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by Asa Butcher
Issue 7
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Fantastic Four
Tim Story
Marvel Comics have one hell of a back catalogue for superheroes and today’s moviemaking technology has finally allowed for some decent screen outings for many of them. In the past five years, the X-Men, Spider-Man, the Incredible Hulk, Daredevil and Elektra have enjoyed fresh revivals and now the Fantastic Four have escaped their animated form and are entertaining millions once again.

Comics were never of any interest to me as a kid, but I did grow up watching all the cartoon series produced by Marvel and I even had Spider-Man duvet and curtains. My memories of the Fantastic Four include three people in tight jumpsuits and a bizarre rock creature that was in need of some moisturiser, but that is the sum of my recollections. I went to watch the film without any prior knowledge of their comic book history or the origins of the villain, which I considered an advantage.

Unlike the recent Hulk film, the characters undergo their changes very early on when an experimental space test goes wrong and the four heroes are changed by cosmic rays. Ioan Gruffudd plays Reed Richards, the inventor and leader of the group, who gains the ability to stretch any part of his body. Ioan earned his reputation as Lt. Horatio Hornblower in the Hornblower television series and he does a great job as the reluctant superhero Mr. Fantastic.

It was unusual to see the characters hesitant to embrace their new powers, but made it slightly more believable showing their human side. Only Johnny Storm, played by Chris Evans, immediately falls in love with his ability to control fire, including covering his own body with flame, becoming the Human Torch. He was one of my favourite characters in the film and has his fair share of the laughs, especially when he is snapping his fingers and watching a flame emerge from his thumb.

The film has nearly 900 special effects shots and the one-minute sequence showing Johnny Storm morphing into a ball of flames and soaring over Manhattan took four months to create, but the special effects strangely don’t dominate the film. It may have had something to do with the Thing, played by the excellent Michael Chiklis, being "real" rather than a computer-generated character. I haven’t seen Michael Chiklis in his latest TV series ‘The Shield’, but he reminded me of his first series called ‘The Commish’ at times during the film.

Despite playing a super-strong rock creature, he is the one character with the most feelings and you really feel sorry for him. Upon meeting a blind girl in his local bar, she says to him, “Being different isn’t always a bad thing.” The Thing gruffly answers, “Trust me, this ain’t one of them times.” However, he does get some of the best lines in the film and, even though it took him three hours to get into the Thing suit, he did escape wearing the skin-tight jumpsuits. When he see the other three in their new outfits, he jokes, “You guys look like an ‘80s rock band!”

The final member of the Fantastic Four is Sue Storm, portrayed by the beautiful Jessica Alba, who has the ability to turn invisible and create force fields, calling herself the Invisible Woman. She is the former girlfriend of Reed Richards and is the object of Victor Von Doom’s affections, creating the romantic tension that drives Mr Doom jealous and becomes the villain of the piece. I thought that Julian McMahon’s Doom was fun to watch and he played the character very cool, avoiding the clichés of the master villain commonly found in the comic book films.

Considering this was only director Tim Story’s fifth film, it kept me hooked for the 100-odd minutes and he transferred Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s comic book to the screen in a respectable way, according to my comic book loving friend. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed The Fantastic Four and will be looking forward to the sequel in a few years, but before that is X-Men 3 and Spider-Man 3, so there is no rush.

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