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Fantastic Four

Movies | This film is exactly what one might expect a comic-book movie to be: lightweight, modestly entertaining, and more than a little hokey

Issue: "Supreme Court fight," July 23, 2005

Fantastic Four, a film that's been in development for years, may disappoint diehard fans now that it's reached the screen. But the film is exactly what one might expect a comic-book movie to be: lightweight, modestly entertaining, and more than a little hokey.

The movie (rated PG-13 for sequences of intense action and some suggestive content) is based on the popular Marvel Comics series created by Stan Lee in 1961. Scientist/astronauts Reed Richards, Sue Storm, Johnny Storm, and Ben Grimm all take part in a space mission that goes disastrously awry, leading to a collision with a radioactive "cosmic storm." Returning to earth with their DNA fundamentally altered, the four-along with the mission's financial backer, the ominously named Victor Von Doom-discover that they possess special powers reflective of their personalities.

Like the first installment of most superhero tales, most of Fantastic Four's short 106-minute running time is spent introducing what are to become iconic characters: Reed (Ioan Gruffudd), who can stretch into almost any shape, becomes Mr. Fantastic; Sue (Jessica Alba), who can become invisible and emit a force field, becomes the Invisible Woman; Johnny (Chris Evans), who can burst into flames and shoot around like a rocket, becomes the Human Torch; Ben (Michael Chiklis), who looks like a rock and possesses enormous strength, becomes The Thing. Naturally, all these good guys need a suitable bad guy to battle, and Victor makes the wild leap from shady billionaire to the megalomaniacal Doctor Doom.

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The dynamic between the characters, mostly played for laughs, keeps the film moving briskly over copious narrative holes and gaps in logic. Unlike the recent Batman Begins, we're not really meant to buy into what's happening on screen-just to go along for the ride.

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