Fantastic Four (2005)
September 18, 2021 9:52 AM - Subscribe

During a space voyage, four scientists are altered by cosmic rays: Reed Richards gains the ability to stretch his body; Sue Storm can become invisible; Johnny Storm controls fire; and Ben Grimm is turned into a super-strong thing. Together, these "Fantastic Four" must now thwart the evil plans of Dr. Doom and save the world from certain destruction.

To be clear, this is the 2005 version of the story, not the considerably different 2015 version (previously on the purple); this version stars Ioan Gruffudd as Reed Richards, Jessica Alba as Sue Storm, Michael Chiklis as Ben Grimm, and Chris Evans--yes, that one--as Johnny Storm, as well as Julian McMahon as Victor von Doom and Kerry Washington as Alicia Masters. The movie covers their origin, Reed's efforts to return Ben to a human appearance, and von Doom's plot to get his revenge on Reed and the rest of the team.

The movie wasn't generally well-regarded--27% on Rotten Tomatoes--but did well enough to warrant a sequel, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. It's also higher-rated than the 2015 remake (9% on RT). My impressions of it are below.
posted by Halloween Jack (9 comments total)
In the 2015 FF thread, someone wondered why it seemed to be so difficult for the big studios to come up with a decent FF movie. It's a fair question; lots of superhero (and other genre) movies are predicated on the premise that the team is a family, albeit often a spectacularly dysfunctional one, and the 4 are a literal family--two siblings, the genius who's engaged/married to one of them, and his best (maybe only) friend. This movie occasionally but inconsistently gets that, with some of its storytelling choices interesting and even creative with how it works with the established comics canon, and some of those choices bafflingly bad.

I like what they did with the origin story, which heavily reworks the Cold War origin of the FF, as well as that of Doctor Doom, who originally developed an obsessive hatred of the "accursed Richards" after he scarred his own face while experimenting with a machine to contact the afterlife in their dorm room (as one does). Recasting him as an asshole CEO with his own private space program works (and is super timely, to boot); combining his accident with the one that gives the FF their powers also makes sense.

But then the movie kind of goes off the rails. When Ben shows his fiancee what happened to him, I wondered who in NYC goes outside in the middle of the night in their negligee, and why she (and really anyone) was so horrified of the Thing; yeah, it's weird to see a guy who seems to be covered in rock, but he's just not that awful looking. (It may have something to do with the Thing suit that Chiklis is in being very obviously a rubber suit.) Then there's this interminable sequence on a bridge that seems intended to establish the FF as heroes, but instead is this crazy combo of highly unlikely coincidences and a lot of people carrying the idiot ball; right after the Thing is acclaimed as a hero (even though he basically caused the situation), his fiancee shows up--sure, in a city of 8 million people, she's right in front of the crowd somehow, why not--and gives his ring back. And then a bunch of other stuff happens, Ben is temporarily cured but then he re-Things himself because Doctor Doom, as opposed to being the cunning chessmaster of the comics, is just another supervillain who wants to destroy the FF because he's turning into metal, they have a big fight, the end. Oh, and they have their family squabbles on the street, always surrounded by a big crowd. Again, as one does.

The actors are good to pretty good, although sometimes struggling with hamfisted characterization. Chris Evans in particular shows off a lot of the charisma that he'll display, with much better writing, in his next costumed role. Julian McMahon might have been better if he'd had more to work with than being Elon Mask.
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:17 AM on September 18, 2021 [1 favorite]

I'm fond of this movie, in an 'end up re-watching it whenever it popped up on cable' kind of way. It probably helps that I wasn't a FF comics reader, and a big fan of Julian McMahon during his run on Charmed.

I agree that it's got a lot of flaws (especially the whole issue of the heroes being basically to blame for all the disasters that they're saving the city from). But I like the cast, and I think I went into it with low expectations since it hadn't been a hit reviews/box-office-wise, so, for a free-on-tv superhero movie it was fine.
posted by oh yeah! at 1:34 PM on September 18, 2021 [2 favorites]

someone wondered why it seemed to be so difficult for the big studios to come up with a decent FF movie

The big studios succeeded. However, they titled the film The Incredibles.*

The real problem with doing a decent FF movie is Doctor Doom. Doom is one of the great comic book villains: bigger-than-life, bombastic and proud. Somehow, he can swig wine through his mask while declaiming, "Where Richards is content to theorize, Doom will act! Under my guidance, this world will enter a New Age! AN AGE OF DOOM!" He's the villain that Baron Von Ruthless wishes he could be.

Doom really needs to be treated as the iconic over-the-top armored megalomaniac. Reducing him, as this film did, to a petty child who's hurt because Sue won't go out with him completely misses the point. Doom is not small! DOOM IS GREAT!**

*No, seriously. The Parrs have the same "four elements" as the Fantastic Four. (Following the "four humors" theory of personality. See also Kirby's Challengers of the Unknown and the Hellboy-era Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense.)

**Get him monologuing sometime. Doom has all the great stories.
posted by SPrintF at 3:03 PM on September 18, 2021 [8 favorites]

Another problem with this film: Sue stripping to become invisible. Yeah, yeah, Jessica Alba nekkid, hur hurr. But in the comics, turning her clothes (well, spacesuit, actually) invisible is one of the first things Sue does. Automatically! Sue has always had the ability to turn other things invisible. In Rise of the Silver Surfer, at least, they had Sue using her trick of making walls invisible so she can see through them.
posted by SPrintF at 5:57 PM on September 18, 2021 [2 favorites]

I think they did the best they could under the circumstances they imagined they were under. That is, I think the producers were mostly expecting they'd get one, maybe two films. If you're only getting one film of the F4, well you have to delve into their origins somewhat because that's what creates their dynamic. They're not brought together to face a menace, they're not brought together because they were born with or developed these powers with age - there's an accident when their lives happen to all cross together, and they are forced to bond while not being particularly happy about it.

But you also need a villain, and if you're going to have one F4 villain, you have to go with the best and that's Doom (and if you get a second movie, Galactus is the right answer). So you have Doom, and you have origin. And those things don't go well together. Doom needs, nay - demands!, time to develop his menace. He's not just power-hungry, he's Genghis Khan-level power hungry in that he is self-evidently the natural ruler of everything and requires others to simply acknowledge his superiority, along with having the strength, determination, and ruthlessness to make it happen.

So you've got a short-changed origin and a nerfed villain, so the movie itself is going to be a dud. Today, knowing you're going to get three, maybe four F4 movies (and probably a couple crossovers in other Marvel films/series) to develop things, you can start with an environmental themed movie (Mole Man and/or Namor), bring in Doom, crossover with Captain Marvel for a Skrulls storyline, go with Guardians against Annihilus, then a big Galactus fight then bring all of Marvel back for a Power Cosmic-backed Dr Doom. That gives the story some time to breathe.

But you can't do all that with one movie, so you get a warm puddle of spit like this.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 7:49 AM on September 19, 2021 [2 favorites]

GhostintheMachine, that would be a pretty logical progression, but I think that it's still more likely that the Silver Surfer would appear earlier than the Galactus movie, simply because that character has a bit of cultural resonance beyond the FF. There was a concept short film done in 1994, using some of the same CGI tech used in Terminator 2, and there's rumors of a solo film in development. (This is where I should mention that I've got a post up about the FF sequel with the Surfer in it.)
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:47 AM on September 19, 2021

I unabashedly enjoy this movie whenever it pops up. Yes, there are some problems - pretty unconvincing "evil genius," Sue naked, Ben's girlfriend - but the four heroes are wonderfully portrayed (for someone like me who never read the comics). For some reason, I thought Ben's suit/costume was awesome. And Chris Evans' character exudes personality - far more than his Cap'n America persona.

Flawed, but certainly enjoyable - far more so than the later reboot, which was simply a mess.
posted by davidmsc at 12:10 PM on September 19, 2021

Chronologically my girl friends and i are the same age as Chris Evans, which might inform how deeply we hated his Johnny Storm, to the point that when he was announced for Steve Rogers we were extremely annoyed.

Anyway, acting!

The whole making 'Jessica Alba a white blonde woman but in a way that doesn't even try to work with her colouring' was also extremely naff. I did try to watch this movie, and it's not that bad, but the Storm siblings...
posted by cendawanita at 3:26 AM on September 20, 2021 [1 favorite]

Whereas we thought his Johnny Storm was the best thing in a fairly ridiculous movie, and were therefore pleased to hear about Steve Rogers!
posted by praemunire at 7:46 AM on September 20, 2021

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