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The narrative of Fantastic Four lacks imagination though the film is a visual treat, reports Ervell E. Menezes

A still from Fantastic Four
A still from Fantastic Four

THOUGH fantastic is an adjective commonly used in speech it doesnít figure so often in film titles. Among the few exceptions is Fantastic Voyage, a mid-1960s film about a team of doctors and a boat being miniaturised and made to travel in the bloodstream of an injured scientist. Stephen Boyd and newcomer Raquel Welch were in it.

Fantastic Four is a popular Marvel comic (remember Capt Marvel Jr flew around in a blue suit and Capt Marvel Sr in a red one?) and deals with the escapades of inventor-scientist-astronaut Dr Reed Richards (Ioan Gruffudd), his best friend, astronaut Ben Grimm (Michael Chiklis), his ex-girlfriend and genetics researcher Sue Storm (Jessica Alba) and her impetuous brother and pilot Johnny Storm (Chris Evans).

After NASA refuses them permission for a space trip, Reedís old college rival, Victor Von Doom (Julian McMahon) sanctions it because his girlfriend Sue is part of it. They hope to unlock the secrets of the human genetic code.

But it doesnít take long for the team to miscalculate an oncoming storm and the radiation damage is immense. Their DNA is irrevocably altered.

Bon earth, Reed gains the ability to stretch and contort his body into any shape and as the leader of the group is called Mr Fantastic. Sue is able to render herself invisible and create powerful force fields as an Invisible Woman. Johnny is known as the Human Torch as he can engulf his body in flames and take flight at will and Ben, whose freakish transmutation is most shocking, becomes an orange-coloured, rock-like superhumanly strong creature called The Thing.

That Victor Von Doom has a score to settle is apparent but how this foursome face the folks in the streets of New York is what the film is all about. Thankfully, they do not overuse their skills as they are more concerned about getting back to normal. So director Tim Story has enough scope for his narrative even though it lacks imagination and is quite humdrum (blame it on scriptwriter Mark Frost) except for a few dashes of humour.

The Thing is a cross between the Hunchback and Shrek and is the cause of a few laughs. Reed and Sue seize the chance of rekindling their love much to the consternation of Victor. But the fare is far from absorbing. In fact, it is quite tedious and doesnít call for any special acting skills either. Victor is at the receiving end but it takes far too long for him to be vanquished.

Meanwhile, the fare plods on. There are some rare good lines like when Victor is told by his boss, "This is not a negotiation, it is a notification." But it hardly makes up for much of the inanity that goes on otherwise.

Ioan Gruffudd and Jessica Alba are able to raise some chemistry and Chris Evans provides the lighter moments. Michael Chiklisí role is essentially physical and Julian McMahon is purely academic as the villain in a film is not to remembered for his histrionic skills. The saving grace is there is not much of an indulgence in special effects. When the curtain finally comes down on the show it is yet another case of razzmatazz and visual splendour. But the soul is clearly missing.