FANTASTIC FOUR in CINEMA Part 2: A Doomed DOOM
by Rick Lundeen
In 2005, Fox tried to launch an FF series of movies to go along with their popular X-men franchise. It made total sense, as when you think of the Crown Jewels of Marvel franchise properties, Spider-man was already 2 films in over at SONY and Fox had a few films already out featuring the extremely popular children of the atom. The Fantastic Four would be the next in line for a popular film franchise. Remember, this was 2005. The world at large *kinda* knew the Hulk and Cap but had no clue who Iron Man, Thor, Hawkeye, Nick Fury or Black Widow were. That would change in 2008 with the first Iron man film, but that was yet to come.
I think the biggest thing this FF film had going for it was a young Kevin Fiege, who was a part of the production team. But he wasn’t the boss. That would only come in his next job. But I can’t help but feel he was responsible for everything this film and its sequel got right. Michael Chiklis was a pretty good choice to play Ben Grimm, I suppose we could do worse than Jessica Alba as Sue, Ioan Gruffud would have played Reed a lot better if the writing didn’t make him so wimpy and Chris Evans…well, suffice to say, best representation of the Human Torch ever.
All that being said, creating an FF film can be tricky. The four protagonists have a very different dynamic than any other team, being more of a close knit family of explorers, than they are superheroes who fight crime. When making a film like this, you need some subtle humor and heart, some pulse pounding action, some intense drama and a whole lot of EPIC. Director Tim Story was able to provide the first three elements to varying degrees but totally failed to deliver on the fourth. This disappointment mostly came from the villain’s side of things. In fact, I think we can lay the lions share of the blame on what went wrong with this picture (and the next) on how the producers and director approached Victor Von Doom and the particular threat level he posed.
Julian MacMahon was hired to play Doom. I suspect that this being Fox, there was some pressure to hire within the Fox and FX family of actors. That might explain Chiklis as well, coming from The Shield, but it’s really the only excuse I can think of for them hiring this no talent hack MacMahon to play Victor. This guy couldn’t even manage a slight European accent. He had not one tenth of the gravitas needed for the role, nor the skill. The producers also gave him powers by having him suffer the same exposure to cosmic rays as the FF. Okay, I get the economical storytelling advantage of introducing everyone at once but everything about this set up was distasteful. Doom usually wouldn’t have powers, instead, he relied on his intellect to construct his amazing armor and weaponry. Here, he’s just a nut with zapping powers. Also, Von Doom and Sue were an item? Reed is indecisive and subservient to Victor because his company took off and he needs the money….eh.
A couple too many things are played for laughs but again, this is a bit of a tightrope. Now, the final confrontation and battle with Doom is pretty good! Reed finally completes his “journey” and decisively calls the shots that take down Doom.
Almost forgot, the extremely beautiful Kerry Washington plays blind sculptress Alicia Masters and she and Chiklis’ Ben make a decent couple. But Chris Evans does steal the show, not only as the Human Torch but as the irrepressible Johnny Storm.
The SFX are good, although this film is often chided for feeling more like a TV movie and I get it, because JUST NOT ENOUGH EPIC. Not every film can be Endgame but you’ve got to dial up the epic when dealing with the Fantastic Four. Bottom line on this entry, 2005’s Fantastic Four: 7/10