It's Marvel's longest running comic book series, and now the Fantastic Four is leaping from its pulp pages into the world of live action, assisted by major computer effects. If you, like me, haven't got a clue who these characters are, the entire back-story will be filled in while you watch this movie.
Dr. Reed Richards (Ioan Gruffudd) is a combo inventor/scientist/astronaut. It's a handy skill set that allows him to propose a jaunt into Earth's orbit so he can ride out a cosmic storm headed for the blue planet. By placing himself into the eye of the action, he believes he can unlock the secrets of human DNA and provide cures for virtually every ailment. To pay for his trip, he turns to his old college rival, Victor Von Doom (Julian McMahon), now a billionaire industrialist.
For human resources, the doctor calls on his astronaut buddy Ben (Michael Chiklis); Sue Storm (Jessica Alba), who is currently working as a geneticist for Victor's company and is also Reed's ex-girlfriend; and Storm's younger brother Johnny (Chris Evans). Victor hops aboard for the scenery and to continue wooing Sue into his personal life.
But things don't go well after they dock at the space station. For some reason, the storm's nine hour ETA has shortened to nine minutes. Catching them by surprise, the group is exposed to severe radiation.
Once back on Earth, each discovers their bodies have been renovated in unique ways. Johnny has the gift of internal combustion--allowing him to burst into flames at will, Ben has turned into a huge rock monster, Reed is able to stretch his frame into any imaginable shape, and Sue has the ability to turn invisible... as long as she takes off her clothes.
Unfortunately, Victor discovers his new ability as well--a virtually invincible, titanium-strength physique. This sets New York City as the stage for the ultimate superhero showdown, with Von Doom seeking power while the others wrestle with accepting their new identities and helping to keep the city safe.
Never taking itself too seriously, Fantastic Four allows its heroes to mingle with the general populace, as opposed to living in secret. That gives opportunity for many lighter and comedic moments, as the team contends with aggressive media (played by many actual aggressive journalists) and the public's reaction to their abilities. However, the story doesn't deviate from where you think it's heading. Instead, the creators have offered a palate of electrifying visuals with the hopes audiences will forget the predictability of the plot.
The most prominent eye candy is the extensive use of Jessica Alba's physical "talents." Having to strip in order to become invisible provides ample opportunity for "near miss" moments in underwear and coming out of the shower. When she is seen, her wardrobe is low and lean. Other family viewing concerns will be many moments of stylized action violence, including electric shocks (one cuts a large hole through the middle of a person's body, resulting in a dramatic death), car accidents, body throws, and many more workaday superhero encounters.
While not quite fantastic, these four do offer reasonable entertainment, which most parents will be comfortable having their teens (and perhaps older children) view.