Less Than Fantastic
There is one problem with super hero movies, there are far too many of them these days and so to really stand out in such a crowd you either need some brilliant characters with great super powers or an amazing storyline. Unfortunately "Fantastic Four" fails on both accounts, not to the extent that it is bad movie just that it features average characters and an average storyline making it not the most memorable of super hero flicks and whilst still enjoyable is less than fantastic.
When four scientists head off into space to research an astrological cloud they end up becoming engulfed in its cosmic radiation. The after effect of this accident is that they all gain miraculous super powers thanks to the huge dose of radiation. But there is a problem, as not only do they struggle to come to terms with their new super abilities but Victor Von Doom (Julian McMahon - premonition) who paid for the scientific expedition has also gained super powers and is becoming a dangerous force which needs to be stopped.
As with many super hero movies "Fantastic Four" partially suffers because it has the unenviable job of not only introducing the characters to us, how they got there super powers etc etc but also providing a further bad guy element so that the movie does not just feel like an introduction. Some movies manage to achieve all of this but with "Fantastic Four" it just doesn't gel as neither element is given the right amount of attention. The build up where we are introduced to the heroes before they get the super powers is quite good but then everything goes out of balance with the bad guy element not focused upon enough so that when it is introduced it feels a little like an after thought. This means that the Victor Von Doom who is seriously under played by Julian McMahon just doesn't feel evil enough to either come across as either sinister or as a nemesis for our heroes.
The good news is that "Fantastic Four" does keep everything on the comical side which I know some super hero fans dislike but for me is part of what makes a super hero movie entertaining. "Fantastic Four" has a good amount of comedy some quite subtle whilst others obviously set up to derive laughs. But by including plenty of humour it makes the movie much more entertaining than some super hero movies which like to dwell on the dark side. But the good thing is that it never gets to the point where the humour takes completely over, in many ways it fills the gaps in the unevenly balanced storyline which is definitely a good thing.
Then of course we have the super powers, well I did start of questioning why you would give an actress such as Jessica Alba, who is undeniably fit, the ability to become invisible. Surely we want to see as much of her as possible and probably what is quite clever is that they manage to achieve this despite her ability and although some would say by focussing on her is a cheep trick I think it's playing to what certain parts of the audience want. Ok, enough of that as for the rest of the super powers well they work well stretching, fire and being a rock all make for some imaginative scenes for these powers to be used.
What is probably the biggest problem for "Fantastic Four" is that it doesn't have an outright star, Tobey Maguire is Spiderman, Christian Bale is Batman, even "X-Men" has Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, but "Fantastic Four" doesn't have one real stand out star. Ioan Gruffudd does a reasonable job as playing it semi straight but doesn't fill the screen as Mr. Fantastic and Michael Chiklis is good as The Thing/ Ben Grimm but again lacks that memorable screen presence. Chris Evans as Johnny Storm continues to annoy me with his second rate Tom Cruise impersonation and Jessica Alba who looks wonderful on screen still doesn't have the huge impact needed. Even the bad guy Victor Von Doom played by Julian McMahon doesn't get to camp it up enough to be truly memorable. That is the problem, with the movie having to introduce all these characters and never overly focussing on one of them there is no outright hero for us to latch on to and champion.
As for the special effects which are obligatory when it comes to modern super hero movies. Well they were effective, didn't come across in any way as being shoddy, but then they didn't wow me either. When Mr Fantastic learns he can stretch I wasn't like "wow that's amazing" rather than "oh ok". The same with all the special effects, nothing had me drop jawed but equally nothing had me laughing at it for the wrong reasons.
What this all boils down to is that "Fantastic Four" doesn't push the boundaries which in an ever growing genre it really needs to do. Compared to other super hero movies, especially that of "X-men", it feels pretty average and not overly memorable. But in fairness as the first movie, which has to introduce the characters as well as provide a bad guy story it doesn't do a bad job, just an average one.