‘Fantastic Four’ brings comic-book quartet to the big screen | TahoeDailyTribune.com

‘Fantastic Four’ brings comic-book quartet to the big screen

Howie Nave
The Human Torch (Chris Evans) "flames on" above the streets of New York City in "The Fantastic Four."

Few movies based on comic book characters can generate the kind of buzz that this movie has. It has taken decades to get this one out of the comic pages and onto the screen.

We were given a tease last year when “The Incredibles” was released. That was writer/director Brad Bird’s homage (in part) to Stan Lee’s creation with artist Jack Kirby, and was a great animated flick that worked for both kids and adults, winning the coveted Oscar for Best Animated Feature and also one for sound editing.

Stan Lee hopes to hit that kind of paydirt when his original quartet is adapted to the big screen in “Fantastic Four.” The movie is well cast and is a blast to watch. I can see the whole family enjoying this outing. As in past Stan Lee movies, we are treated to a cameo by the creator himself. In this case Stan plays mailman Willie Lumpkin – don’t blink.

Marvel Studios may have a successful run with this franchise – and they better, considering they have two sequels already planned! The movie has a fun-filled pace to it and, yes, there is a romance element going on, but nothing that the kids will find distracting.

The characters are entertaining and there’s more than enough action to sustain your interest throughout. I will say this, though: Of all the super powers the Four possess, the most impressive one was a sense of humor. It’s like the cast was truly a cohesive unit, having fun shooting this. Not bad for a movie based on a 44-year-old comic book.

Hopefully, “Fantastic Four” will make people want to get back into the theater and enjoy a movie as it was intended to be seen: on a big screen with a fantastic sound system. This is that movie.

The cast includes Ioan Gruffudd, who plays Reed Richards, an inventor and leader of the group. During a space mission, his team of astronauts is exposed to radiation (it’s always radiation or some type of cosmic dust, you know?) from an accident, giving his crew these incredible powers. They transform into four distinct characters with special gifts. Richards now has the ability to stretch his body and becomes known as Mr. Fantastic.

Girlfriend Susan Storm (Jessica Alba) has the ability to turn herself invisible and create force fields, so she is referred to as the Invisible Woman.

Johnny Storm (Chris Evans) is Susie’s younger brother and, since he has the ability to control fire, he is known as the Human Torch. His entire body becomes like one giant flame thrower with the ability to soar through the air, and reminded me of some angst-ridden firefly with a pilot light that won’t extinguish.

The star of the group, hands down, is Michael Chiklis (from TV’s “The Shield”). He plays pilot Ben Grimm, who is the heaviest of the bunch. Simply referred to as “The Thing,” Ben is transformed into this walking monolith made up of rock with attitude. Stan Lee once said that “Thing has always been my favorite character,” and rightfully so, because he rocks! Sorry.

“Fantastic Four” never takes itself seriously, and why should it? It’s a comic book, right? I thought that was one of the disappointments when “The Hulk” was brought to the big screen: too dark. No balance. Here, with “Fantastic Four,” the “heroes” are more like adolescents on a field trip who pull pranks, knowing that they won’t get caught and if they do, who is gonna mess with them? They have the power to kick butt, although Richards is more the adult here.

What the foursome needs, though, is someone worthy to challenge them and their collective powers. They find that (finally) in a villain who can match wits (and powers, too) with the Four: Enter the appropriately named Dr. Victor Von Doom (Julian McMahon), a genius who, as it turns out, has a connection with Reed. You’ll have to see for yourself what that is, but suffice to say it involves the future of mother Earth. Yes, it’s a worldly battle that only super heroes can fight.

I was worried at first when Tim Story was chosen as director. His last movie was the terrible Jimmy Fallon vehicle “Taxi,” which not only stalled in the humor department, but was a wreck at the box office. Still, Story directed “Barbershop,” proving that he could direct a multitude of characters and make them all useful instead of fillers. Good thing, too, when you consider that “Fantastic Four” clocks in at close to two hours. The last thing you need is a movie that has the feel of an epic mini series in that time frame.

– Howie Nave is the host/emcee/manager of The Improv at Harveys Tuesday through Sunday nights. You can hear him on seven radio stations every Friday morning reviewing movies in northern California and Nevada, including KRLT in Lake Tahoe and KOZZ out of Reno. Watch him every Saturday and Sunday on Tahoe’s KMTN TV doing movie and video reviews.


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