Fantastic Four (2005) Movie Review

scene from fantastic four

Title: Fantastic Four
Year: 2005
Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy
Play time: 1h 46min
Director: Tim Story
Screenwriters: Mark Frost
Starring: Ioan Gruffudd, Michael Chiklis, Chris Evans, Jessica Alba

Fantastic Four is a Movie Adoption

Fantastic Four 2005 will inspire cries of outrage, I suspect, as it defies what we’ve come to expect from the modern comic book movie: heartrending angst, grandiloquent metaphor, enormous scale. In adapting one of the best-loved comic books, Tim Story and his screenwriters had few aspirations to greatness, and no ambitions to emulate the Spider-Man films, Hulk or Batman Begins.

In all fairness, Fantastic Four does not begin to approach that level in quality, either, but what it does do, it does rather well. Namely, it’s a jokey, frivolous, modestly entertaining little movie, shooting low and striking bronze. And yes, this $100 million production is best described as a “little movie,” which is both amusing and kind of obscene.

Along with this attitude comes a style that can be interpreted as (mistaken for?) hopeless stupidity and utter klutziness. And indeed, taken out of context, the screenplay would probably be best described as a disaster: it’s lame, inarticulate, and full of gags surely unbefitting a movie of such ostensible pedigree. But on screen it somehow all seems deliberate and part of the mood: the attitude is one of imperturbable nonchalance, as if everyone involved knew how dunderheaded this was and forged ahead anyway. So for my part, I followed the movie’s lead and just went with it, enjoying the silliness and the nonsense.

This gives me the opportunity to address a pet peeve of mine, which is that too many people don’t have the capacity to enjoy good stupidity. I guess some will argue that the fewer movies pitched at this intellectual level, the better, but I would disagree: if every superhero movie were like Batman Begins, I would go off my rocker.

Fantastic Four Movie vs Comic Book

If the comic book genre is to persist then we need variety, and I can think of worse things than a few simple, unambitious action comedies from time to time. I also think people mistake content simplicity for lack of filmmaking sophistication: isn’t it possible that Fantastic Four was calculated to be goofy, implausible, stilted, strange?

Obviously I would have crossed to the other side real fast if Fantastic Four had been no fun. But as you’ve probably gathered, I enjoyed the hell out of it, and by the time the lights came on I discovered that I only jotted down about a quarter page of notes, instead of the usual one to one and a half.

Dumb Things in Fantastic Four – Opinion

I was surprised how often I enjoyed the movie on more than one level: it contains aggressively dumb things like hotshot Johnny Storm/the Human Torch (Chris Evans) playing shaving cream pranks on the Thing (Michael Chiklis), and I not only found the joke funny, but also the fact that the joke was in the movie, if that makes any sense. Come on: what kind of world do we live in where people won’t laugh at the Thing plastering himself with shaving cream?

Oddly, there’s no strong conflict at the center of Fantastic Four, and I didn’t really mind. This is an origin story in the purest sense, with the vast majority of the running time devoted to the heroes discovering and adjusting to their new powers.

There’s a villain, but he seems to exist more for the sake of future movies than for this one, and the movie goes easy on the battle scenes. This would ordinarily have been a fatal flaw (see Daredevil), but here it struck me as kind of value neutral: the film’s tone is served just as well by its rather odd episodic structure as it would be by a solid narrative.

I realize that I am being awfully defensive in my approach to Fantastic Four, and this is because I know that it’s the kind of unassuming film that ordinarily gets dumped on by those whose expectations don’t match the reality.

Fantastic Four – A pretty Decent Movie

It is not, all told, a very good film, and it’s fading from my memory awfully fast. But it’s fleet, fast, funny, and amiably dumb, with the 110 minute running time feeling like considerably less. While some of the performances fit the general B-movie mold — Ioan Gruffud and Jessica Alba should either hang their heads in shame or smile slyly to themselves, depending on what they were trying to do — a couple of others, most notably Chris Evans‘ and Michael Chiklis‘, contain an energy and a wit that well transcend the material. Fantastic Four is what it is, and I’m okay with what it is.

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