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Fantastic Four (PG)



Review by: Jack Foley | Rating: Two

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES (2-DISC): Disc One Commentaries - Cast feature audio commentary by Ioan Grufford, Jessica Alba, Chris Evan, Michael Chiklis and Julian McMahon. The Fantastic Tour: Making Jessica Alba Visible. Inside Look: X-Men 3. Music Video: Everything Burns. Music Video: Come On, Come On. Music soundtrack spot.
Disc Two Heroes are born: Making of Fantastic Four. The Baxter Building: Declassified. Animatic comparison. Deleted scenes. Making of Fantastic Four. Fantastic Four: Making a scene. Fantastic Four: Casting session. Theatrical teaser. Theatrical trailer. TV spots.

THEY may be dubbed 'the Fantastic Four' but their exploits don't quite fall into that same category given that they seem to spend most of their time bickering!

Yet Bickering Four might not create as big a Storm at the box office given the hype surrounding this latest superhero franchise which has already done fantastic business in the US.

The film itself, however, is not quite up to the high standards set by Marvel's Spider-Man or DC Comics' Batman Begins, but is a camp, comic and utterly lightweight series opener that plays more for the kids.

The plot, as such, concentrates on how the four became fantastic and then how they deal with their newfound status.

It begins as over-earnest astronaut and scientist, Reed Richards (Ioan Gruffudd), approaches former friend and fellow scientist, Victor Von Doom (Nip/Tuck's Julian McMahon), for the funding needed to enter space to examine a cosmic storm that might hold the key to unlocking human DNA.

Viewing the scheme as a way to make more money, Von Doom agrees to fund it and enlists the help of Reed's old girlfriend, Sue Storm (Jessica Alba), her reckless brother, Johnny Storm (Chris Evans) and astronaut Ben Grimm (Michael Chiklis) to carry out the mission.

Yet things go terribly wrong and Richards, Von Doom and co become exposed to a severe dose of cosmic radiation, resulting in several changes to their genetic make-up.

For Richards, it's the ability to turn his body elastic; for Sue, it's the ability to become invisible and generate a force of her own; for Johnny, it's the ability to burst into flame, and for Ben, the worst afflicted, it's quite simply being turned into a Hulk-like monster who becomes dubbed The Thing.

But while the likes of Spider-Man and co embrace their powers and use them responsibly, this fantastic four seek to get rid of them as quickly as possible and lock themselves away in order to do so.

The odd excursion into the outside world generally results in a media frenzy and all manner of mishap, as when The Thing pops out for some air and a sulk and inadvertently creates mayhem on one of New York's bridges, forcing the remaining members to help in the subsequent rescue.

The publicity this brings, however, merely serves to grate upon Von Doom, who is now faced with ruin following the failure of the space mission.

He subsequently uses his powers - super-strength and the ability to conduct electricity - to try and kill the Four so that he can, well, we're not quite sure really.

Having taken three quarters of the film to create a viable enemy for the Foursome, the film doesn't seem to want to expand on the opportunity and gets rid of him in half the time.

Which brings us to the biggest problem with Fantastic Four - it's lack of anything substantial to enjoy.

Tim Story's direction is fine when delivering set pieces or lightweight bickering between his main characters but lacks anything to really make it stand out in the genre.

It's playful rather than meaningful and wasteful rather than worthy.

As pure popcorn entertainment, it delivers on the eye-candy and seldom fails to raise a smile but at a time when super-heroes get given the time to expand on their fractured psychology this seems rather lightweight indeed.

Enter with this in mind and you'll probably be reasonably entertained even if the end result is instantly forgettable.

Related stories: Fantastic Four feature

Fantastic Four - clips and footage

Michael Chiklis interview

Ioan Gruffudd interview

Jessica Alba interview

Chris Evans interview

Fantastic Four sets US box office alight

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