or down play the amazing things that are transpiring. It has all the elements it needs, visually at least, to be the movie that this team deserves. To put it another way, the movie this team can pull off.
Of course, where the movie hits problems is with everything else. Mainly, outside of Ben, who gets most of the movie’s supply of character arcs, and Johnny, who has the best dynamic with Ben, none of the other characters really stand out. Reed, portrayed by Ioan Gruffudd, plays second fiddle to Ben’s scenes of turmoil, and could have used more of a push. His rivalry with Dr. Doom also doesn’t have much that really engages the audience to care enough, but more on Doom later.
Sue was one of the sorest spots of the production, given that she is given little to do outside of being a byproduct of Reed and Doom’s faulty rivalry. This is not to say that she is not given a moment or two to shine, but she was cast with Jessica Alba for a reason, and the movie never lets us forget it. Sue is right on the edge of, but is never really spotlighted, as the strong heart of the team. In fact, she spends most of the movie characterized as “exasperated”. Like everyone else, Sue gets her best moments in power building scenes.
Dr. Doom was a mixed bag, and could probably be described with the same terms as the plot could be, but we’ll try that later. Julian Macmahon was a good choice for the role, but the script strips much of the character’s flaws and high points. He becomes more like Dafoe’s Green Goblin but without the charmingly hammy overacting. Even with the limitations of trying to shoehorn him as an evil business man, there may have been a grandiose nature – but it never reaches that.
The story is your basic by the numbers affair, they get their powers, play around with it, and then the villain rounds out the third act. As stated before, however, is that Ben is the only character with an arc that crosses the entire movie, from start to finish. The team as a whole does come together, but the threat doesn’t feel as encompassing. It lands a few punches, but never hits where it should, to pull an analogy for this. Bad? No, but watchable average.