If a film critic was so inclined, comparing "Batman Begins" to "Fantastic Four" would be like comparing Dostoevsky to Lemony Snicket, which is certainly not to say that either film merits literary-based comparisons, but that the former has at least some adult constituency while the latter is aimed strictly at the bed-wetter crowd.
Unfortunately, even pre-teens might not have their mental abilities taxed during this particular comic book adaptation. The movie is about as deep as a silverware tray and the cast was culled during the coffee break over at the FX network. Michael Chiklis, who plays The Thing, is Detective Vic Mackey on "The Shield". Julian McMahon, who plays Doctor Doom, is Dr. Christian Troy on "Nip/Tuck". To say the two of them seem out of place as comic book characters is like saying Joan Rivers is out of place at rally protesting plastic surgery.
If nothing else, "Fantastic Four" represents a pathetic, super-hero reflection of our current cultural malaise. Superpowers are less a marvel for the audience to behold than they are an excuse for the characters to whine (in the case of The Thing), explore guilt (Mr. Fantastic), discover true feelings (Invisible Woman), or become obnoxious media hogs (The Human Torch).
Radiation turns the characters into physical freaks, kind of like Lance Armstrong. In their case, it follows a space station accident. Reed Richards (Ioan Gruffudd) gets stretchy as Mr. Fantastic. Ben Grimm becomes rock hard and super strong as The Thing. Johnny Storm (Chris Evans) can control fire as The Human Torch. Susan Storm (Jessica Alba) can become invisible and also create force fields as The Invisible Woman. Finally, Victor Von Doom becomes Doctor Doom, who has a metal skeleton and can control electricity. Personally, I would have renamed the heroes to more accurately reflect their onscreen personalities. Mr. Fantastic is Mr. Boring. The Thing would be The Self-Pitier. The Invisible Woman is Ms. Dinner Theater. The Human Torch would be The Human Annoyance.
"Fantastic Four" is the decaffeinated coffee, skim milk, and diet Cola of its genre. Everything that could give the movie any flavor at all has been skillfully and purposefully excised. Obviously, the four get together to eliminate Dr. Doom, but "Fantastic Four" so misses the mark that it forgets to let most of the people in its own universe know that Dr. Doom is evil. Sure, he zaps a couple of guys with blasts of electricity, but mostly he wanders about creating power outages. Here's the problem: nobody knows Dr.Doom is the cause. Nobody sees him kill anybody. Nobody really knows he's the bad guy except the audience. When you don't instill complete fear in the local population, you lose your "Superhero Archnemesis" club card.
Sadly, more of the film's average citizens would be clamoring for the Fantastic Four to wipe out the local power company than Dr. Doom.
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