I can safely say that Tim Story's Fantastic Four movies are two of my greatest disappointments as a comics fan. I've only ever seen the first film once but I own the second on DVD and will occasionally watch it just to torment and frustrate myself. They're not just bad films, they're bad films with flickers of unrealised potential. This makes them worse than bad, because you know that they could conceivably have been half decent films if certain avenues had been explored in more depth. The biggest thing lacking from these two films is imagination and for a film based on work produced by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby at their creative peak, that's just an unforgivable sin.
The first film is easily the worst of the pair. For a start they don't actually do any super-heroing! The FF's first major escapade involves stopping the Thing from having a tantrum on a bridge, their second escapade involves a battle against Doctor Doom. In both cases they're just cleaning up their own mess! As for Doctor Doom, he's just a joke. If Julian McMahon wanted plenty of face time on screen, then he shouldn't have gone for the part of the dude famous for wearing a metal mask AT ALL TIMES! But even a maskless Dr. Doom would have been forgiveable if the character's personality had even remotely resembled the arrogant, regal, short tempered, dignified, complex nutjob that we've grown to love in the comics. I don't know who this slimy guy with the weird eyebrows was but he was not Victor Von Doom.
Chris Evans and Michael Chiklis are spot on as the Torch and the Thing. Chiklis seems as if he's stepped right out of the comic page and Evans makes a cocky, annoying little git seem very likeable and funny through sheer natural charisma. The fact that they're so good makes the rest of the crappiness around them seem all the more frustrating. Ioan Gruffudd and Jessica Alba are worse than McMahon. McMahon gives an awful, hammy performance but at least he's trying. Gruffudd and Alba are just bland and dull.
The second film is a little better. The Silver Surfer is spot on and scenes like the Torch/Surfer chase or the London Eye rescue are genuinely exciting and fun to watch. Evans and Chiklis are even better in this film and the scene where they trade powers is hilarious. Gruffudd and Alba however, are still like two charisma vacuums. There's an awful bit where Mr Fantastic has a bit of dialogue that's been nicked straight from Warren Ellis' Ultimate Extinction. Coming from Ellis' Reed Richards It's a great little speech but Gruffudd makes it sound like the corniest thing you've ever heard.
|Ultimate Extinction #2, Reed Richard's speech, art by Brandon Peterson|
Oh, and Galactus is a cloud. 'Nuff said.
I could forgive all of these flaws if either film had shown just one speck of the imagination of Lee and Kirby's original work. In the original comics, if a story began in Reed Richards' lab then you wouldn't just see a couple of test tubes, you'd have something like this going on....
|Fantastic Four #56|
This would be nothing to do with the story, it was just another normal day for the FF.
If Doctor Doom was strolling through his lab you wouldn't get your bog standard array of death rays and evil machines, you'd get this....
|Fantastic Four #57|
This kind of awesomeness was the stuff going on in the background of Lee and Kirby's FF. In the main stories we had Galactus (a giant being from before the Big Bang who ate planets), the Black Panther (ruler of the scientifically advanced African nation of Wakanda, whose people hold the secret of Vibranium, the metal that absorbs kinetic energy), the Inhumans (genetically enhanced superhumans whose leader, Black Bolt can cause untold destruction with a whisper), not to mention the Watcher, Prester John, the Red Ghost and his Super Apes, the Kree, Blastaar etc etc. There was creativity overflowing from each issue. To make an uninspired, bland, run of the mill, bog standard Hollywood super-hero romp from all this genius is nothing short of a travesty!
So if a new Fantastic Four film is made I sincerely hope they put some serious thought into it. It should be like nothing we've ever seen on the big screen before. I'd be quite happy if Chiklis and Evans stayed, but Gruffudd, Alba and McMahon must go! In fact I think I know of one actor who would be an absolutely perfect Mr Fantastic.....
|Jon Hamm as Reed Richards|