First up: anyone expecting Batman Begins or Spider-Man 2 from this film should’ve tried picking up an issue of Fantastic Four. Those that needed a reminder will see that this comic has never been dark, edgy or any kind of gritty. It is what it is, a campy romp that has not adapted its style to suit the ever darkening tastes of new generations of readers one iota since the 1960s. Fantastic Four is colourful, fun, immensely stupid and packs every issue with lectures on family values and responsibilities. So once again, anyone expecting Fantastic 4 to be anywhere on the level of Daredevil, Batman, V for Vendetta, Sin City, Darkman, or (God forbid) Watchmen, it’s time for a reality check. Fantastic 4 stays true to its roots; it’s bright, cheerful, kid friendly stuff that’s actually a lot of fun…having said that, the comics it draws its inspiration from are too cheerful, silly and full of child friendly diatribe, and it reflects here. Ironically Fantastic 4’s biggest mistake is that it is too much like Fantastic Four (see what being painstakingly faithful to source material gets you, fan boys!) – swings and roundabouts.
Part 1: Which One of the Three Orange People is the Thing?
Reed ‘Hornblower’ Richards and Ben Grim plead with business tycoon and all-round dick bag Victor Von Doom about a scientific venture; Reed believes a radioactive solar storm was responsible for triggering life on earth (possibly the same one that Mark Wahlberg and his chimp got lost in during Planet of the Apes 2001) and that very storm is about to make a second pass. Quite how he knows about this natural phenomenon given it only happened once a couple of hundred million years ago, predating most of the scientific equipment of the last five decades, remains to the individual’s imagination. He wants funding to conduct a space field trip to study it in order to ‘aide the development of mankind’s knowledge’ or some such nonsense. Victor cuts him off mid sentence.
Reed: We can use this knowledge to develop technologies and medicines that will make us live longer, become stronger, develop superpowers, remain sexually appealing past our 40s, cure all diseases-
Victor: Bored now – why would anybody want any of those things? Oh Reed, you always were an idealistic fool. Even now you’re reaching for the stars – ‘stretching’ if you will.
With his innate power to predict what powers people will acquire, or perhaps even designate them, it’s a good job he didn’t say “you’re a monster desperately reaching for more power, regardless of how many innocent skulls you crush or blood you spill” or we may have ended up with a far less child-friendly picture show:
Be pretty bitching though. Victor reminds Reed that he may be a hopeless renaissance man but he is still broke. Reed has thought about this (a little too hard perhaps) and makes his intention clear that he wants to use Victors’ space station – that’s VICTORS’ SPACE STATION – to conduct his research, the onboard shields designed to protect the crew from all forms of cosmic radiation, including those that only drop in every other hundred million years. What exactly is it that Victor’s company does to require the world’s only 100% radiation proof space station? He mocks them and then flaunts his hot girlfriend at them; Susan Storm, aka the Bespectacled Director of Communications Girl. He makes Reed beg for his money and use of his all purpose space station in front of Sue, even drawing out 75% off all profits to be earned from the venture. What. A. Dick. Susan follows Reed and Ben out just to draw up the sexual tension between the two and Ben asks if he can pilot the mission, only to find that Susan’s infantile brother Jonny, renown for drinking and recklessness, has already been hired despite this being akin to asking Mother Teresa to down a bottle of tequila and locate the clitoris in a lesbian orgy in terms of impracticality (in the sense that she is a nun, not dead – although this also adds to the impractical nature of the task). What’s more worrisome than Michael Chiklis and Jonny Storm fighting for the position of space ship driver is that, in a film starring a man composed of fire and a guy made of orange rock, Jessica Alba is the most orange person in the film – I think she may be seriously ill.
The team assembles at the shuttle six weeks later, outfitted with their super suits Victor created that adapt to the wearers’ individual needs, such as spontaneous combustion, turning invisible, stretching, and being shirtless in the case of the Thing. Vic really does think of everything, including the usage of ‘unstable molecules’ in knit-wear. Susan is snubbed as Reed pays more attention to the suit than Jessica Alba squeezed into a tight piece of cleavage boosting spandex – the big gay. Blast off into space! Ben goes out in readiness to collect a sample of space storm by using flowers (don’t think to hard about that – the writers didn’t) while Victor prepares for dick move #217: proposing to Susan so he can lord it over Reed. He opens the space shields (the ones designed to protect them from all that cosmic radioactivity, and maybe even Parallax – why the hell not go whole hog?) literally opening the world at her feet in a beautiful display of lov- hang on, what is wrong with her hair? – she looks like a walnut! Meanwhile Reed has demonstrated why NASA denied his application to borrow their equipment; the cosmic storm is seven minutes away, not seven hours. When oh when will physicists learn to embrace maths, not shun it? Bursting in on the proposal of a life time (between douche and walnut-topped satsuma), Reed stirs up the panic as he tries to get the shields up and Ben inside as he hasn’t noticed the LUMINOUS ELECTRICAL SPACE FIRE racing towards him. Ben leaps inside but some of the radiation slips through the door, irradiating the crew. On the plus side they collected the flower samples, so an all round successful mission, despite the cosmic cancer.
Ben awakes in hospital, horrified to discover his head has become a potato. My mistake, it was like that before. Sorry Michael. Susan is sleeping off her perfect health, although doctors a still concerned they cannot diagnose her skin condition (“you say she was like this before the accident?”), so Reed brings her a flower, however not her favourite flower; he brings her something else yet is all too happy to point out that her preference is sunflowers – the man knows how to win hearts. In New York investors are pulling out of Doom Corp after the failed research mission, despite the fact they managed to get the samples and everyone checked out with a clean bill of health AND SUPERPOWERS so quite why this has ended up being a scandalous disaster is unclear. Norman Osborn – I mean, Victor has one week to turn company favour. Jonny goes snowboarding with an impossibly hot nurse, which makes me doubt the realism of the film as even power-enabling space rays are more believable than a moderately attractive nurse, considering most of the nurses I’ve been attended to by have looked like the collective cast of Getting On:
Ben’s feeling pretty ‘solid’ (haha) and pushes Reed to go after Susan again.
Ben: Sure; Victor can offer her wealth, power, economic stability and everything else that goes with being an emensly rich hunk, but you – Reed, you can give her a project. Something to work at in order to gain happiness way down the line as she strives to justify the terrible choices she’s made.
Reed finds his inner Hugh Grant refuses to let him talk to girls so he lets the idea slide. Elsewhere, Jonny snowboards so fast he turns to fire, impressing the hot nurse so much she agrees to have sex with him in a pool of frigid ice water (again, less feasible than cosmic space powers). Ben sets up Reed and Sue on a date, allowing them to really reconnect with their lost feelings, as Victor strategizes how to rebuild his reputation and take back Sue before she falls for Reed again – because he’s a massive dick. Oh, also he has electric powers and his face is falling off like that bit in Poltergeist. Ben leaves the table due to stomach cramps and Reed and Sue talk some more. She bitches about how he never looks at her and that she feels as invisible as she has suddenly become, freaking out and knocking a bottle off the table that Reed catches with his stretchy arm. They look at each other nonplussed, mentally concluding that Reed got the lamer end of the power spectrum. Ben mutates into a monster and runs back to the New York; Jonny shows off his flame powers; Reed proves his powers are useful for something by opening a door from the other side; and Victor starts losing his hair – like Lex Luthor before him, baldness makes for the worst cases of megalomania.
Ben meets with his wife who runs from his hideous, rock-pox covered face. Addendum, she goes to meet him whilst wearing sexy negligee. At night. In New York. Alone. In this situation, having your husband transformed into a hulking rock with eyes would be useful anti-rape equipment, yet she fails to see the positives of his metamorphosis in this instance. Broken hearted and with a colon full of cement, Ben wanders over to the Brooklyn Bridge and inadvertently causes a traffic jam when he saves a suicidal man from jumping by chasing him into an oncoming truck…it plays less evil than it sounds. Reed and co. are caught up in the traffic at the other end of the bridge as Ben has a major freak out in front of the spectating crowd, so it’s fortunate that a whole police squadron and ambulance crews were held up at the front of the queue in order to hold back the mob. Sue is persuaded to strip IN FRONT OF EVERYONE and sneak past the cordons while invisible. It’s a good plan in fairness, although it amounts to little as Reed and Jonny walk past the cops regardless in a different direction, so really it was more about seeing Sue in her sexy underwear than helping Ben. The police start shooting at Ben as he helps save the truck driver, resulting in a fire breaking out and explosions that allow Jonny to prove his abilities have a positive application other than horrifically burning enemies as he shields a little girl from the blaze, somehow just by holding her away from the fireball he prevents her from melting (still can’t work this one out). By this point it is hard to keep track of which orange character isn’t Susan. I’m pretty sure she isn’t bullet proof so that won’t be her running from the police, and seeing as she isn’t flame retardant I’m guessing she’s the one staggering around with nothing to do but look concerned. The fire brigade turn up and do their profession proud when they ram half way off the bridge, allowing Reed to showcase his talents before the cheering crowd as he saves a fireman from falling into the Hudson. The foursome reunite and the orange person with the inhuman complexion scoots over so Reed can comfort the Thing, promising Ben he will find a way to return him to normal after his wife throws her wedding ring at him in disgust (how very dare he prevent numerous deaths of innocent lives!). Abilities and hero status given a public airing, the world gets its mole monster-less debut of the fantastic Four.
Part 2: No Really, there are too Many Orange Members on this Team.
Ben gazes at the ring of his ex-wife while doctors swarm around Susan, likely misidentifying her as the Thing;
Reed: Doctor this isn’t Ben.
Doctor: You said the one with the unhealthy complexion of Tango.
Reed: Yes, by which I meant the rock man with no ears.
Doctor: Oh. Oh I see. But just between you and me, you might want to get her checked out.
Despite Reed’s insistence that they aren’t going public the press is already calling them the Fantastic Four, not helped by Jonny outing them. Reed, being a total Buzz-Killington, basically tells the world they are radioactive mutant freaks who need a cure, highlighting the Von Doom space shuttle failure to Victors’ already pissed investors via global press coverage. One journalist asks what makes Ben so special; “He doesn’t look so fantastic”. Buddy, this guy just stopped a speeding truck with his face, maybe you should give that a go.
Later Victor is yet again raked over the coals by the board of directors, investors, whatever, I don’t do business, who are displeased at his efforts at turning public attitudes towards them.
Chairman: We ask you to prove the space mission wasn’t a disaster and this is the best you give us – people with amazing super powers who instantly go out and become national heroes?
Victor:…How are you finding that a bad thing? I’m about to become one of the most nefarious villains in comic book history and I’m aware this isn’t a bad thing.
There is a big difference between evil and generally being a prick though, and Victor is left without any investors.
At the Baxter Building the Fantastic Four arrive as adoring crowds cheer them on. Not one well rehearsed in public speaking, Ben frightens the living piss out of some nearby children with a non-drug quip, their fragile mental states shattering as they make a note never to do narcotics less the orange rock gorilla catches them and yanks off their ears. Stan Lee makes his token cameo (I don’t know if the film makers even invite him along, and that he doesn’t just turn up), proving that Marvel film continuity didn’t begin with Nick Fury in Iron Man but waaaaaay back in X-Men. Stan ‘da Man hands over Reeds’ mail: all bills – possibly this is the true aim of Stan’s cameos; jumping the actors and pushing Marvel’s unpaid bills from the 1990 slump on them before running away to whisper tales of madness and past glory in the ears of sleeping children. Reed effectively quarantines the team in his penthouse laboratory, enabling Susan to find his precious memories scrapbook which mostly contains stalker-esque photos of her, and some oddly fetishistic photos of unstable molecules (the best ones are the ones with daddy issues after all). Victor visits them in order to chat-up Sue, failing epically, and promptly leaves in a huff. Reed catches up with him and apologises for losing him his reputation, wealth, girlfriend, and business just so he could go interstellar cloud gazing – when you put it like that, yeah Reed is a wang of the highest calibre. Victor berates Reed about how he ruined the lives of four people close to him (oh right, becoming endowed with effective powers and granted world-wide fame is right up there along with killing their families – try having a shit power like stretchiness, then you can complain about ruined lives Vic) and has a fit of electric-shorting magnitude that doesn’t even register with Reed that Victor may also have contracted a case of le power super. On his way out Victor punches through the elevator to reveal his muscles are turning to metal.
Cue montage sequence as Sue (now plastered with white make-up and looking like something from a Tim Burton film) and Reed study their new physiologies (not as sexual as it sounds): Ben has organs of rock, Jonny can fly and go supernova enough to ignite the earth’s atmosphere, Susan can focus her passive-aggressive anger into invisibility and force projectiles (the fuck!?), and Reed….well we never get a look at what’s biologically up with what Reed is, or what happens to his internal organs when he stretches. Later that week (month, decade?) Sue meets up with Victor, breaking up with him yet failing to notice the metallic fingers he touches her with as he storms out. Victor goes to his doctor who informs him, rather blandly that his entire body is turning into an organic metal akin to the shields around his space station (irony). Distraught that he has clinical near-invulnerability PLUS awesome electrical powers, Victor kills the doctor in order to avoid being placed under quarantine so he can spy on the Baxter Building with remote cameras in Reeds’ lab like a creepy stalker. The space suits they were wearing have also mutated to adapt to their unique abilities – they give a reason for this, but it sounds like the raving ramblings of a retard on a sugar rush. Reed decides that if they can recreate the cosmic storm he might be able to turn them back to normal. Whoa, hold up – why would anyone but Ben want this? YOU HAVE CRIME FIGHTING GOD-LIKE POWERS DUMBASS! Not to mention, last time they were exposed to a tiny fraction of the storm this happened, and that was in the safety of isolated space. Imagine this shit going down in a city of millions. And how do you even do something as mind-boggling as recreating a mutagenic space cloud in a poxy lab – if it’s doable from a high school chemistry lab then why didn’t he do it in the first place instead of dragging them all into space and creating a super villain that will inevitably try and kill them all!?!? Jonny seems to be the only one thinking rationally. He’s hanging out in the buildings elevator and cranking up the heat when ever beautiful women enter, forcing them to strip. THIS IS THE MAN I WANT TO BE CAPTAIN AMERICA – no: PRESIDENT! Out and about Susan is accosted by a mob of adoring fans and is once again forced to get nekkid in order to escape. Once again Susan is stripped and paraded in public, which she finds all very embarrassing; Susan has moved up in the world since getting her degree, having forgotten how she afforded the university fees back in the day:
Part 3: Seriously, Could You Give them Name Badges or Something!?
It’s been several weeks and the group are still cooped up in Reeds’ lab. Tempers are flaring like Human Torch’s pecker in the elevator. Victor is rapidly becoming the Bicentennial Man and has now learnt he can harvest electricity, a gift he uses to blast aerodynamic holes through the chests of the board members who ousted him. Justifiably to be fair. Ben isn’t doing himself any favours watching his old home movies – ones when he wasn’t peeing cement and pooping bricks (except that one time). Cabin fever setting in, Jonny sneaks out in order to attend a stunt show and dazzle the cameras with his fire powers. Inevitably Susan finds out and they all file down to give him a stern telling off. Thing trashes his car. Jonny responds by lobbing a fireball at him. Things escalate and Jonny leave for pastures new.
Ben tramples down to his old watering hole and meets with comic source-fling Alicia, who’s a bit like Daredevil only without the powers, penis, law degree, or taste in the opposite sex. After sandpapering her hands on Bens’ face she discovers she won’t be the most pity-evoking one in the relationship and the two begin a whirlwind romance (blind chick will date any-Thing, fnaw fnaw), and Ben isn’t even divorced yet – WIN! Take THAT ex-Mrs Grimm, you bitch. Reed is also scoring – with science! Having created a replica of The Fly’s telepod (like that isn’t ominous or foreboding in anyway) he’s successfully depowering the flowers exposed to the storm. Victor watches on, plotting his revenge to the man who made him a God among mortals, blissfully aware that by messing with Reed now he risks the chance of returning to pretty-boy normality. Vic meets Ben at a cafe and reverse-psychology’s his ass into believing Reed is keeping him a Cavity Creep in order to keep Sue locked up in his lab 24/7. It should be stated for the record that right that same moment Reed is willingly testing the machine on himself without any proof or assurances’ it won’t turn him into the Brundlefly.
Funny, you’d think it’d be the other guy vomiting in this situation.
With a choice of ‘who are you going to trust here; you’re best friend since college and all-round scientific genius who’s promised to cure you, or your bitter rival with a chip on his shoulder over his ex-girlfriend and a thus cause to lie to you?’, Ben must have rocks in his head as well as underpants to go for the latter. On his way home he passes by Alicia’s blind sculpture studio. In an unsettlingly creepy line of thought she has baited Ben by sticking a sculpted version of himself in the window, and nothing says ‘be mine’ like reminding the person they are hideous and otherwise incapable of finding love/acceptance anywhere else. Luckily this works…sort of, as Thing doesn’t crush her skull for her insolence. This precedes a, uh, ‘touching’ moment as she dusts him off in a seductive manor like Jurassic Park’s Alan Grant at an archaeological dig, albeit with an even bigger damp patch in her undies (only just). Guess this is heading to awkward territory, so I’m moving on before the heavy petting begins. But on one last note, she throws a “don’t tell me what it’s like to have people call you a freak behind your back” spaz attack when THE BIG EARLESS ROCK GORILLA tells her he’s a freak and she’d never understand how that feels. Lady, disability noted, you are NOT on equal grounds to argue here, so fuck your pride just this once okay?! Victor meets up with Jonny in order to convince him to milk the fame for all it’s worth…erm, more than he already is. One down.
While Jonny is being plied with a limo full of supermodels (pffft, these items in this combination are an everyday occurrence for Jonny. Now a super model filled with limousines; that would convince me), Alicia drags Ben to an art exhibition in his craggy honour – as most of the attendees are rich and/or beautiful art snobs and Ben is the walking embodiment of Bagdad, this isn’t exactly good for his confidence and he leaves to confront Reed about his cure. Ouch bad timing; Ben arrives as Reed and Sue return from a date, confirming Victors paranoia speech. At this point it should be clarified that Ben has only had a few hours away from the laboratory since they arrived back in New York, point being that he has seen Reed’s been working for days/weeks on end and this is his first night off, so get over yourself and let Reed get laid for the second time in his life! Ben throws a tantrum about how shit his life is.
Reed: Yeah, brain in a jar. And you even catch some wierd STD from Collossus, so ‘least you’re getting laid
Thing: That’s our future? I always thought this would be us:
Reed:…I get Jonny as Ghost Rider and nerdy Spidey as me – Hulk is obvious -, but how is Susan Wolverine?
Thing: Because fan fiction is all powerful and dictates it.
Reed: Damn the universal law of Rule 37!
Ben shoves Reed around and the two tussle. I use ‘tussle’ as Reed in all his incarnations is incapable of fighting (try picturing it….yeah, impossible I know), so the term is completely inapplicable when he’s involved in acts of physical violence against him. Ben calls their friendship quits and storms out. Two down. Sue catches Jonny while chasing Ben and older-sister lectures him into leaving in a ball of sibling rivalry. Reed tests the HOME MADE EVOLUTION-ACCELERATING STORM MACHINE (where the fark is he finding the parts? Cosmic Darwinian clouds aren’t exactly lying around), but it only makes him floppy and useless like me after a few pints of vodka. Three down. Victor hears Reed exposition aloud that he almost did it, if only he had more power. Ben is cordially invited to Victor’s lab (aka Reeds’ lab under new management) to test out a hyper charged storm on Ben. Using his electro-siphoning skillz Von Doom drains half the city grid and juices the machine. Hurrah, it works, Ben is back to being regular Mr Potato Head again and totally vulnerable to electricity and metal back-hander pimp slaps, which he receives in abundance. Never trust a douche, doubly so after your friend steals his fiancé and grants him powers to grant him legendary douche status. Reed is still weak from his dabble in Godhood and captured by Victor, who whisks his back to his office where a carbonite freezing chamber has been erected (a word that won’t be applying to Reed for a while) for fun times with torture. After catching a glimpse at his fleshless scars and the metallic bone rapidly becoming his head, Vic takes to wearing a mask to hide his shiny face: a metal mask (good compensative thinking Vic – that’ll throw them). He then LAUNCHES A HEAT-SEEKING ROCKET AT HIS EX-GIRL FRIEND just to round off his application to overcompensating villainous c*** award, which Jonny leads away into the Hudson, possibly drowning in the process. To save Reed being flexed uncomfortably (rubber feels pain when cold you see), Sue espionages her way into Dooms’ lair, bafflingly turning visible as soon as the villain announces he knows she’s there – for all we know he could have been doing that every five minutes since kidnapping Reed just on the off chance he was right. With Jonny spread across a wide area of the river and Susan clinically inept at using her powers for anything but cock-teasing strip shows, it’s up to Ben to re-exposes himself to the cosmic storm machine and busts Dooms’ chops, returning to ghastly malformed Thing-ness because his team mates are fucking retards.
They battle into the street and Doom hands them their asses until the Fantastic Thing & Friends realise their strength lies in team work (I love a moral message during an ass-whooping) and risk igniting a planet of billions to stop one ego-tripping maniac as Jonny goes supernova and melts Doom into the T-1000. Reed sprays Doom with water and solidifies him. Win. To celebrate melting a man alive and imprisoning him inside his own body, which is like celebrating having hit someone with your car, leaving him completely paralysed and throwing a party over the news for us non-super powered regular folk, the Fantastic Four have a boat party. Reed proposes to Sue, and Victor is shipped off to his homeland of Latveria to be stored until the sequel.
*Addemdum: At the beginning of this piece I mentioned the Fantastic Four comics had never dabbled with the dark. Well…
– they introduced the world to the Marvel Zombies. Hoe-lee shit, what’s next, an African-American Hispanic Spider-Man?!