Fantastic Four

Fantastic Four ★½

I never cared about the Fantastic Four as a kid but have really come around on Marvel's First Family in recent years from getting an appreciation of their potential from runs by Mark Waid, Jonathan Hickman and, of course, the founding Lee/Kirby pairing. So I decided to put this on for the first time since I saw it in theaters and fair is far: one look at this and you almost have to respect how the MCU managed to wring a cultural phenomenon out of comic-book movies when shit like this was clogging screens not even five years previously. This is such a disaster on every level, starting with its absurd grasp of basically anything essential to the FF. For one, it is drearily earthbound for the property that launched Marvel into the cosmos for grandiose spacefaring adventures. For another, with the exception of the Ben-Johnny dynamic (really the only thing this movie nails absolutely on the head), the character relationships are all wrong and compromise the tensions that have naturally existed within the group since 1961.

Most crucially, Doctor Doom is an absolute disaster of conception; it's not fair to blame Julian McMahon's slimy performance of THE definitive comic-book villain because the script so completely flubs the character's nature. More or less, Victor is given Norman Osborn's arc from Spider-Man as the corporate giant who is driven to mania by being overruled by his company's board. That makes 100% sense for Norman's character as the extreme of a hellish CEO. It is fucking ludicrous for Doctor Doom, a literal monarch. Doctor Doom is a genius and a sorcerer. Satan himself not only considers Doom his mortal foe but is actively terrified of him. A decade after this movie, Doom becomes an actual god of the universe, a job he is so good at that Dr. Strange unquestionably serves as his second-in-command. Doom is the kind of villain that peope think comic-book villains are all like but which no one else remotely approaches for sheer grandiose ego. Doom doesn't speak, he proclaims. Making him into little more than Reed's smarmy rival derails everything and sinks this movie like a stone.

Just about everything else is just as bad. Special effects really weren't were they needed to be for Mr. Fantastic's stretching limbs to look like anything more concrete than silly putty. The attempt to cram broad strokes of the comics into a single film means you're sprinting through greatest hits character drama without actually developing the characters. The action has a goofy tone that is a bit endearing but contains all the ominous warning signs of how Marvel would rely on bad jokes to never, ever give the impression of seriousness. And above all this is one of the most mid-2000s films ever made, the whole thing shot through the vibe of having been financed and creatively overseen by Spencer's. Chiklis and especially Evans are well-cast and give the impression of caring about these characters. The rest is a colossal mess.