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For more movie summaries, see Kam's Kapsules.

(Photo by Andrew Cooper)

photo caption:
MUST'VE BEEN SOMETHING I ATE: Johnny Storm, aka the Human Torch (Chris Evans), tries to figure out what happened to turn him into a human fireball after he was caught in a radiation storm while in outer space.end caption.

Fantastic Four: Flawed Comic Book Adaptation Not Very "Fantastic"

Movie Review by Kam Williams

In recent years, Marvel Comics has met with mixed success in bringing its comic book superheroes to the big screen. These adaptations share a plotline in which considerable time is devoted to the "before" background of each character and the twist of fate which endowed them with some superhuman trait.

This formula worked for Spider-Man and the X-Men, however, it failed for The Hulk and Daredevil. Fantastic Four is another miss for Marvel, because the film fails to deliver the action sequences expected of this genre. Instead, director Tim Story has opted to focus more on incestuous relationship issues as he did in his hit comedy Barbershop.

The movie stars Ioan Gruffudd as the rubber-limbed Dr. Reed Richards, aka Mr. Fantastic, Jessica Alba as Sue Storm, aka The Invisible Woman, Chris Evans as her brother, Johhny Storm, aka The Human Torch, and Michael Chiklis as he-man Ben Grimm, aka The Thing. If these protagonists sound familiar, it is because this picture follows closely on the heels of The Incredibles, which won this year's Oscar for Best Animated Feature Film.

That cartoon revolved around a fearless family of five crime-fighters, four of whose powers were shamelessly lifted from the Fantastic Four. Led by the inordinately strong Mr. Incredible, they also included Violet who turned invisible, Elastigirl who stretched herself, and Jack-Jack who set himself on fire. However, the Fantastic Four came first, having been created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in 1961.

As the movie opens, we find Reed and Ben asking billionaire financier/diabolical villain Dr. Victor Von Doom to underwrite their space flight to study the effect of cosmic rays on plant life. He agrees on the condition that he be allowed to keep the profits from any scientific discoveries. Plus, they must make room on the rocket ship for Dr. Doom's proteges, Sue and Johnny Storm.

Something goes horribly wrong while the astronauts are in outer space and they return to Earth with the above mentioned abilities. Ben is the worst off, because he has been permanently transformed into a bright orange, monster. Though he is dumped by his fiancée, he soon finds a sympathetic shoulder to lean on in Alicia (Kerry Washington), a beautiful blind girl he meets in a bar.

Meanwhile, the other three mutants adjust to their new alter egos in various subplots. A love triangle has Sue dividing her attention between Drs. Doom and Richards, and her brother Johnny flirts with virtually every woman he sees.

Almost as crude are the crass cross-promotions for the extensive Fantastic Four product line, such as the pause taken to allow a character to hold up an action figure of himself. The showdown with Dr. Doom comes as an afterthought not worth the wait, some spectacular stunt work atop a New York bridge notwithstanding.

Don't wait for a sequel, because one scene doth not a series make.

Fair (1 star). Rating: PG-13 for intense action sequences and suggestive content. Running time: 111 minutes. Studio: 20th Century Fox.

end of review.

For more movie summaries, see Kam's Kapsules.


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