Fantastic Four

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 14 July, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 14 July, 2005, 12:00am

Starring: Ioan Gruffudd, Jessica Alba, Chris Evans, Michael Chiklis, Julian McMahon

Director: Tim Story

Category: IIA

Hollywood's factory line of comic-book films continues, its attention now turned to Marvel's band of superheroes, who go from ordinary Joes and Joans into beings with unique powers thanks to a nasty mix-up while on a space mission.

Director Tim Story (Barbershop) goes for a complete about-face from what we're used to in the wake of the dark and brooding Batman Begins. Whether it was his intention or not, Fantastic Four harks back to the B-grade sci-fi shockers of the 1950s. There's ropey acting, silly scenarios, some lame special effects and a feel-good ending that falls completely flat. But if you like your cheese laid on thick, you'll still have a pretty good time.

The four heroes - Reed Richards (Ioan Gruffudd), Sue Storm (Jessica Alba), Sue's brother Johnny (Chris Evans), and Ben Grimm (Michael Chiklis) - form a pact with the dastardly millionaire Victor Von Doom (Julian McMahon) that will send them into space for research.

But things go wrong and an unhealthy dose of gamma rays turns them into the elastic Mr Fantastic, Invisible Girl, the Human Torch and the Thing, respectively. Their powers become apparent after they return to Earth. So, too, do those of Doom, who uses his to cause mayhem in an attempt to win back the fortune the failed space trip has cost him.

Our heroes have their doubts - and their motivations become hazy. The Torch sees he can have fun with it all, while the Thing understandably wants to return to his human form and, initially, wants none of this crime-fighting caper.

The only one who seems to be on a winner is Invisible Girl, who is quickly able to dump the millionaire once his cash dries up and take up with Mr Fantastic - a man who, ahem, is able to make any part of his body as large as he wants. You go, Girl.

Anyway, there's lots of the Four rolling around with Doom and discovering just what it is they can now do - and at times you can almost see the actors looking through the smoky haze towards the inevitable sequel. They seem to want to get this one over as quickly as possible, and the film seems to pass by in an instant.

That there are four superheroes means there's little time given to establishing just who it is we are dealing with - and in the end that means you never really attach yourself to anyone, as you would, say, after finding out all about Peter Parker's history in Spider-Man.

So, whether or not you'll want to catch up with them next time around is debatable.

Still, it's all a bit of second-rate fun.

Fantastic Four opens today