Superhero Month Review: "Fantastic Four"

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Reed Richards, Sue Storm, Johnny Storm, and Ben Grimm are astronoauts who gain super powers from cosmic radiation. They then team up to become The Fantastic Four. They must use their powers to stop the evil Dr. Doom.
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Superhero Month Review: "Fantastic Four"

"Fantastic Four" is an American superhero film based on the Marvel Comics series of the same name. It was produced and released by 20th Century Fox in cooperation with 1492 Pictures, Constantin Film, and Marvel Enterprises. "Fantastic Four" was a major commercial success, and a sequel to the film was released in 2007.

Dr. Reed Richards (Ioan Gruffudd) is a physicist who believes that evolution is driven by cosmic radiation. He determines that a cloud that emits radiation will be passing near Earth soon and persuades Dr. Victor von Doom (Julian McMahon) to conduct scientific tests aboard von Doom's space station. Richards and his friend, Ben Grimm (Michael Chiklis), go aboard the space station along with von Doom, Richards' ex-girlfriend, Sue Storm (Jessica Alba), and her younger brother, Johnny Storm (Chris Evans).

The cosmic cloud arrives before Richards expects it to, and the group is caught off-guard. Grimm is outside the space station when the cloud releases its radiation against the exposed Grimm. The other members of the group are protected by the space station and receive lower doses of radiation. They return to Earth and begin to develop superpowers. Richards is able to stretch his body. Grimm's body becomes covered in a rocklike armor, and he develops superhuman strength, while Johnny Storm is able to produce flames at will. Sue Storm can create force fields and become invisible, while von Doom's body turns into metal and is able to produce electricity.

Grimm climbs atop the Brooklyn Bridge to brood after his fiancée breaks up with him due to his change in appearance. He tries to stop a man from jumping off the bridge and unintentionally creates a traffic jam. The other members of the Fantastic Four join Grimm and use their superpowers to minimize the damage caused by the traffic jam. They all move into the Baxter Building, where Richards plans to find a cure for their condition. Von Doom agrees to help Richards, although he still blames Richards for the accident.

Von Doom's powers continue to grow, and he becomes progressively more megalomaniacal. The Fantastic Four eventually confront him in a showdown during which von Doom is frozen in place. The film ends with a ship transporting his body back to his native Latveria, although his ultimate fate remains unknown.

The first half of the film is dedicated to explaining who the characters are and how they got their powers, while the second half deals with the build-up to the climatic battle between the Fantastic Four and Dr. Doom. The storyline of this film is as much about the tense family dynamic between the characters as it is about saving the Earth from all-powerful villains. This feature serves to distinguish "Fantastic Four" from other superhero films released in 2005, such as "Batman Begins" and "Elektra." The animated superhero film "The Incredibles" also shows the complex relationship that develops between superheroes when they are members of the same family. Adult audience members will most likely derive the greatest enjoyment from this film by seeing it with teen children.

"Fantastic Four" represents a departure from previous superhero films in several important respects. The characters have basic flaws in their personalities that cause them to make mistakes both as superheroes and as normal people. "The Fantastic Four" was also unique among superhero films at the time because the characters don't have secret identities. Everyone in New York knows who the Fantastic Four are and often hound them for autographs. Johnny Storm revels in the attention, while the other members of the group attempt to shun their unwanted celebrity. Sue Storm tries particularly hard to avoid fame, even to the point of shedding her clothes and turning invisible to escape autograph seekers. This contrasts with other superheroes, who are often ignored or even despised by the general public.

The "Fantastic Four" is generally successful in translating the spirit of the franchise's 1960's comic-book origins to the attitudes of 2005. The use of radiation as the source of a superhero's powers is standard fare for Marvel Comics, but the updated personalities keep the film's premise fresh. For example, Johnny Storm is a daredevil extrovert portrayed with an over-the-top performance by Evans. McMahon plays von Doom as a suave billionaire with an ego as large as the fifty-foot statue that he builds of himself. Richards is a scientific genius who is unable to realize Sue Storm's feelings for him. Sue continues to pursue Richards despite his apparent lack of interest while also trying to keep Johnny and Grimm from fighting each other and destroying New York in the process.

Rating: PG-13

Length: 106 minutes

Release Date: July 8, 2005

Directed by: Tim Story

Genre: Science Fiction/Fantasy

Rating: 3 out of 5