A while back, I wrote an article titled Top Ten Good Things About The Star Wars Prequels in which I attempted to disprove the notion that the universally loathed Episodes I-III had absolutely no redeeming qualities. It was fairly well-received, so I began to think about other much-maligned movie franchises that might make for suitable sequels to the piece. A friend suggested that I should try mining the dank, black coal caves of the two painfully mediocre Fantastic Four films for some valuable cinematic gems. Now, most Marvel Comics fans agree that Fantastic Four (2005) and the slightly better Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007) leave a lot to be desired (many will tell you, quite bluntly, that they outright suck giant rhino balls). These duds feature unimaginative direction by Tim Story, a lack of epic scope, weak action scenes, a lousy latex Thing costume, the infamous “Galactus Cloud”, and a horribly mis-cast Julian McMahon as a weaselly business tycoon version of Dr. Doom. Yet, despite all of these shortcomings, I managed to dig up a few things – 9 to be precise – that will make you feel like you haven’t completely wasted precious hours of your life watching them. So, without further ado, The Geek League of America presents:
9 Good Things About The Fantastic Four Movies!
9.) Accurate Origin
Although Julian McMahon’s smarmy, Euro-trash, corporate tycoon version of Dr. Doom was lazily shoehorned in, the basic story of how the Fantastic Four received their powers in this film is fairly faithful to the comic book version. Reed Richards, and the brother/sister tandem of Sue and Johnny Storm travel into space to study cosmic radiation on a ship piloted by Ben Grimm. A massive wave of cosmic rays bombard them, they crash-land on Earth, and their strange powers manifest shortly thereafter. Pretty spot-on.
8.) Family Friendly Tone
Children adore and idolize superheroes, but it’s a bit difficult to bring little Johnny and Suzie to the Cineplex these days when The Joker is impaling gangsters on pencils and the films in general are darker and more mature to appeal to the 18-35 male demographic. The FF movies however, are bright, sunny, safe, and — cliché as it may sound — fun for the whole family. There’s a little bit of sexual innuendo here and there (especially with Johnny Storm in the first film), but violence is non-existent, and the most traumatic thing I can recall from either installment is Dr. Doom’s scarred, metallic face.
7.) Michael Chiklis
I could probably write a 1,000-word article about why The Thing should’ve been an entirely CG character, and not a wrinkled, orange foam latex suit. But, since we’re focusing on only the good here, I’ll simply say that Chiklis was absolutely note-perfect casting as the ever-lovin, blue-eyed Thing. Chiklis nailed Ben Grimm’s gruff, no-nonsense, Yancy street attitude, and demonstrated tremendous pathos as a man struggling to hold on to his humanity after being entombed in a shell of orange rock. The scene where Ben calls his wife from a pay phone outside of their former home, and stares longingly up at the window as she recoils in horror from his monstrous appearance, is pretty damned devastating.
6.) Silver Surfer / Human Torch Chase
Whether it was a result of director Tim Story’s inexperience, or crippling budgetary restrictions, the action set pieces in both Fantastic Four films are underwhelming, to say the least. However, the chase sequence between the Human Torch and the Silver Surfer through the steel canyons and subway tunnels of New York, and eventually into outer space — is fun, fast, and exhilarating. ‘Nuff said!
5.) The Fantasticar
Though the FF films are huge missteps, the production team should be lauded for their efforts to sprinkle them with ancillary characters from the comic books like blind sculptress Alicia Masters, and identifiable places like the Baxter Building. The thing that stands out to me as a nice, (and unexpected) nod to the fans is the inclusion of a version of the flying Fantasticar, the FF’s primary mode of transportation.
Yes, these suits are a bit dull for my tastes – but they’re practical, they make sense in the context of the film, and manage to remain faithful to the classic FF jumpsuit look. As an added bonus, they also afforded the adult audience an eyeful of Jessica Alba’s loin-achingly perfect posterior encased in skin-tight spandex.
3.) Stan Lee as Willie Lumpkin
Stan Lee’s cameos in Marvel Comics films have become fun little cinematic Easter Eggs to hunt for. He’s appeared as various non-speaking characters in the X-Men, Hulk, Thor, Iron Man, and Spider-Man franchises. But in the Fantastic Four films, he got to do something truly unique – play the Fantastic Four’s loveable mail carrier Willie Lumpkin, a character from the Marvel Universe that he actually created!
2.) The Silver Surfer
Performed in both CG motion-capture and in a practical suit by the multi-talented Doug Jones, and voiced by the always awesome Laurence Fishburne, the Silver Surfer was an outstanding page-to-screen translation of an iconic Marvel character. His origin – although unseen – is accurate, as are his appearance and powers. The script also captured the essence of the Surfer’s nobility and his willingness to make the ultimate sacrifice to save humanity from his master, the planet-devouring Galactus.
1. ) Thing/ Human Torch Chemistry
Michael Chiklis and Chris Evans captured the dynamic of these two classic characters perfectly. Their rivalry/friendship is the strongest element of the films, as Chiklis’ tough, take-no-bullshit philosophy clashes brilliantly on-screen with Chris Evans’ brash, hot-headed, skirt-chasing antics. The two actors get to share a healthy amount of screen time bickering endlessly, hurling rapid-fire insults at each other, and playing pranks (such as the power-switching in the photo above), but they also effectively convey the sense of brotherhood and comradery between The Thing and The Torch. In the end, they are family, and that relationship is beautifully defined by Evans, Chiklis, and the crew.
BONUS: Good Things About the Shelved 1994 Roger Corman Fantastic Four Movie!
Just kidding! There’s absolutely nothing good about this…