Prayer Focus
Movie Review

Fantastic Four

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sequences of intense action, and some suggestive content

Reviewed by: Dr. Kenneth R. Morefield
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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Teens Adults
Genre:
Superhero Sci-fi Action Adventure Fantasy
Length:
2 hr. 3 min.
Year of Release:
2005
USA Release:
July 8, 2005 (wide)
Copyright, Twentieth Century Fox
Copyright, Twentieth Century Fox
Copyright, Twentieth Century Fox
Copyright, Twentieth Century Fox
Copyright, Twentieth Century Fox
Copyright, Twentieth Century Fox
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Copyright, Twentieth Century Fox
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Featuring: Ioan Gruffudd … Reed Richards
Jessica AlbaSue Storm
Chris EvansJohnny Storm
Michael Chiklis … Ben Grimm
Julian McMahon … Victor von Doom
Hamish Linklater … Leonard
Kerry WashingtonAlicia Masters
Laurie Holden … Debbie McIlvane
David Parker … Ernie
Kevin McNulty … Jimmy O’Hoolihan
more »
Director: Tim Story
Producer: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
Constantin Film Produktion
Marvel Enterprises
more »
Distributor: Twentieth Century Fox

“Prepare for the fantastic.”

Here’s what the distributor says about their film: “Marvel’s first family of comic superheroes takes the world by storm as the longest running comic book series in history comes to the big screen. Reed Richards/Mr. Fantastic, who can elongate his body; Susan Storm/Invisible Woman, who not only can become invisible at will but can render other objects invisible; Johnny Storm/Human Torch, who can shoot fire from his finger tips and bend flame; and Ben Grimm/The Thing, a hideously misshapen monster with superhuman strength, together battle the evil Doctor Doom.”

Wade through enough “Spider-Man” or X-Men reviews and you will no doubt get the spiel/backstory about how Stan Lee and Marvel reinvented the superhero genre. Lee and his partner, Jack Kirby are generally credited with helping comics grow up.

One way they did so was by investing the alter egos of the superheroes with human and familiar problems and weaknesses. Spiderman overlaid the traditional heroic narrative with teenage angst. The Incredible Hulk provided a reflection of readers’ own out-of-control emotions and hormones and the havoc they could play on one’s personal life. The X-Men played on the fears of its readers that they were outsiders and freaks and their hopes that they could find a community in which they were accepted. And The Fantastic Four, well, it was the distorted mirror of the dysfunctional family before the phrase “dysfunctional family” was in play or could be understood by those readers devouring the comics but unable to articulate, exactly, how the characters’ relationships were speaking to the emerging adults as well as the eternal children inside them.

It is not a coincidence, then, that the most successful comic book movies are the ones that are able to integrate some sense of character development and human conflict with the special effects and action set pieces. Families (real or surrogate) ought to be a fertile ground for exploring the universal conflicts experienced even by those with exceptional abilities, and, in better movies, they are.

“Searching for Bobby Fischer” is one example of a film that juxtaposes themes of otherness and normalcy and invites us to learn from how those who have exaggerated versions of our problems negotiate them. “The Incredibles” was another.

There has been some reporting in the entertainment media that studio executives and producers have expressed worry that the thematic and character similarities between “The Incredibles” and “Fantastic Four” might be one reason why “Fantastic Four” will not do as well as other comic book movies.

Another reason might be that the movie pretty much stinks, which seems to be the early critical consensus. It is a consensus that I am sympathetic to, even if I don’t quite share it.

Oh, I’m sympathetic with each of the individual criticisms levied against “Fantastic Four” (and would add that dropping “the” from the title is a headache): the characters are one dimensional and often act for no discernible (or contradictory) motives, the dialogue is wincingly bad (though no more than Revenge of the Sith’s), the adult characters act like adolescents (nurse: “you’re hot”; Johnny: “so are you”), and the crowds have often been shot separately from the principles, creating the typical disconnect that can occur when actors aren’t sharing the same space.

And yet… I couldn’t quite raise myself to the level of indignation and outrage held by many of my friends and peers towards this film.

It seems to me that ever since Spielberg raised the B-movie to an “Art Form” with “Jaws” and (especially) “Raiders of the Lost Ark”, there is this assumption that the only legitimate B-movies are those that get A-movie treatments.

Certainly “Batman Begins”, with its embarrassment of Oscar talent (Caine, Freeman, Neeson, Oldman, Wattanbe, nominees all) demonstrates that a comic book film can transcend the limitations of its origins to create above average entertainment, and even X-Men shows that a certain gravitas can be lent to admittedly hackneyed material by taking it seriously.

The question I would ask, though, is whether such a treatment is the only legitimate treatment of this material. Is there no place for the B-movie as B-movie? I’m not talking about the fans of the source material who may be miffed that their favorite franchise didn’t get the A-treatment or whether it deserved it. Rather, I’m simply suggesting that “Fantastic Four” is a successful attempt at being a B-movie rather than a bungled attempt at being a serious treatment of this material.

Consider, for example the casting. Alba and Chiklis are both best known for their work in television, as are perhaps Gruffudd (Horatio Hornblower) and McMahon (Nip/Tuck). They bring with them, I would argue, a sort of comfortable familiarity with delivering one-note performances and dialogue pitched to the lowest common denominator.

Reed is a slightly repressed intellectual; Sue is the peacemaker amongst male hotheads; Johnny is the rebellious hotshot; Ben is the moody brute with the sensitive underbelly. Clich? All, yes, but isn’t that the level at which many comic books work—reducing conflicts to their most familiar and generic level to initiate adolescents into examining them?

The film didn’t strike me as having, as they say, pretensions. It was what it was—a live action comic book. That it was not more, that it did not elevate the genre in the process of transferring it to a different medium, may be true, but if that is the worst thing you can say about it, then I’m not sure where all the hostility is coming from.

I saw the film in a half full theater that had a fair amount of kids in it and none seemed to disturbed by the level of violence, which, unlike Batman’s, seemed exaggerated to the point of obvious non-realism.

In terms of Christian themes or objectionable content neither is inordinate to what one might expect. There is a lot of cartoon violence. Jesus’s name is used at least once (and maybe more) by one of the characters as a swear word. There is a moderate amount of infantile innuendo surrounding Sue having to take her clothes off when she turns invisible, especially when she is not yet in control of her powers, and Johnny is presumably living and advocating a promiscuous lifestyle. Evans plays one prolonged scene having to cover his private area with a jacket because he has burned his clothes off. Actual nudity or sex isn’t really portrayed, though, and even the former examples are played more for sophomoric laughs (like getting caught outside the locker room without your shorts) than for any potential erotic charge.

Similarly, the themes are presented in the simplest possible levels, commensurate with a cartoon treatment. Commitment to friends and family is good. (Though Ben moves on to another potential relationship very quickly after his wife leaves him.) Teamwork is necessary for good to overcome evil. Appearance is not as important as character. None of it is particularly profound nor elevated nor groundbreaking, but does it have to be?

I suppose for those who think movies are a bad idea in general and must have some elevated content or themes to justify seeing them, there isn’t really much here. Those who are hard core fans of the comic book are likely to be irritated by a perceived lack of any special treatment. The rest of us may be marginally entertained without being any more than marginally offended.

Violence: Moderate / Profanity: Mild / Sex/nudity: Minor

My Grade: C

Review page for the sequel to this movie: Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007)

Viewer Comments
Comments below:
Positive
Positive—Though it doesn’t bear much resemblance to the original comic book, “Fantastic Four” is a surprisingly good popcorn flick. It’s not the most ingenious plot for a movie, but does pack enough of a punch to keep audiences interested. The primary characters are all very likable, with semi-realistic problems that must be overcome in order to form a fighting unit. They’re also the only band of comic book heroes you’ll ever meet that actually want to be rid of their powers! The film has a great soundtrack, nice special effects, and everything going for it in terms of casting. I thought it was a lot of fun—and that’s what I want from a summer movie: fun.
My Ratings: Better than Average/4½
Charity Bishop, age 22
Positive—Morally speaking, the movie does not go to the breaking point of sexual comments, although there were a few suggestive references and about a half dozen expletives. It includes no encomposing moral values as I noticed in “Batman Begins.” I was disapointed as was the rest of the audience appeared to be when Ben’s marriage was ended because of his “ugly” transformation. It wasn’t long before he had another woman by his side that was able to look beyond his skin.

The main romance in the film was between Mr Fantastic and the Invisible Girl. My congratulatations on the directors part in keeping their relationship clean and pure, which is more than I can say about the aparent sexual escapades (implied) of The Human Torch, who was continuously reprimanded by the other three for his immaturity. The bad guy is totally consumed with pride, power, greed and general selfishness which finally catches up to him in the end.

In a nut shell, a good vs. evil stereotypical set with lots of special effects and little substance. Overall, I deem it guilt-free entertainment for 13 and up.
My Ratings: Average/3½
—JD, age 35
Positive—…Remember, this is a comic strip’ adaptation for film. Not some Meryl Streep/Jack Nicholson incarnation. …I was blown away. Incredible CGI!! Also the film displayed some “fantastic” super hero quality. There were some lewd moments that insinuated nudity (concerning Invisible Girl and other times the Human Torch); however, no body parts were shown. Classicly, this movie is very moral. The good guys win. Comic strip films are usually suited for all audiences, therefore they are not always going to contain incredibly long and eloquent dialogue. Honestly, to expect more is embarrassingly ridiculous. You have to love the genre to appreciate it.
My Ratings: Better than Average/5
—Andrew, age 20
Neutral
Neutral—The movie did not live up to its full potential, although there are some good aspects to it. There are some good action sequences. The most developed characters, Ben (the Thing) and Reed Richards (Mr. Fantastic), are well done. Johnny, the Human Torch, is too much of a playboy and not at all like he was originally drawn in the comics. Susan Storm, the Invisible Woman, shows too much cleavage. There are also several sexual innuendos which were not necessary to plot development. And, there are a few instances of taking the Lord’s name in vain. In short, Hollywood immorality partially spoils what could have been a much better movie. We’ll wait until the movie comes out on DVD for our kids to see it (and then forward through objectionable parts). My Ratings: [Average/3
—David, age 42
Neutral—Could have been much better. It was a mixture of good action scenes and very slow pacing. I found myself often checking my watch and wondering when it would be over. I wish I had waited for the DVD release to see this one; I would have enjoyed it much more if I had paid a few bucks to rent it rather than 24 for the wife and kids to go with me. My Ratings: [Average/2
—Kevin, age 35
Neutral—The movie was fun to watch, but somehow anti-climactic. I found myself neither annoyed nor inspired. I am offended in a couple parts. The first is when Jonnie is sitting naked in a pool of hot water, and he invites another female skier to join him. She looked happy to. The other was when Sue lost her ability to be invisible while taking her clothes off. She re-appears in her underwear. I definitely would not show to kids.
My Ratings: Offensive/4½
—Chris Ransom, age 39
Neutral—I enjoyed the movie for what it was: A simple comic-book movie. I’m surprised, however, that none of the previous comments said anything about the statement of God being a woman.
My Ratings: Better than Average/3
—Rev. David Foreman, age 50
Neutral—Generally a decent flick. Has a very common plot. Probably the worst part of the film is the religious idea of chaos creating order—namely evolution. Keep in mind the next stage of evolution to the New Ager is evolution to godhood; this movie tantalizes that idea. The lust factors used with Jessica Alba’s body and other attractive actresses were not severe but could have been reduced. Other than the evolutionary brainwashing that Hollywood likes to do, this movie was okay.
My Ratings: Average/3½
—Pastor Casey, age 31
Negative
Negative—…I had a problem with the main characters using Jesus’ and God’s name in vain, which has become all too common today in PG-13 movies and up (and has de-sensitized many Christians). I became even more offended later on in the movie when another character proclaimed that God is a female. I do not see how any of this contributes to the story or quality of the movie, and I find its only intent is to be offensive to our God and Father.
My Ratings: Offensive/2½
—Justin, age 23
Negative—I feel that if any movie has the Lords’s name in vain in it, that Christians everywhere should boycott it and TRASH it for any recommendation. Profanity, is trash, even if it’s one time. I’m sure if someone said such words against Islam’s Allah there would be riots in the streets.
My Ratings: Extremely Offensive/1
—BillyD, age 45
Comments from young people
Neutral—I went to see this movie thinking that it would really stink. Well, it stunk. As far as computer animation goes it was pretty fake. There were some good action scenes in it, and a few funny parts, but there was also a little bit too much innuendo and language for me to be comfortable with. In my opinion, it would be OK to rent but not really worth full price at the movie theater.
My Ratings: Better than Average/2
—Lane B., age 14
Positive—I thought this movie was fun and exciting. Not the greatest superhero movie ever made, but it was still good. However, there was some language, but not too much. And the Invisible Girl has to take her clothes off to elude people and police, twice, and in one scene she reappears in her underwear and bra. Johnny Storm was obsessed with women and fame, yet not to a point where it was sickening. There is a lot of violence. I was very happy with this movie, but wouldn’t take anyone under 9. There were a lot of laughs and didn’t catch anything TOO extreme. Bravo Hollywood!
My Ratings: Better than Average/4
—Hannah, age 14
Positive—I really loved this movie because of the way I thought it stuck to the comic book. Some parts were not needed however (like God being thought of as a woman, or Sue having to take off her cloves. All in all this flim was Fantastic times Four!
My Ratings: Average/5
—Jonathan, age 16
Positive—When I first saw the previews for this movie I thought that Marvel had went down the drain. When I went to go see the movie it wasn’t even half as bad as I had predicted. It was a very good movie for the whole family to watch. There was some sexual material in it that wasn’t too bad, and there was only some mild language that I recall. I recommend this movie for everyone to watch.
My Ratings: Good/4½
—Ben, age 14
Positive—When I saw “Fantastic Four” I was surprised that most of the viewers were young children. I think this movie would be appropriate for most children 10 years and up. I didn’t think it was very offensive, and it actually was pretty funny. I thought it was a great film!
My Ratings: Better than Average/5
—Mary Clare, age 12
Positive—…one of the must-see movies of the summer…
My Ratings: Good/4½
—Jordan, age 14
Positive—The character were good representations of comic book characters - even a bit flat, obvious, and unchanging, but amusing. Also, the main characters seem a bit self-centered most of the time. “Spiderman” and “Batman Begins” put more depth into the comic book character than there originally were—this doesn’t. It keeps it at the comic book level, fun to watch, but not as deep.

Some of the main moral lessons that are brought out in this film are: that character is more important that appearance, (Ben, who looks like a monster) and that being different can be useful—if they hadn’t been different, even weird, they couldn’t have defeated the enemy (which demonstrates the Christian principle that God made you just the way He wanted you for whatever situations he plans to put you in).

The movie has a couple swear words, including the Lord’s name being taken in vain, a bad joke, and a small ammount of immodesty. Overall, however, it seemed relatively clean. Overall, the movie is fun and relatively clean. If you are looking for a deep, thought-provoking movie with round characters—this isn’t it, but it’s the type of movie that’s enjoyable to watch once.
My Ratings: Better than Average/3
—Rebekah, age 16
Positive—…very entertaining, action packed, and funny. There was a some sexual humor, but not too—mostly just light jokes. I would suggest this movie to anyone over 12-13 or so.
My Ratings: Better than Average/3½
—Erik, age 14
Negative—This movie was an embarassment; simply put, the movie stunk. The movie just has no substance, the characters don’t really develop like spiderman or even x-men did. There were a good amount of suggest comments made and one of the characters strips down to her bra and underwear, a couple of curses thrown in as well. The movie was just a dissapointment. The action doesn’t take place until the very end. There is one big action scene where the fantastic four use all of their powers together as one group, the rest of the movie is the scientist trying to figure out what happened to them and how they can get back to normal (no lie). The movie never develops, not a lot of action, it was just lame. My Ratings: [Offensive/2½
—Tim Whitaker, age 16
Positive—When I saw Fantastic Four I was surprised that most of the viewers were young children. I think this movie would be appropriate for most children 10 years and up. I didn’t think it was very offensive and it actually was pretty funny. I thought it was a great film!
My Ratings: Better than Average/5
—Mary Clare, age 12
Neutral—It seemed like The Real World with superpowers. But it had a decent “last 20 minutes.”
My Ratings: Average /3½
—Jack Meriwether, age 13
Positive—…a pretty lighthearted fun movie with lots of action and special effects. This movie would probably be okay for most kids, except for the brief bridge scene where partial nudity is seen. The only thing worth mentioning was the Human Torch’s attitude. There is a couple of bad words but not much. All in all a very fun summer blockbuster. I, for one, can’t wait until the already being worked on sequel. My Ratings: [Better than Average/5
—Ben L., age 12
Negative—For what is supposed to be from a comic book from one of the most famouse comic book makers, this movie was a rip-off. I mean spider-man was okay, and from what I saw of the first x-men that one was okay too. But this one stinks. It has more stuff about Mr. Fantastic and Invisable Woman’s relationship and The Thing’s hardship then it did with them getting their powers and making something out of them, and the content they had in it realy took the cake.

In my point of view, this is something that is dissapointing, disturbing among of what the expectance of this movie is, and not even along of what the comic book was about probably either. I’m 13 and expected an action filled, good, non-sexualized content in this movie, but of course I was turned down, barely any action took place and there was more non-wanted content in it instead. This movie does not need what it has in it, young children watch it and then think well that’s okay, because it’s a movie based on one of my favorite comic books. SO WRONG!

From a Christian’s point of view as well, there was not one thanks to God at all, not nothing, instead they took God’s name in vain a couple of times I think too. All in all, this movie is a total let down and something I would advise to people who want a good show not to watch.
My Ratings: Average/1½
—L.M, age 13
Negative—This movie was bad. They cursed (so many times I couldn’t count, and did it for no reason), had sexual hints (more like blunts), almost nudity, took the Lord’s name in vain, and they took too long to develop the characters. It’s definitely an adult movie… I wish I had not seen it. Not like the comics or tv show at all…
My Ratings: Extremely Offensive / 5
—Kitty, age 13
Movie Critics
…flameout… it never… gets on to telling a compelling story… the really good superhero movies, like “Superman,” “SpiderMan 2” and “Batman Begins,” leave “Fantastic Four” so far behind that the movie should almost be ashamed to show itself in the same theaters.
—Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times
…unapologetically goofball movie gives off a giddy retro vibe, at least for a while…
—L.A. Weekly
…Despite heroic elements, “Four” doesn’t add up as worthy film…
—Tony Norman, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
…the first half, when we’re still finding our way into the action, is much more fun than what follows… unnecessarily dull…
—Sandra Hall, The Sydney Morning Herald