What's happening to superheroes these days? More and more, it seems as though if you're one of that elite crowd you don't actually have to do anything to prove yourself. It's as though being super is enough. Remember when Superman saved the world? When Batman stopped crime in Gotham city? Apparently New York has no more crime, because the four so-called heroes of "Fantastic Four," among them, manage to stop one man from jumping off the Queensboro Bridge, which then causes such a traffic jam that a fire engine hangs dangerously over the river, which means they then have to save a fire fighter who's hanging on to the end of his truck's ladder. That's it. Oh, and they also have to put Dr. Doom away, though not, of course, until the last shot of the film. Where were the screenwriters when all this non-action was going on?
The plot, if we may call it that, requires scientist Reed Richards (Ioan Gruffudd) to visit the space station his friend Victor Von Doom (Julian McMahon) has built, in order to study a solar storm of some kind. He brings his former girlfriend Sue Storm (Jessica Alba) and her brother Johnny Storm (Chris Evans) and Ben Grimm (Michael Chiklis) along, for reasons that escape me now. The storm changes their DNA and gives them all new powers: Reed can now stretch his limbs and becomes Mr. Fantastic, Sue can make herself invisible and create a little force field around herself to become Invisible Girl (I guess Invisible Woman would be too correct for the studio); Johnny becomes the Human Torch, and poor Ben acquires a huge carapace, loses his fiancée because he's now ugly, and becomes the Thing. Evil Victor, going over to the Dark Side, becomes a man of metal, drops the Von and becomes Dr. Doom.
Unfortunately, once that's done, there's no place for the film to go; no crimes to solve, no cities to save. Reed tries to undo things by building a little energy room that looks a lot like the Orgasmatron from "Sleeper;" Doom likes that he's turning into titanium and doesn't want to turn back; Torch likes flying around like a bottle rocket; and Girl likes, well, Reed, whom she used to like but who was so wimpy she left him for Victor. Johnny is the one character with something resembling a personality (he's obnoxious and revels in the media attention).
I don't know that anything could save this film; the script is a by-the-numbers job, the direction by Tim Story ("Barbershop") is mechanical, and the low-rent actors look, well, low-rent. Chiklis generates some warmth and Evans can deliver a line with a good sense of timing, but the others just stand around and look dopey. Maybe the sequel will have a little action.