Written by David Holland
Ah the early 2000s! What an optimistic time for comic book movie fans. The “X-Men” franchise had a solid start and then followed up with a home run sequel a few years later. Sam Raimi’s “Spider-Man” delighted audiences by bringing the web-slinger to the big screen. And in June of 2005, Christopher Nolan’s “Batman Begins” brought a darker, more realistic edge to the Caped Crusader, rekindling the hopes of comic book fans who wanted nothing more than for their favorite characters to be taken seriously! And also to never have to talk about the “Batman and Robin” batsuit again.
A month after “Batman Begins” released, a new entry tested the still mostly uncharted waters of live action comic book movies. This was not a reboot of a well-established franchise like Batman or Superman, nor was it one of the most well-known Marvel properties such as Spider-Man or X-Men. Instead, it was a group of characters that was relatively unknown outside loyal comic book readers and people who grew up watching the cartoon on Saturday mornings. Of course, the first word of the group’s name really raised expectations, probably beyond what was reasonable.
This movie is a campy and certainly has fun moments. The effects aren’t bad for early 2000s, and the actors all seem to be enjoying themselves. Michael Chiklis absolutely chews the scenery as The Thing and Chris Evans gets to flex his comedy muscles in a way that he won’t quite get to again as Steve Rogers.
If you don’t ask too many questions about the plot and just let yourself be swept away in the silliness, “The Fantastic Four” can be flashy and enjoyable.
What was the point of this movie? I’m not saying that every comic book movie has to be a morality tale or teach us a lesson, but after watching it, I was left wondering why the movie was made. Kevin Feige, MCU Overlord, has repeatedly stressed how important it is to him that writers and directors working on MCU movies have a passion for the characters they are writing and for the story they are telling. “Fantastic Four” feels like studio execs saw the success of “X-Men” and “Spider-Man” and asked themselves what other intellectual property they could gobble up and churn out a movie about so that they could ride the comic book wave.
I kept waiting to understand Victor von Doom’s evil plan. Doctor Doom is one of the most recognizable and significant villains in the Marvel universe. He is a political genius, scientist, sorcerer, and schemer and in this movie he comes across as sort of… Bland Evil Rich Guy? I expected we would learn that Doom was responsible for the miscalculation that caused the Space Particles to strike the station as part of his evil ploy, but from what I can tell, it turns out that Reed Richards – one of the smartest people in all of Marvel comics – just miscalculated the velocity of an object moving through space. Everything that happens after that was the fault of the Fantastic Four. If they hadn’t been exposed to Space Particles, the bridge scene would have been avoided and Doom would not have turned all murdery. They only succeeded in solving problems they caused.
This film is flashy, fun, and campy, but if that’s all you want, there are much better options for you in the giant buffet of comic book movies.