Friday, July 08, 2005

Fantastic Four (2005)

By Reymundo Salao

In an outer space mission aboard a space station, scientist Reed Richards & his crew were engulfed by a storm of cosmic radiation. Its effects gave Reed Richards superhuman powers of stretchability, making him anatomically elastic. His companions also were affected by the radiation: Johnny Storm attained the ability to generate self combustion, making him a “Human Torch”, his sister Susan Storm attained the ability to become invisible, and Ben Grimm has mutated into the rocklike being called “The Thing”. With a stroke of fate, they have become heroes that use their powers to aid and rescue humankind, and together, they came to be known as “The Fantastic Four”.

FANTASTIC FOUR is based on Marvel's longest running comic book series, which has well-earned its moniker as "The Greatest Comic in the World." The "fantastic" phenomenon began 44 years ago, when Marvel Comics' publisher Martin Goodman, after playing a round of golf with an industry competitor, decided to move forward with an intriguing idea. Goodman shared it with the legendary comics writer Stan Lee.

"Martin said to me 'Why don't you create a team of superheroes?'" recalls Lee. "So, with Jack Kirby, we created the Fantastic Four and over four decades later it remains the jewel in the Marvel crown."

Lee wanted his superheroes to be real people without secret identities. "I wanted to create them as if they were real people living amongst us in the real world who just happened to have super powers," he says. "They are the first family of superheroes, four people who live and work together like a family. We hadn't seen a relationship like that in the comics prior to Fantastic Four and it made them very unique and very popular among the fans.

It has a more wholesome, family-friendly appeal. The original comicbook version is one of the lighter series, in terms of mood, in the Marvel Universe. Unlike Daredevil, Spiderman, The Incredible Hulk, & The Punisher which involves heavier subplots of death, loss, and tragedy, Fantastic 4 is the more livelier bunch.

With the revitalizing of the superhero formula, we thought we could expect what has become cliché in the genre, which is, heroes fighting lethal but theatrical looking bad guys. Superhero movies which focused more on the action genre. This is not necessarily much to the point of Fantastic Four.

One highlight which emphasizes its uniqueness apart from other superhero movies is the focus on the group's powers by showing them in an incredible rescue scene, reminiscent of the Reeve-era Superman movies where Superman's feats are not necessarily portrayed thru throwing punches at bad guys, but by helping people in times of calamities and man-made accidents. This proves the film’s kid-friendly aspect without disrupting the original essence of the comics. Fantastic Four works more on the fun comedic side of the superheroes, since it is one of the more lighter comic book titles anyway. The "family" & "teamwork" chemistry of the 4 main superhero characters is charming to watch & does make sense that in the end, when they’ve all patched up their differences and internal quarrels, that they should indeed be together as this great superhero team.

While the gem of the film is Jessica Alba, who’s spicy hot as “Invisible Girl” and a real sight-for-sore-eyes, the superstar of the movie is Michael Chiklis who played Ben Grimm, The Thing. It’s incredible to see the make-up effects made for this rock-rugged actor (who plays lead in the tough cop series “The Shield”) who still can carry his role as the mildly tormented, but nevertheless charming stone-hard hero. Ioan Gruffudd makes for a good geeky Reed Richards, Chris Evans as a cocky Johnny Storm, and Julian McMahon as the twisted Dr. Doom. Even the Marvel icon and godfather Stan Lee (who makes cameos on almost all of the Marvel comics adaptations) has a bigger role as the kindly old mailman Willy Lumpkin. The film was directed by Tim Story, who also directed comedies such as the American remake of “Taxi” and “Barbershop”

FANTASTIC FOUR should not be compared to the recent comicbook adaptations like Batman Begins & the X-Men saga, for its original concept was not meant to be dark and very serious like all these other series are. There are no deep philosophical or subpolitical plots that delve into the world of the Fantastic 4. It was meant to be very simple, (even, as its writer pointed out, ‘bubbly’) as it goes back to the feel of the original series. There is no murder factor in Fantastic Four. It’s campy but still faithful to the original. And what the audience should expect is more of fantastic superpower fun, as the story is filled with humor that livens up the movie all throughout. But those who crave for action may well be satisfied during the heroes’ battle with Dr. Doom, which was filled with amazing special effects and eyeball rolling stunts. The entire film is enjoyable, entertaining, & fun. Something that is for the whole family.

Screening Sked on Robinson’s Movieworld is 12:15 PM, 2:30, 4:45, 7, and 9:15 PM

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