Now that the Fantastic Four are back in the warm corporate embrace of the Disney-owned Marvel Studios, you’re probably ready to put those previous non-canonical F4 movies out of your mind. But that would be a mistake.
Starting in 2005, 20th Century Fox’s run of Fantastic Four movies was fun-yet-flawed at their best and a total trainwreck at their worst. So, of course, that means I had to watch them all. (Especially after the beautiful mess that is the unreleased 1994 Fantastic Four.)
This week, we’re kicking things off with Fantastic Four, the 2005 superhero film from director Tim Story (who’s previous bonafides included Barbershop) and featured a starring lineup that included Jessica Alba, Chris Evans, Michael Chiklis, and Kerry Washington. Released just five years after Fox turned the X-Men into a blockbuster hit and kicked off the age of comic book cinema we’re stilling living through, Fantastic Four should have done the same for Marvel’s first superhero family.
We kick off the film with Reed Richards and Ben Grimm going to pay a visit to their old M.I.T. buddy, billionaire CEO Dr. Victor Von Doom. Reed wants to go into space to get some cosmic ray samples that he’s convinced will help humanity.
But Reed is flat broke. So, Reed is calling on Dr. Doom (yes, no one finds it troubling that this guy is named Doom) to ask if he can use Doom’s super cool space station. Yes, this Dr. Doom is so obscenely rich that he has his own personal space station.
Here is our Dr. Doom of the movie, a slick, billionaire CEO.
At first, I wasn’t even sure if the movie was going to touch on his Latveria storyline. This Doom has the most clean-cut American looks with an accent to match. Except for the occasional weird lapses his accent takes into the vaguely-British. I didn’t even know he was supposed to be from Latveria until halfway through the movie.
Doom has it all: wealth, power, a goddamn space station. What else could he possibly have? Ah yes, he also has Susan Storm as his girlfriend! Who just happens to be Reed’s ex.
This is Dr. Susan Storm as played by Jessica Alba, a world glass genetics researcher… okay, I can’t write that and keep a straight face. I’m sorry, but Jessica Alba is not in her element here. Whenever she starts spouting complex science terms, she doesn’t sound natural. Just incredibly rehearsed.
And here’s Sue’s brother, Johnny, a pilot and an extreme sports douche. For those of you who haven’t seen this movie, yes, that is indeed Chris Evans. That’s right, he got his start in the Marvel Universe playing that devil-may-care rapscallion, Johnny Storm, and good God, does he act like the biggest asshole. For the entire movie, he does nothing but spew obnoxious insults, whore himself out to the media, and sexually harass women. Our hero, everyone.
Don’t worry, Chris, these are the dues you have to pay before you get a real Marvel role in about six years.
I can appreciate Susan and Johnny having legitimate roles for going on a mission rather than being two inexperienced randos, but no one could ever take these two seriously as qualified professionals.
All four of them, plus Victor Von Doom, go up in the space station. While in space, Doom takes the opportunity to propose to Susan. She doesn’t actually give an answer, but I think her face says it all.
To Susan’s relief, Reed interrupts to inform them that the cosmic ray cloud is about to hit them and they need to abort before they all die. But Doom would rather die in space than blow a billion dollars, so he tells Reed to tally-ho ahead.
You know what happens next. The ship gets hit, they crash back to Earth, and soon they all start developing their powers. Reed starts to stretch and Ben turns into an orange pop-rock.
Johnny manages to become an even bigger asshole, and I guess he’s on fire now, too.
Doom turns into a metal man with energy powers. He’s the enemy now because the accident bankrupted his company, so he’s pretty pissed.
As for Susan, as I’ve explained before, movies never know what to do with her power of invisibility. Here, despite trying to make her a serious scientist, the producers clearly just looked at Jessica Alba and decided her role was going to be “hot, naked lady.”
You see, only Susan’s organic body can turn invisible. Her civilian clothes don’t! So, what does Sue have to do when her invisibility powers are needed? Take off her clothes, of course! And inconveniently, Sue’s powers fade at the wrong time, so everyone sees her in her underwear! What a hilarious mishap! Seriously, this happens no less than three times because apparently we need to give our teenage boy demographic masturbation material.
The biggest problem with this movie is the fact that the Fantastic Four don’t actually do anything heroic.
There are two big scenes where the Fantastic Four supposedly “save” the city. The first is when the Thing causes a massive traffic accident on the Brooklyn Bridge while stopping a suicide attempt. The rest of the Fantastic Four use their powers to dig everyone out of the accident.
The second scene is the final showdown with Dr. Doom. Yes, the fight with Doom caused extensive destruction throughout the city, but here’s the thing: All Doom wanted to do was kill the Fantastic Four. That’s it. In the 1994 movie, Doom was threatening to blow-up New York. Here, he has no interest in killing innocents, he just wants to get revenge on the people who he thinks wronged him.
When you look at these two scenes, you realize that the Fantastic Four may have “saved the city,” but it was only because they technically caused the peril in the first place. For the whole movie, the four are really only focused on themselves and less on actual crime-fighting
1994’s Fantastic Four might have been cheap and kind of stupid, but at least it was enjoyably dumb. That is a movie where you can get a good laugh, however unintentional. In the 2005 movie, for all the effort that was supposedly put into it, it really left the Fantastic Four looking, well, flaccid.