Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Fantastic Four (2005)

After the cinematic disaster that is the Fant4stic film, it's time for us all to move on to the movie that came before. Alright, sure, technically the sequel, Rise of the Silver Surfer, came before it. But we're not doing that one...yet...so we're going to focus instead on the film that actually had a title that wasn't attempting to be edgy or cool. It says it right there, Fantastic Four, and even features the cast in brightly coloured costumes. Wait, Fox made this? I wasn't aware they were capable of making superheroes actually resemble superheroes. Surprises all around, I guess.

Although there's still plenty of terrible CGI in here, so it's not too surprising.

Believe it or not, this is a film that had been in the works since 1983. That's the year I was born, which makes it both quite a while ago and means that you all know I'm 32 years old now. Bernd Eichinger, a German producer, chased this license for a really long time before he finally got it made and released. The notorious unreleased Fantastic Four film from 1994 was even a part of this, being made essentially so he could retain the film rights for a longer period of time. After all that time passed, this is the big budget movie Eichinger wanted. Was it good? Well, I guess Fox thought so for a while, seeing it got a sequel. But it seems it still wasn't good enough, as we still got Fant4stic, proving that Rupert Murdoch enjoys feeding on the tears of comic fans. A fact that seems fairly obvious as Fox claim they're moving ahead with a sequel to the flop.

"Cinematic failure? Just make a sequel, I'm sure it'll work itself out."
The film opens up as we see the building of Victor Von Doom. Yeah, we're once again skipping the college years origin from the source material and going straight to him being well know. Only he's not well known for being a creeper this time who hates Reed for talking to Sue for five seconds. No, this time he's a rich guy! And there's a big stature of him outside that looks like his skin is made of armour, because foreshadowing! Then along comes Ben Grimm and Reed Richards to comment on Doom's obvious ego, because the audience needs its hand held. Inside the building, Reed lays out his theory about how evolution was triggered in the distant past by cosmic radiation. And he needs Doom's help to fund his research in space. Doom talks down to Reed, which is actually keeping in character, and then Sue walks in revealing that she works for Doom, which makes Reed visibly uncomfortable.

"It doesn't have to be weird that your ex works for me. Not when it can be pointed out that we're fucking too."
So far, while I do wish we'd gotten the backstory of Doom getting burned in a horrible accident he and Reed worked on together in college, we do have a fairly close history between them. Reed, Victor, Sue, and Ben all went to college together and have ties to one another. But then there's the whole Sue banging Victor thing... Yeah, I don't know why, but it seems like someone got it in their head that Reed and Victor didn't have enough bad blood between them, so they better add in a love triangle. It's not a creepy thing like it was in Fant4stic, but it still feels forced and out of place. Again, Victor Von Doom is a man very much in love with himself. He's known for putting himself above all things and rarely ever showing much concern for others, which is why he hasn't been portrayed with many romantic partners in the past. Him fawning over Sue just feels silly and not at all like Doom. It'd be like seeing seeing Superman getting shitfaced in a bar, it's so out of character.

Yeah, just keep saying Man of Steel was the worst Superman movie like the other ones never happened.
After an awkward elevator ride, we find out that Ben Grimm isn't going to pilot the mission. Nope, Johnny Storm is, who in this version is a former astronaut that got booted out due to being a cocky rule-breaking asshole. Well, at least they got his personality down. Ben's not happy about it but is even less happy about the suits they have to wear, which were designed by Victor apparently. Even though Reed notes he was working on exactly the same kind of...yeah, Victor is stealing shit. It's not even well hidden here. They may as well have a giant sign that says "DON'T TRUST DOOM" floating above him at all times, but we're supposed to pretend it's not obvious. In space Johnny proceeds to act like a dick with Ben and Victor fawns over Sue some more. Then the cosmic cloud of radiation comes along and whammos them all, which actually is a lot more convincing here than it was in a certain other film.

As silly as the CGI does look, at least Johnny doesn't appear to be a flaming corpse in this movie.
And, of course, Doom is caught in it too, because why let him be self-made villain created by a tragic accident when you can give him silly powers instead? This all happened because Reed apparently miscalculated and the cloud showed up bigger and sooner than expected. Good going there, Reed. They end up back on Earth in medical quarantine where Johnny acts like a twat again as Ben comes to. Did I ever mention the fact that Johnny always kinda got on my nerves? Yeah, he did. As a result of the accident, everything seems fine, with the only effects seeming to be Reed getting some grey in his hair. That's something that...I actually kinda like. The character is one of the few comic character who has been allowed to show age over time, so it's nice to see a nod to that in the film, reminding you that these characters are supposed to be human and are still vulnerable to the ravages of time. It's also nice to have a cast that doesn't look like they're struggling with puberty.

"Shut up, you big doody head! We're super-mature and stuff!"
Anyway, Reed proves he knows what flowers Sue likes and which ones make her break out in hives, he and Ben have a heart-to-heart about her, and we learn the Doom isn't doing so great as his company is bleeding money like Fallout 3 bleeds memory. But enough of that, because Johnny has to take his hot nurse go snowboarding, even though she points out he's running a startling high temperature. FORESHADOWING!!! WHEEEEE!! But yeah, things start going the obvious direction when Johnny becomes a lot hotter than he thinks he is, which results in him and the nurse getting naked in a melting snow hot tub. I'm not kidding, that really happens. the rest all follow suit, gaining their abilities with Reed getting stretchy and Sue turning as invisible as Doom's ability to hide how evil he is. Doom gets...a scar. It gets worse later though, I promise. Oh, and Ben? He gets to be Michael Chiklis with the driest skin imaginable.

"Any a'you guys got any lotion?"
This leads to Ben's fiancee leaving him, because she realized he was in Wired. Come on, lady! He wasn't the worst thing about that movie! Everything else was. He did good stuff after it! His heart broken, he goes to sulk about it on the bridge where he ends up trying to talk a guy down from jumping, resulting in everyone freaking out because the movie decided to go with practical effects for him over CGI. Trust me, you guys, they made the right call there, because a pair of pants seemingly can't be CGIed on him when they do it that way. But I don't know what Ben's crying about, look at poor Doom! He's got a scar! Oh, and his hair is falling out. Did they get Doom mixed up with Lex Luthor? Because I'm pretty sure Doom still had hair, regardless of how fucked his face got.

"Well, I'm going bald and my company is going under. I better become a super villain."
On the bridge, the others show up to help out Ben with the massive pile-up that happened when people collectively shat themselves there. Seriously, he just looks like a guy with thick skin, people. He's not some giant dickless rock monster destroying everything and killing people. That's the shittier Ben Grimm made out of CGI. This one just tried to talk a guy out of committing suicide. Then we get our first really stupid running gag of the movie, Sue turning visible while she thinks she still invisible. Why? Because she's stripping naked and we had to have almost nude Jessica Alba in here a few times or else someone was going to lose their mind. Seriously, she wore more clothes in Sin City, a movie where she literally plays a stripper. Wow. I'm not a prude, but must we really turn one of the strongest female characters from Marvel Comics into a sex joke? I mean, really? Wasn't her 90s outfit enough?

Yeah, Susan! Where are all your pouches?! You can't possibly be a proper 90s hero without pouches!
If you think I'm griping too much about it, I want you to write those feelings on a slip of paper, burn that same piece of paper, take the ashes and pour them into a cup of water, and then I want you to...go away because I don't really care. That whole thing was pointless and so is the her being mostly naked gag. Not to mention it's stupid and adds nothing of value to the film as a whole. Ben does get to have a bit of hope though, as he meets a blind artist named Alicia who likes him. This is also nice, as she's long been a fixture in the source material playing the part of Ben on again, off again girlfriend. As I said in the Fant4stic review, despite being what many people think of as a horribly ugly monster, Ben has had many girlfriends over the years. His dance card has been about as full as Johnny's, honestly. Ben even spent some time flirting with one of Johnny's exes.

But why have actually love triangles from the books when you can always make them up out of thin air?
But now we get to the real problem with this movie. The group moves into the Baxter Building and does...nothing. Just a whole fuckload of nothing. No crime fighting, no adventures, no giant mole creatures, just nothing. They sit around the place essentially fucking around while Reed works on a way to turn them back to normal. And it's so boring that I would gladly wear Lyja's outfit from the 90s, shoulder-pads and all. Hell, I'd rather wear the boob window outfit that Sue made than have to sit through this whole section of the movie. To break up the tedium, Johnny sneaks out to go show off in public, as that's his favourite activity next to being an ass to Ben. They all get mad at him, as he's outed them publicly and even gave them all names. Ben lets him know what he thinks of his codename in a very mature fashion.

He crushes his car into a ball and tosses it in front of him. Beautiful.
They have a very short fight and then they all go back to the building to do a whole lot of nothing again. Yaaaaaayyyy. Except Ben, that is, who goes to that bar where he meets Alicia and hangs out with his bartender friend who still treats him like nothing is different. She feels his face and still seems to dig him and he starts to feel better. Meanwhile, Doom whines about how Reed is getting everything he wanted and now he's got nothing. To show how hard things are for him, he decides to take Ben out of the picture so he can't help Reed and also decides to use his electricity powers to commit a bit of murder. Poor, poor Doom.

"How could this happen to meeeee? I've made my mistaaaaakes, got nowhere to ruuuuunn..."|
Yeah, I really feel bad for the guy. Victor tells Ben that Reed isn't being any help because all he's doing is trying to get all up in that Jessica Alba, and Ben ends up falling for it as Reed kinda is trying to get all up in that. As a result, Victor ends up depowering Ben and then turns around to reveal he's the villain by wearing a mask that he got as an award for some reason. Why the mask? Well, he used his new powers to run the machine and it made him get disfigured further. So now he's Dr. Doom and they are fianlly all gonna fight it out. He seems to be kicking their asses, until Ben decides to go back to being the dry-skinned wonder again, allowing him to actually help his friends. How about that? Ben Grimm being portrayed as selfless rather than spending the majority of the film showing him off as a whiny guy who is willing to kill people. It's almost like the writers managed to crack open the books and learn what the characters' personalities are. Well, mostly.

"Why don't you love me, Susan? Is it the scar?"
They end up coming together and using their abilities to stop Doom, freezing him into what is essentially a living statue. No amount of whining in the world can save him now. Nope, only a sequel can do that! They all celebrate afterward, Reed with Sue, Ben with Alicia, Johnny with some drunk girls, and Doom with his large box that is shipping him to Latveria for some reason. Yay! I know that place from the comics! What? I missed something? I have no idea what you're talking about.

Who is Stan Lee or Willie Lumpkin? Are they important or something?
Overall, it's not that bad of a movie. Yeah, I said it, bring on the hatred. Honestly, I'm not going to jump on the bandwagon and pour tons of hate on this, especially after seeing Fant4stic. Next to that movie, this movie is a fucking masterpiece. This movie gave us characters that are mostly in tune with who they are in the comics, an origin that stuck fairly close to the original comic origin, and a Thing who still had his thing. Also, pants. They let Ben Grimm have pants. Thank you forever for that. Not to mention it gave us what I really think is my favourite Stan Lee cameo ever, because he got to play a beloved character who is a big part of the Fantastic Four's history despite seemingly being unimportant. But...this movie also had serious problems too.

I know, it's so terribly shocking. Almost as shocking as Jessica Alba being used in a sexual manner in a movie.
The handling of Doom is still rather awful, from the bullshit with him pining over Sue Storm to the whole him having electricity powers. Just like in that other shitty movie, they completely miss the point with him, that being that he's a egomaniac who is threatening because of his determination. Doom made his armour, learned sorcery, and took over a nation. He's not just some rich guy who happens to get abilities, but is rather self-made man whose ambition is what puts him at odds with heroes. The other bollocks takes away from that and makes him a weaker character. Other than that, the other massive problem with the movie is how boring it really is. It gives the characters powers and then leaves them locked up in a building where they barely use them. The big final fight happens in the middle of the city and doesn't feel very exciting, which just leaves the ending feeling unsatisfying because there's very little payoff.

Sorry, guys, but this just isn't doing it for me. I don't care how topless one of you is.
That's the biggest shame about this movie, really. It had the potential to be really great. The cast has chemistry, the characters are done (mostly) right, and the costumes aren't terrible, but all of that gets derailed by how overwhelmingly boring it really is. The beginning sets things up so well and that build-up leads to an underwhelming finish, leaving me and many other with cinematic blue balls. But I will give it points for using practical effects when they could and allowing the Fantastic Four to actually seem like themselves instead of a bunch of teenagers who seem to hate one another. Not the worst Fantastic Four movie, but not the best either. Better luck next time, guys. So, until Michael Chiklis gets cast to play the Thing in a Guardians of the Galaxy sequel, I'll be here cursing at FPL for the electricity constantly flashing while I was writing this. Later days, bleeders!

Say what you will about Alba, but at least she didn't wear a terrible wig.

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