2005-07-22 / Columnists


By Robert Snyder

Does the world need another superhero movie? Although we’ve been inundated with “X –Men,” “Spider-Man” and “Batman,” here comes Hollywood with the next comic book spin-off to pull money from the pockets of 14-year-old boys: “Fantastic Four.”

My son, Robby, responded with a shrug, “It’s okay.” In other words, he’s been over-saturated with superheroes and has entered the jaded realm.

Tim Story is a seemingly strange choice to handle the director’s chores. The helmsman behind the hip-hop hit comedy, “Barbershop,” he was brought in to add some spice to the interaction between the four principles. They become the ultimate dysfunctional family after getting doused with radiation while on a secret space mission. Dr. Reed Richards (Ioan Gruffudd) turns into Mr. Fantastic with a rubberized, stretchable body. His sometime girlfriend, Sue Storm (Jessica Alba), is now Invisible Woman, able to project force fields and disappear when she’s without clothing. Astronaut Ben Grimm (Michael Chilkis) transforms into a rock-hard version of The Hulk called, “The Thing” (isn’t there a copyright problem here?). Sue’s brother, Johnny Storm (Chris Evans), lights up literally as The Human Torch, with the capacity to burn at supernova temperatures.

Then, there’s the bad guy, Reed’s old college rival, billionaire industrialist Victor Von Doom (Julian McMahon). As Dr. Doom, he takes on the talent of generating electricity by feeding off the city’s power supply and supplies the only trace of a plot.

Most of the film is spent showing the characters coming into their own as superheroes. The most interesting is The Thing, who isn’t too happy about being too grotesque to fit into a Fantastic Four t-shirt. The best scene has Thing saving a guy from suicide, colliding into and crushing a huge multi-axle truck then, with the help of his buddies, stopping a fire truck from falling from a bridge. It’s good, but still standard superhero stuff.

“Four” is basically a special effects festival, separated by a few cute quips and some mildly amusing banter between the characters (the reason that The “Barbershop” director was hired).

However, in the world of superhero movies, last year’s Oscar-winner, “The Incredibles,” heads the list because it has a clever story line. In fact, “Fantastic Four” never gets around to developing much of one. You’d think that with 44 years of Marvel Comics to draw on, screenwriters Mark Frost and Michael France could have pulled out something other than the quick rise and fall of Dr. Doom.

Maybe, they’re waiting for the sequel. Don’t you.

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