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Fantastic Four (***)
Directed by Tim Story
Written by Michael France and Mark Frost, based on The World's Greatest Comic Magazine, by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby
Principal Cast
Ioan Gruffudd -- Reed Richards
Jessica Alba -- Sue Storm
Chris Evans -- Johnny Storm
Michael Chiklis -- Ben Grimm
Julian McMahon -- Victor Von Doom
Hamish Linklater -- Leonard
Kerry Washington -- Alicia Masters
Laurie Holden -- Debbie McIlvane
David Parker -- Ernie
Kevin McNulty -- Jimmy O'Hoolihan
Maria Menounos -- Sexy Nurse
Michael Kopsa -- Ned Cecil
Ratings are based on Rick's four star system.
One star - the commercials are more entertaining than the viewing.
Two stars - watch if you have nothing better to do.
Three stars - good solid entertainment.
Four stars - you never dreamed viewing could be this good.
Past Feature Reviews
A review by Rick Norwood

Fantastic Four The Fantastic Four movie is really not that bad. The super-powers are spectacular, especially The Human Torch, who looks great! I hated the look of The Thing when I saw it in the previews, but in the film, you quickly get used to him, and the details -- when he gets out of a vehicle, the springs groan with release -- give, ah, weight to his character. Invisible Girl is, of course, a relatively easy power to show, or to not show as the case may be, and she does take off all of her clothing -- when she's invisible, of course. Even Mr. Fantastic, though the special effects are not good enough to allow the kind of stretching Jack Kirby could draw, has a few good stunts, especially his fight with The Thing.

The Fantastic Four were the first squabbling super-heroes of the Silver Age, and you have to have been there to realize what an innovation that was, after the namby-pamby friendships of the D.C. super-heroes, who always got along and never ever argued. The conflict between the characters is a high point of the film.

The big problem in the movie is too much exposition. There are only two big special effects sequences, and much, much too long a wait between them. I suspect that the budget could only afford about thirty minutes of big special effects, and so there is a lot of yawn inducing filler in the middle. Hang in there, true believer. The action picks up for the climax.

There are a few false steps. The timing is occasionally a little off. The dialogue sometimes falls flat. But the movie is not nearly as bad as you've heard.

The Fantastic Four comic book was the best comic book of the Silver Age, and one of the least likely to translate well into any other medium, thanks to the inimitable art of Jack Kirby and Stan Lee's over-the-top scripts. For more than a hundred issues, the book introduced such memorable characters as Dr. Doom, The Silver Surfer, Galactus, Black Bolt, and Willie Lumpkin. Excelsior! Most of these great comic books are reprinted in Marvel Masterworks hardbacks, and the first hardback has been reprinted in a paperback, sold only at Barnes and Noble.

The credit cookie is at the beginning of the credits, rather than at the end, which to me indicates a lack of confidence on the part of the film makers. Were they afraid nobody would stick around?

Copyright © 2005 Rick Norwood

Rick Norwood is a mathematician and writer whose small press publishing house, Manuscript Press, has published books by Hal Clement, R.A. Lafferty, and Hal Foster. He is also the editor of Comics Revue Monthly, which publishes such classic comic strips as Flash Gordon, Sky Masters, Modesty Blaise, Tarzan, Odd Bodkins, Casey Ruggles, The Phantom, Gasoline Alley, Krazy Kat, Alley Oop, Little Orphan Annie, Barnaby, Buz Sawyer, and Steve Canyon.

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