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'Fantastic Four' Scores Despite Critics' Attacks
July 12, 2005

By James L. Hirsen, J.D., Ph.D.
contributor to

While the elite film critic community was busy savaging the movie "Fantastic Four," the public was busy enjoying it.

In fact so many were hard at work relishing the cinematic moment, they made it the No. 1 flick in the country, pulling Hollywood right out of its big old box office slump.

The movie took in a whopping $56 million its first weekend; this after the New York Times decreed that it was "fantastic only in its commitment to mediocrity," the Los Angeles Times called it a "superhero sitcom" that lacked "a strong, dramatic through-line," USA Today dubbed it a "ho-hum futuristic foray," and the Boston Globe labeled it a "bad superhero comedy" that "takes its time going nowhere."
So, why would approximately 80 percent of the mainstream media film critics differ so greatly from the average everyday filmgoer?

Well, apparently John and Jane Q. Public aren't exactly aching to see the kinds of "edgy" characters and amoral plot twists that seem to wow jaded critics.

"Fantastic Four" takes a different flight path. This may have something to do with producer Ralph Winter's involvement. Winter is one of Hollywood's unabashed Christians. He's the guy who produced "Left Behind" and a host of other major motion pictures including the "X-Men" movies.

The characters in "Fantastic Four" do have their human frailties, but they're not the cynic-pleasing type of protagonists who sulk, fret or whine their way through the storyline.

The tale takes place in the same kind of universe as the comic book that inspired it: a world of moral clarity where good guys fight bad guys for one reason — to wipe out evil.

The plot revolves around a sister, brother and two friends who do some space traveling. While out gallivanting in the galaxy, they're exposed to a cosmic storm. The radiation alters their DNA and in the process they acquire some unusual powers.

Jessica Alba (TV's "Dark Angel") plays Sue Storm, who's able to turn invisible. Chris Evans (of "The Perfect Score") plays her brother, Johnny Storm, a flying human flame-thrower who ultimately becomes The Human Torch. Ioan Gruffudd (A&E's Horatio Hornblower) is Reed Richards. He can pretty much without limitation contort and stretch his body. And Michael Chiklis (FX's "The Shield") is the human brick wall known as The Thing, who ends up caring more about doing good than looking good.

Much of the humor in the flick is generated by Evans' character. He's the only one among the four who sees his new abilities as "cool." Other than the Torch, the characters are reluctant heroes, which of course makes them all the more lovable. Still they step up and fight evil without hesitation, and without any need to see a druggist, psychic or shrink.

Throughout the film the four champions battle an equally uncomplicated nemesis named Victor Von Doom, played by Julian McMahon (of "Nip/Tuck" fame). And just like in classic feel-good flicks, the good guys win in the end.

What makes this big-screen experience really sweet is the fact that "Fantastic Four" is a family-friendly flick, where parents can actually let their kids view the entire movie without having to make toilet paper blindfolds or plug their pint-sized ears with Milk Duds.

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Copyright © 2005
James L. Hirsen, J.D., Ph.D.

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