Do you ever get the feeling that people making superhero movies have never read a comic book? With the exception of Sam Raimi, it seems to me that all these directors and writers being hired to bring the men and women in tights to life on the big screen treat the job offer as a paycheck assignment and entry into a big budget world as opposed to the sacred trust it really is. When you are brought on board to make a film based on a spandex-clad icon, you have a responsibility to the fans, to the people who grew up with these characters. Director Tim Story, in his second go around with these characters, almost gets it right.
Slimming down this production to a mere 92 minutes, you’d think there would be no wasted time on screen. You’d be wrong. Story and Don Payne and Mark Frost, his writers, could still have tightened things up, or, better yet, added a bit more depth to the story of the super-powered team fighting off a threat from outer space. Maybe some of that time could have been used to build a deeper connection between the characters or possibly to explain Doctor Doom’s return from his destruction in the last film. Hey, maybe there’s a reason we get Doctor Doom back instead of a new terrestrial villain (the Fantastic Four did fight more than one earth-bound bad guy).
What we do get is a very nice re-imagining of Galactus, eaters of worlds (although, I will freely admit, I was waiting for the huge humanoid in the purple helmet) and an amazing take on the Silver Surfer himself. Ignore anything you might read to the contrary, if you grew up with the character, you couldn’t picture him coming to life on the big screen any other way.
The effects are top notch – no doubt about it. Ten years ago, the characters in this film wouldn’t have been possible and today they are perfectly plausible. We believe Johnny Storm can “flame on” and Sue Storm can vanish before our eyes. It’s a shame, then, that the effects overtake the performances of the actual flesh and blood actors. Ioan Gruffudd and Jessica Alba as Mr. Fantastic and The Invisible Girl, the first couple of fandom, are both as stiff as store mannequins. They walk through their roles as if they are afraid of letting any real emotion show through. Even during the big set piece wedding scene, Alba’s facial reactions look like something out of an old “I Love Lucy” episode and Gruffudd shows more love for his gadgets than for his fiancé, the “hottest woman on the planet” (his words, not mine).
When all is said and done, though, despite the silly dialogue and the poor acting, it could have been worse (it was, see the first Fantastic Four). So, instead of the dark justice of a Batman or the teenage angst of Spider-Man, we get the homogenized and bland of The Thing and company. It’s harmless fun, even if it is a bit vanilla.
(Originally published at FirstShowing.net)