tek's rating: ½

Fantastic 4 (PG-13)
IMDb; Rotten Tomatoes; Templeton Gate; TV Tropes; Wikipedia
streaming sites: Amazon; Disney+; Google Play; iTunes; Movies Anywhere; Vudu; YouTube

Caution: potential spoilers.

Well, I've never been terribly familiar with this particular superhero team, though I knew enough that nothing in the movie was particularly new to me. I mean, I basically knew the characters already. I should mention the film came out in 2005, but I didn't see it til 2011, on DVD. Anyway, the basic story is that there's this scientist named Reed Richards (Ioan Gruffudd), who has this theory about a cloud of cosmic energy in space having caused all life on Earth to evolve long ago when it passed by, and now there's another such cloud that's going to appear in space. So he wants to study it, but apparently NASA turned him down, so he goes to his old colleague, Victor Von Doom (Julian McMahon), who is now rich and runs his own company, even if he's not quite as brilliant as Reed, who is a financial failure. Vic agrees to let Reed and his friend/pilot Ben Grimm (Michael Chiklis) come up to his space station to do research, in exchange for 75% of any profits that research will lead to. Also coming along is Sue Storm (Jessica Alba), Reed's former girlfriend, who now works for Victor (and whom Victor is romantically interested in, though she doesn't feel the same way). And then there's Sue's brother, Johnny, who was Ben's subordinate at NASA, but whom Vic puts in charge of flying this mission.

Anyway, they're all up in space, and the cosmic cloud shows up much sooner than Reed had calculated, for no apparent reason. So everyone gets exposed to cosmic radiation. Then the scene switches back to Earth, sometime later. Everyone from the mission is in quarantine, though it's clearly not very well enforced. They all seem fine at first, but after awhile, each of them begins to change, their DNA having been altered. Reed gets the ability to stretch his body like rubber, Sue can turn invisible (and would later find she could also create force fields), Johnny can generate fire all over his body (and will eventually learn to fly, while engulfed in flame), and Ben... well, he just turns into stone, basically. He's more massive now, and stronger. His story is the most tragic of the four, because he's the only one who can't turn his power off. So he now looks like a monster, and his wife leaves him, and basically it's hard for him to do anything with his fingers, which are too thick now. Of course, Victor will also change, but it takes longer before we see how. Meanwhile, since the space mission was a failure, his company's board of directors or whatever wants to get rid of him.

Predictably, when the public sees Ben, they're scared at first. But he ends up saving some lives, with help from the other three, and the media begins calling them the "Fantastic Four." Reed wants to find a way to change all of them back to normal, especially Ben. But Johnny revels in his newfound powers and fame. He calls himself the Human Torch, and he calls his sister Sue the Invisible Girl, and Ben the Thing. Though I guess it was the media that made up the name Mr. Fantastic for Reed. Eventually, Victor's flesh starts turning to metal, and he discovers he has electrical powers as well. So, he comes up with a plan to get rid of the Fantastic Four, apparently so they won't be able to stop him from whatever else he's planning. Like taking his company back or just generally being a supervillain, I dunno. It wasn't really clear to me what his endgame was. But anyway, he starts just calling himself Doom. (Comics fans know him as Doctor Doom; at one point Doom mentions being a doctor, though the two words are never quite put together in the movie.)

Anyway, Doom has some success in his fight against the Fantastic Four, but ultimately they beat him, of course. Yay, teamwork. And finally Reed and Sue rekindle their romance. And um, I'm leaving out some stuff, I guess. There wasn't as much in the way of superheroing as I might have liked, but it's an origins story, so whatever. It wasn't bad. I liked the effects well enough. Not sure about most of the casting; I didn't have a problem with any of it, but the only one who really struck me as particularly well-cast was Michael Chiklis as Ben Grimm. I did feel like Sue wasn't developed well enough; the role was little more than a love interest for Reed, a referee for Ben and Johnny, and eye candy for the audience. But anyway... I basically liked the movie. It did alright financially, but it wasn't well-received by most critics, which I think is unfair. It was far from being a great superhero movie, but I definitely thought it was decent. And I look forward to eventually seeing the sequel, Rise of the Silver Surfer. And I can't think what else to say, except that there were some parts I found reasonably amusing. And predictably enough, there's a cameo by Stan Lee at one point....

comic book movies