Australian Council on Children and the Media

Fantastic Four

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Not recommended under 13, PG to 15 (Viol. Sex.)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Fantastic Four
  • a review of Fantastic Four completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 7 July 2005.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 13 Due to the film's content of violence, intense action scenes, sexual innuendo and adult themes the film is not suitable for children under the age of thirteen years.
Children aged 13-15 Parental guidance is suggested for children between the ages of 13 and 15.
Children over the age of 15 Older adolescents could see this movie without parental guidance, although they would still benefit from a discussion with their parents of some of the issues raised by the movie in respect of stylised violence and sexual attitudes.

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines.

Name of movie: Fantastic Four
Classification: PG
Consumer advice lines: Mild stylised violence
Length 106 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Scientist Reed Richards (Ioann Gruffudd) and his side kick Ben Grimm (Michael Chiklis) ask billionaire industrialist Victor Von Doom (Julian McMahon) for access to the Von Doom space station so that they can investigate a high-energy cosmic storm coming Earth’s way. Reed believes the storm may contain data enabling the secrets to the human genome to be unlocked, thereby aiding the curing of disease. Von Doom agrees to Reed’s proposal providing that Reed takes along his assistant Sue Storm (Jessica Alba), who is also the director of genetic research, and Johnny Storm (Chris Evans), Sue’s brother and space shuttle pilot. Shortly after Von Doom and the quartet arrive on the space station, Reed becomes aware that he has made a terrible miscalculation and that the cosmic storm is only minutes away rather than hours. The solar flare hits the station exposing all five to dangerous levels of cosmic radiation.

Back on Earth, the five soon begin to experience side effects from the solar radiation, which has ‘fundamentally altered’ their DNA. Reed’s body takes on the properties of rubber. Ben is completely transformed into a rock-like being with incredible strength. Sue has two powers, she is able to become invisible and create a force field that not only protects her, but also repels objects or people. Johnny is able to turn his body into a flaming torch at will. Von Doom’s skin begins to transform into a metal with the ability to create and manipulate electricity at will. Reed, Sue, Ben and Johnny take on celebrity status when they combine their unique abilities to prevent a fire engine from falling off of a New York bridge saving the lives of several fire-fighters. They are given their ‘Fantastic Four’ status: Reed becomes Mr. Fantastic, Sue the Invisible Woman, Johnny the Human Torch and Ben, the Thing. Unhappy with the changes that have occurred and Ben’s despair over his monstrous appearance, Reed sets about finding a cure that will reverse the effects of the solar radiation. Meanwhile, Von Doom has undergone a change for the worse; his character has become evil, and he is bent on the destruction of the Fantastic Four.

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

The violence perpetrated by the Fantastic Four can be characterised as ‘comic book violence’ in that the real life consequences of the violence are not shown. Violence is presented as either self defence, defending the life of a fellow team member, or stopping the backlash of Von Doom’s violence from hurting innocent bystanders.

There are a few instances where aggression, both physical and verbal, occurs between the members of the Fantastic Four:

  • Johnny (The Human Torch) constantly baits and teases Ben (The Thing) using putdowns, which at times results in Ben showing rage towards Johnny. While the exchanges are heated, no exchange of physical violence occurs
  • The Thing, after being psychologically manipulated by Von Doom, becomes verbally aggressive towards Mr. Fantastic, an exchange that results in Mr. Fantastic wrapping his elastic body around The Thing to restrain him

Von Doom is presented as a manipulative spoilt schoolboy, rather than the type of character bent on ruling the world. His character embraces violence, using it to achieve his aims and to sweep aside anyone seen as a threat. Von Doom progressively becomes more ruthless, evil and violent, increasingly enjoying his newfound power. The violence enacted by Von Doom is aggressive, brutal, callous, manipulative, vengeful and very effective. Violence enacted by Von Doom includes:

  • strangles his doctor, throwing his body against a wall
  • generates an electrical charge to murder his former business partner, blowing a hole through his partner’s chest
  • leaves numerous bodies scattered over the floor of a weapons installation
  • tries to murder Reed by injecting his body with super coolant. The scene resembles a torture chamber with Reed strapped down and tubes sticking out of his body as he slowly freezes. During the process Von Doom grabbed Reeds now frozen fingers deliberately bending them back to cause Reed pain
  • uses his powers to knock out Sue (The Invisible Girl) and then attempts to strangle her
  • uses his powers to blow up a number of police cars, and later attempts to impale Ben (The Thing) with a steel pole

Fantastic Four portrays no real life consequences resulting from violent acts perpetrated either by the Fantastic Four, or Von Doom. While Von Doom leaves numerous dead bodies lying around, the film does not portray any pain and suffering associated with the deaths. Further, while mass destruction results from encounters between the Fantastic Four and Von Doom, the film does not portray any consequences resulting from the destruction, such as loss of property, or injuries suffered by bystanders.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

The above mentioned violent acts committed by Von Doom are capable of scaring and even terrifying younger children. In addition, the following scenes or images could disturb very young children:

  • Ben’s transformation into The Thing. Ben is covered with a blanket during the transformation, but there are a number of animal-like growls and groans suggesting that a monstrous transformation is taking place
  • Once transformed, The Thing looks like a rock-like monster, and has a very aggressive manner at times
  • the manner and appearance of Von Doom, his metal mask and the manner in which electricity shoots from his hands
  • a number of intense action scenes involving various vehicles, buildings exploding and people in dangerous situation

 

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

Children in this age group may also be disturbed or scared by the scenes described above.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

Younger children in the eight to thirteen age range could also be disturbed by the violent acts committed by Von Doom, and by the scenes described above.

Over thirteeninfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

Children over the age of thirteen years should be able to interpret the monstrous appearance of The Thing and Von Doom, and the violence presented throughout the film as being of comic book style and therefore not be scared by the images.

Sexual references

Fantastic Four contains a number of sexual references most of which revolve around the character Johnny Storm (The Human Torch), who is presented as a promiscuous playboy.

Sexual references include:

  • a close up of Johnny kissing a sensuous looking women in a sports car. The camera shot widens out to show that Johnny, rather than sitting next to the women in the car is actually riding a fast motorbike. At the end of the kiss Johnny speeds off into the distance
  • reference is made to Johnny being kicked out of NASA as a result of taking two women into a flight simulator, the inference being that it is for reasons other than simulator practice.
  • a nurse takes Johnny’s temperature, and says, “You’re hot”. Johnny’s response is “Why thank you. So are you.”
  • Johnny asks the nurse to go skiing with him. While skiing, he starts to catch on fire, resulting in his clothes burning from his body. He then sits naked in a hole in the ground filled with water which is bubbling and steaming as the result of his flaming body. The nurse catches up and Johnny asks ‘Care to join me?’; the nurse’s body language insinuates that she will.
  • Someone quips that the Fantastic Four’s higher calling is, ‘getting girls and making money?” Johnny replies “Is there any higher?”
  • Ben (The Thing) refers to Reed ‘playing twister’ with Sue Storm, the inference being sexual.
  • Von Doom’s male assistant states that Von Doom could have any beautiful woman he wants in the world, so why does he want Sue Storm. Von Doom suggests that the fact that he could have any woman in the world is why he wants Sue Storm.

In general, Fantastic Four leaves the viewer with the impression that men with power, money or good looks treat women as sexual objects, or possessions to either win, collect or own, rather than viewing women as equals, or even real people. Ben (The Thing), is an exception to this, views his wife as an equal and treats her with true respect. Ben’s wife, however, immediately and completely rejects him as she is unable to cope with his visual appearance as The Thing.

Nudity and sexual activity

The film contains no scenes of actual sexual activity. There are two scenes with partial nudity:

  • Johnny sitting naked in a hole in the snow filled with steaming water (as described above). Johnny’s torso is exposed from the front; there are no below the waist images
  • a similar image is shown of Ben’s torso as he is transformed from The Thing back into Ben.

The film displayed a number of images of women dressed scantily, including:

  • numerous images of Sue wearing tight fitting clothing revealing the sensuality of her body’s curves
  • low cut tops revealing ample cleavage
  • Sue moving and walking in a very sensuous manner
  • a number of cheerleader type girls wearing short skirts and high cut tops revealing exposed midriff, pierced belly buttons and cleavage.

Use of substances

There is one scene where Ben, as The Thing, walks into a bar and asks for a double, presumably a spirit of some type. However when he attempts to hold the glass containing the alcohol, he accidentally crushes it before he can consume its contents. He doesn’t reorder the drink.

Coarse language

The film contains a couple of instances of the word ‘damn’.

In a nutshell

The film’s main message is that four relatively normal people, who go through some dramatic changes, learn not only to accept and cope with those changes, but to use their new found abilities to work together as a unique group for the greater good of society. Parents may wish to encourage the manner in which individual members of the Fantastic Four cope with their diversity and cooperate as a group to overcome obstacles and defeat the evil Von Doom.

Parents may wish to discuss the comic book manner in which violence is presented, and what the real life consequences of such violence would be. The manner in which women are portrayed as objects and / or sexual conquests, could be used by parents to discuss with their teenagers what their own family’s values are, and what the real life consequences can be of such actions and attitudes.

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