Is It Just Me... Or Is Fantastic Four the lost gem of the superhero genre?

Nathan Ditum praises this funny, unpretentious comic-book movie

Poor old Fantastic Four.

Of all the sub-Spidey comic-book adaptations we’ve been bombarded with since X-Men made spandex cool again in 2000 – The Punisher, Ghost Rider, even Ben Affleck’s bastard-chinned Daredevil – 2005’s Fantastic Four movie has been the most roundly jeered and derided.

But seven years on, I contend that not only is it a better film than you think it is, it’s also a better film than it thinks it is.

Hell, it might even be a better film than I think it is, and I’ve been thinking about it for ages.

The complaints go something like this:

Fantastic Four is witlessly optimistic and lacks the depth and darkness of the best comic adaptations.

Ioan Gruffudd is a manicured bag of warm air as Mr Fantastic and Michael Chiklis is a vocoder away from Mr Blobby as the sad-faced Thing.

Jessica Alba is best when she’s invisible, Chris Evans’ nuclear smirk is unbearable and the science underpinning the story sounds like the ravings of a physics teacher in the grip of a full-on nervous breakdown.

It’s hard to deny much of this. And certainly, the stats seem to back it up. Fantastic Four has a 5.7 rating on IMDb, a 27 per cent rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a 40 on Metacritic. All sad numbers.

But let’s remember this: everyone on the internet is wrong about everything. And, more importantly, while all those criticisms of Tim Story’s film hold true, they’re not necessarily mistakes.

Yes, FF is daftly upbeat and contains some balls about cosmic rays that you don’t really need to worry about.

But as a brand, Fantastic Four has always skewed towards a younger audience, and the film does away with the ‘moody’ looks and psychological hang-ups synonymous with the Wolverines and Batmans of this world for a broader appeal that’s true to the source material.

Anyone who claims this isn’t a kids’ movie, based on a kids’ comic book, should consider the fact that the hero is called Mr Fantastic (a man so insipid Gruffudd did a fine job just making him slightly boring), while his metal-skinned nemesis carries the equally subtle name of Victor von Doom. And he turned out bad? Didn’t see that one coming.

Not that the film is just a big, bright nothing. It’s also far funnier than it’s given credit for.

With his brutal turn in The Shield now a fading memory, it’s easier to appreciate the comedy of Chiklis’ Thing – fat rock fingers thudding concrete while grasping for his wife’s discarded wedding ring (a scene so devoid of real emotion it can only be aiming for laughs) or roaring “Don’t do drugs!” at a crowd of kids.

And while at the time Evans was hard to take as the cocksure Human Torch – too young, too handsome, too on fire – seven years later we know he’s more than sparkly eyes and one-liners.

The film set him on the way to being a real star and if you re-watch it now he repays the favour. Like him, the film has aged well, grown into itself.

It’s not dark or clever or menacing. But then it’s really not trying to be.

It’s funny, it’s unpretentious, and it’s over in a just-right 90 minutes.

It’s also better than you remember. And by God, it’s superior to Daredevil. Or is it just me?

VOICES OF REASON

Matthew Leyland
Finally, after years of silence I can step forward and say no, it’s not just you. I too was perfectly entertained by this most lightweight of superhero sagas. Although it really is all down to Chiklis and Evans. They should do a Depp in Pirates 4and ditch the others.

Jane Crowther
It’s OK. If you’re on a 12-hour flight. And none of the other channels work.

Jamie Graham
Nothing wrong with a comic-book adap being light, frothy and a little bit silly: Danger Diabolik is a camp classic. But Fantastic Four? Let’s just say the title is misleading

What's your favourite lost gem superhero movie? Tell us below

Comments

    • tomevans

      Oct 21st 2012, 6:58

      What are you on about, both these films were c**p then, and are c**p now.

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    • chrysler

      Oct 21st 2012, 8:39

      TF you are losing a lot of credibility as a professional film review website with this "tailored trolling". It wasn't humorous with the first "Is it just me..." article and its gotten progressively pathetic since. How can you expect anyone to take you seriously with this drivel. For the united sakes of your reputation and our patience, please drop this dire article and let Mr. Ditum go back to a job that would doubt be more suitable to his tastes, such as tasting the urinal cakes every morning to ensure their freshness.

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    • marc96

      Oct 21st 2012, 9:02

      i dont mind the films, i know they arent great but if theres nothing other than fantastic four on tv i have no problem watching it

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    • zxcomplex

      Oct 21st 2012, 11:39

      Hey! what's wrong with Daredevil? As good as The Fantastic Four is, it's not a patch on Daredevil. At least DD was dark, violent and humorous all in one measure.

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    • grahampatrick

      Oct 21st 2012, 11:51

      It reads as though you're saying Mr Fantastic is his real name, when it's not. The sequel is slightly better, but they're both bland pieces of instantly forgettable fluff.

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    • FBJRider

      Oct 21st 2012, 12:05

      I agree to some extent especially the being better than Daredevil bit. It certainly had it's moments and it didn't need the dark undertones of TDK but it did need emotion and it had pretty much none of that, I think we were supposed to care about the Thing when he was being all depressed but I couldn't care less or when you though Mr. Fantastic might die, again I didn't care. As for Von Doom, in the comics he's one of the best villains, in the film he seems like he should be taking on the Care Bears. The reboot needs the emotion these ones didn't have and they'll be great, I imagine they'll try go down the dark route though.

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    • StevePotter

      Oct 21st 2012, 15:35

      This movie's alright. The sequel blew, though.

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    • Ali1748

      Oct 21st 2012, 19:22

      It was one of the worst movies I've ever seen.

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    • sce04

      Oct 21st 2012, 19:29

      Both films are completely terrible. Granted the chemistry between the thing and the human torch is ok in the first film but that doesn't give it enough to make both it and the sequel good films by any stretch of the imagination. As for being true to the source material have you ever read a comic with Dr. Doom, because it doesn't seem as if you have. You can't justify it either by saying it's a kids film. Compare The Fantastic Four with The Indredibles and you'll realise how far away fox were from getting it right.

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    • spunkbag

      Oct 21st 2012, 20:16

      No they were both absolute bollocks, especially the first film. There is absolutely no story or threat until the last five minutes. The only slightly exciting thing is what happens on the bridge that is actually caused by them.

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    • thejonner

      Oct 21st 2012, 20:58

      My kids asked me to turn the first one off when I put it on for them and won't even contemplate the sequel. All the criticism anyone needs.

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    • MoodyMonkey

      Oct 21st 2012, 21:34

      Its not the worst CBM out there but its a long way from the best**s just far too 'meh' for me to reccomend. Waste of a good property if you ask me. And DD was far better!

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    • Hadouken76

      Oct 21st 2012, 23:39

      The Incredibles pretty much ruined any future Fantastic Four film.

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    • Andy85

      Oct 22nd 2012, 6:09

      @Chrysler: I have to be honest, that was a slightly harsh comment. You can't base the credibility of a magazine based on one article and advising that somebody needs to start test tasting urinal cakes just because they have a professional opinion begins to make me ponder about what you should be doing instead of your no doubt mundane, boring occupation. The FF films weren't great and I felt they were long winded and dull but if a critique feels the opposite way then this doesn't make me feel any misfortune toward them. More mature posts in the future please!!

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    • Igrayne

      Oct 22nd 2012, 6:42

      Why do people always condemn The Fantastic Four as being silly and childish but they think Spiderman is dark? For crying out loud Marvel is just a kiddy version of 2000AD and DC. Spiderman was about a little bender and his time stalking some ginger prat at school, oh and the villains in those films are completely grounded and believeable. The Green Goblin and Doctor Octopus. The X Men first and third films spent more time babbling about school and fitting in than anything else, Fantastic Four did not waste time with this it just gave us humour, effects and a short running time, exactly what a weekend superhero film should. At least Chris Evans looked the part not like Halle Berry who butchered the Storm character and as for Juggernaut and Jean Grey, grrr. So if you like Spiderman or The X Men films who are being a bloody hypocrite judging The Fantastic Four.

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    • LondonHoop

      Oct 22nd 2012, 9:01

      I think this is a great shout by Total Film. Well done. I have always enjoyed the Fantastic Four films and sure whats wrong with silly, light fun for 90 mins? Absolutely nothing - that's right!

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    • FBALeal

      Oct 22nd 2012, 11:07

      Chrysler, you are an idiot. Try to be a movie journalist see if you can manage something half as good as what TF does. Andy 85, thank-you for elevating the comments to something more than just fans complaining about the writers of TF rather than discussing movies. Smart comments are rare these days and I welcome yours. As for Fantastic Fours, well the movie irritates me but I do have to admit that it never actually manages to bore me, which is a revelation to me. The trick is to never compare it to the Dark Knight trilogy or the X-Men movies otherwise, it will never be appreciated. Good article, thanks.

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    • FBAGardhadipu

      Oct 22nd 2012, 14:32

      Yeah right, I agree, FF is a lost gem, this movie is light, fun and simple, no need to add some "darkness" plot in here. I love TDK and all dark plot in superhero movies nowadays, but if FF played in my television channel, I won't miss it, the movie is entertaining, got some humor, some action, decent CGI, and for you who says the sequel is bad, I disagree, I like the sequel more, well... I will say no to see silver surfer again... sorry for my bad English, but thanks for TF for bringing such sensitive issues like this :D

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    • chrysler

      Oct 22nd 2012, 18:17

      @andy85 My problem is that TF magazine seems to have a descended to new lows in recent time to get website hits. These "Is it just me...." articles are in my opinion simple internet trolling to get as many comments as possible. I could be wrong, and the author may actually believe this idea, but even so that doesn't change the fact that the standard of this magazines' website has fallen considerably over the past year. I appreciate that my previous comment may have been harsh and I apologise for that, but not for my point of view on these articles or their purpose. @FBALeal: you're correct. Smart comments are rare these days, but starting them with "you are an idiot" are a dime a dozen. I better apologise for that comment too, 'cos you seem a bit prickly to sarcastic humour.

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    • dangoodfellow

      Oct 23rd 2012, 9:28

      I think it's main problem was a lack of strong creative leadership and vision, something that the first two xmen , the dark knight movies and Avengers all had.It didn't seem comfortable in being a comicbook movie, there was no embracing of the dramatic themes and rythms that make great comic book movies great. In my opinion, where it really failed was with Dr Doom, they tried to nmake him a 'real' character, someone from our cultural background who , in the words of the joker, 'has a bad day'. Dr Doom is thcomic book villains villain, all volcanic hide out, minions and death rays, totally OTT, and i think that would have transfered brilliantly onto the screen. better luck next time eh?

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