Fine, I'll Use Paragraphs. Fantastic Paragraphs.
Finally, a comic book movie that not only knows it’s based on a comic book, but knows what kind of comic book it’s based on. I’m not asking for much in the recent glut of adaptations. I’m not even asking for good movies, which this clearly isn’t. I’m just begging that whoever makes these films takes the 25 minutes necessary to actually read the comics the movies are coming from. It’s fairly clear that Francis Lawrence hadn’t read a lot of Hellblazer before he made Constantine, judging from the fact that they changed the lead from a snarky Sting impersonator to a sulky aging pinup, and I’ll bet even money that Pitof didn’t even read the script for Catwoman, let alone the source material. It’s not that I require strict faithfulness when it comes to adaptations. Far from it. I actually prefer some deviation to justify the translation from one medium to another. I want to see a Sin City movie, not an animated flip book narrated by Mickey Spillane. However, if the film misses the point, like Constantine and Swamp Thing did, I get angry. Well, angrier. I sort of idle at angry, and first gear is bitter, plus when you pop my clutch I spit acid. Fantastic Four, however, does not miss the point, which is the comic is a shitty adventure book full of lame villains, bad dialogue, and more color than a Dario Argento light show. The movie hits that nail right on the brain-damaged head in that regard, sticking right by the simplistic dialogue and plot twists straight out of a first year screenwriting course at a non-accredited film school, replacing the leaden seriousness of Batman Begins with the kind of giddy, air-headed exuberance generally reserved for Sweet Valley High episodes and nitrous highs. The family dynamic portrayed in the comics is spot on, as is the fact that I feel just as ashamed admitting I saw this film as I am to have a subscription to the magazine.
My only sticking point is the character of Dr. Doom. If I were an internet fan boy, I would insert a long, poorly spelled rant here about how the origin of Victor Von Doom was altered, but instead I choose to retain both my dignity and my grasp of syntax and merely acknowledge the change, rather than judging it. This is an adaptation, after all, and it’s the filmmakers’ prerogative as to what to change to best suit the demands of a different medium. However, it must be said that his character is the most ignored in a buffet of underwritten characters. If your character has less depth than the one Jessica Alba plays, you’re in trouble, and not even Julian McMahon can dig his way out of this pit of cliché. You can make a good guy go bad, or a bad guy go even worse, but to have a bad guy just sort of stay bad is probably the most boring choice you could make, save using the phrase ‘hooker with a heart of gold’ seriously in a film pitch. McMahon plays Doom as a sociopathic prick from his first scene, as a supposed friend of the pre-super power Fantastic Four, to his last, when he finishes off the movie as a bad Glenna Goodacre sculpture. I know I don’t exactly have my fingers on the pulse of the nation, but I’m fairly sure that most people wouldn’t spend a lot of time in confined spaces with a megalomaniacal asshole named Doom, which, come to think of it, may explain why I don’t have a lot of friends. The effects in the film are for the most part good, though The Thing kind of looks like his superpower is emoting through a rubber suit, and Mr. Fantastic’s super-Gumby abilities don’t translate very well to live action, coming off more like warped film stock than stretchy limbs. Michael Chiklis does well in his role, as does Chris Evans as the Human Torch. Jessica Alba has large breasts, and thus fulfills her role of helping 17 year old males make it through that one last year before they can rent porn from Rogers. Not particularly challenged by the material, the actors at least manage to avoid looking embarrassed by the stupid script, delivering their lines with a sense of fun and only the barest whisper of shame that the film they’re in is dumber than livestock. And that description is as true to the comic book as you can get.