I went into Fantastic Four with my heckling shoes on, and yowza the first ten minutes are heckle-tastic: Is this in the future? They’re on earth. They’re in space. They have six minutes to rescue Ben Grimm — they have no time at all. Jessica Alba gets upstaged by her hair. Exposition. Sciencey talk. Genius scientist uses word “smallness” and shows us the future of PowerPoint (including the nekkid blue dude from Watchmen. Homage? No.)
It’s always really windy where Sue is. Somebody make Ben cut back on the Cajun.
But then something sneaky happens — the characters start being likable! Michael Chiklis, Chris Evans and Ioan Gruffudd are each dudes with established chops in underrated stuff, and as my cohort pointed out, each of them came ready to play and treated this like prolly the only action movie they`d ever get to do. There’s a montage of the four cooped up in Reed’s ginormous if-I`m-so-broke-why-don’t-I-hock-the-HDTV penthouse that is worth the price of admission, and it all comes down to one Chris Evans reaction shot. Jessica Alba, on the other hand, gave this all the dancing-in-front-of-a-box-fan gravitas of her role in Sin City.
Watch as I make these gray wings DISAPPEAR… without explanation… by the third act
This movie has enough great moments to overcome the groaners — and there are a lot, listed later — sorta like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which is what the Thing in a hat and trenchcoat in Brooklyn evokes.
See, it’s okay that it’s dumb when Ben Grimm’s girlfriend meets him in the street in her nightie — this got a pretty good laugh from the audience at my screening — because we like Ben so much that her rejection really hurts. It’s okay that it’s dumb when she magically appears at the front of a logjammed crowd, because when she returns Ben’s ring it hurts again — and then they throw the moment on its ear with a gag.
That’s sort of the cycle through the whole movie — something dumb happens, but you don’t care because you like the characters, and then they throw in a gag. WIN!
That doesn’t mean everything dumb was justifiable. I have a beef with Sue Storm, but I`m not sure who to blame. Jessica Alba, for flattening even her funny lines? The director, for not getting a performance out of her as good as Idle Hands? The makeup artist who puts her in full airbrushed Playboy Playmate makeup with false eyelashes whether she’s lying in a hospital bed or still wet-headed from the shower?
Sidebar: I don’t have a problem with lady scientists in movies being hot. Lady scientists in real life can be hot. I don’t have a problem with them dressing sexy. Lady scientists in real life can dress sexy. But what females as a species DON`T usually do is wear makeup from chin to crown and bouffant their hair even when, you know, traveling in space. Or lying unconscious.
If I said you had a great body, would you hold it against me?
While I`m at it, there’s a bit where she strips nekkid so she can be fully invisible. Lots of things about this don’t make sense — she can bend light around her puffy hairdo, but not around her skivvies? She goes invisible to sneak past police at a barricade, but then the other two Fantastic Four are there already? But the thing I can’t forgive is that she’s wearing matching underwear. This moment is supposed to be funny, and would have been much funnier if she had a nice brassiere with big cotton Supergirl BVDs, `cause that’s how I roll. But, no, they match, and it’s lame.
Anyway. My primary complaint about Sue Storm is that she’s bland. She complains to Reed Richards that he lacks passion, but he comes across as more exciting than she does. Part of this is the writing — 1) she doesn’t have a drive like the other three do (get back to normal, find a way to get everybody back to normal, get some ass) and 2) her main job tends to be to stand around while guys are fighting and shout “hey, stop fighting!”
But writing’s not completely to blame. In the most laboratory-conditions example in the movie, Ben, Reed and Sue watch Johnny Storm make fun of them on TV. Reed’s reaction is WAY funnier than Sue’s, and he doesn’t even have a line! Sue is bland! Bland bland bland.
What happens when you spice up superbland metal
Okay. Jessica Alba is raging hot, and she’s not Katie-Holmes-in-Batman bad. Like, on an acting scale from 1 to 10, with 10 being Edie Falco and 1 being me, she’s probably a 6 where Katie-Holmes-in-Batman is a 4. But there are a bazillion actresses who are hot who can also communicate important points and be funny, such as:
This is probably just me, but TWICE I was too distracted by Jessica Alba’s hair and makeup to follow the story. I was all mad that Sue is dating Victor Von Doom (apparently an old Latverian name that no publicist could make him change) because it’s obvious to everyone he’s an ass, and he almost proposes to her, and then my cohort explained that, um, no, she was trying to interrupt him the whole time (“Victor… Victor…”) but he was too Gaston cocky to listen. Ohhh. Sorry.
Then I said they left out the bit in the trailer that explains how Sue Storm’s powers are related — “you can bend the light around you” — and said cohort was like, um, no, actually that was totally in there. Ohhhh. Sorry.
The makeup department must have been so excited about their work on the Thing (who looked pretty damn good and a world better than any CGI) and started drawing all over everybody — eyeliner for Reed, eyeliner and greasepaint eyebrows for Victor. They were excited. I understand.
But whatever was happening to Jessica Alba created a narrative black hole — story points go in, but they DON`T COME OUT.
No… more… CAJUN!
- I`m horribly disfigured in a metal-themed way! Thank god for this big metal mask under glass which wasn’t foreshadowed.
- Even if you are a private corporation with the resources to go into space on a whim, strange incidents will impact the projected value of your IPO and there will be one guy you can blame for this.
- There are two people of color in New York who can speak. But one of them is blind.
- Solar radiation gives you powers by changing your DNA, and also changes the powers of your clothes, because, um… suit… DNA… I dunno.
- New Yorkers crowd but stand by politely while you talk with your teammates. In rare instances where crowds are not polite, rather than put up a force field and walk to safety, it’s better to take off all your clothes and run barefoot. In NYC. Ewww.
- Hot nurses, also with Playmate hair and makeup, wear long French tips and little nurse dresses like Daryl Hannah’s from Kill Bill. This is what happens when you hire your nurse practitioners from Maxim’s “Hometown Hotties.”
I think I`m done.