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Credit: 20th Century Fox

An ode to 2005 Sue Storm

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Jul 8, 2020

Whenever the discussion turns to what major Marvel property should get the movie treatment next, the conclusion is generally that audiences are desperately in need of a "good" Fantastic Four film. This franchise has had multiple cinematic features, yet fans are still left wanting more.

2005's Fantastic Four was essentially panned by critics, but looking back on the other superhero films of the era, it's not nearly as bad as people want to make it out to be. When it comes to nailing the combative family dynamic of the team, its creators succeeded and then some. Besides that, it gave us what the comics still struggle with to this day — an interesting, well-rounded Sue Storm.

Credit: Fox / Fantastic Four (2005)

Comic writers have generally portrayed Sue Storm as a bland, stereotypical "wife/sister/mother" defined by her role in the lives of the men around her, and that is something that has been deservedly widely criticized for decades now. One need look no further than the early days of the Fantastic Four comic, in which nearly every one of Sue's appearances on-page was accompanied by sexist asides. Her "feminine vanity" was played for laughs, and that was more important to writers than her power or her characterization. Though it would be great to say that the problem has been rectified, it really hasn't been, and despite years of earnest attempts, Sue generally remains the least fleshed-out member of the team.

This is a shame because Sue is truly a fascinating character. Left in charge of her brother Johnny's well-being after her father Franklin failed to save her mother Mary's life when she was injured in a car accident, Sue took on responsibility for the well-being of others at her own expense early in life. She became the heart of the Fantastic Four, caring for the emotional states of her family — which is pretty heroic in and of itself.

Credit: Fox / Fantastic Four (2005)

In the 2005 film and its 2007 follow-up Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, Sue is portrayed by Jessica Alba, who does a great job with the character. The script focuses on her development significantly more than most early issues of the comic did, and that is to its merit. Here, she is a scientist in her own right, and while Reed is considered a genius, she is right there alongside him doing the work. She has to struggle with her powers the same as the rest of them do, and when a mob of fans attempt to corner her, she uses them to flee.

Although Sue is in a relationship with Victor Von Doom in the first film, she isn't naive about who he is as a person, and she doesn't defend him when his motives become apparent. Nor does she let Reed off the hook for his own egotistical ways. While many Fantastic Four stories primarily focus on the raging egos of Reed, Ben, Johnny, and Victor, here Sue's response to them is equally important. She never lets any of them get so carried away that they lose focus on their work, and thus becomes the driving factor behind the team's productivity over the course of the film.

Credit: Fox / Fantastic Four (2005)

Perhaps the most important element of Sue's characterization in this film is her anger, which we see comparatively very little of in the comics. She calls out every one of the men on the team at various points in the first movie. Johnny's self-centered egotism reads very much like a boy who was coddled and cared for by an overcompensating older sister placed in the role of parent when she was still a child. Additionally, Sue is the only character on the team to sincerely take time to deal with the fallout of Ben's condition, and when he tells her she can't understand, she doesn't push the issue, nor does she let him slide when he lashes out. When Reed fumbles to say something nice about her relationship with Victor, she throws the compliment right back in his face and forces him to confront how he failed her. Later, when Reed asks if she can imagine herself growing angrier, she looks at him through squinted eyes and says that she should indeed be able to "imagine" that.

2005's Fantastic Four has its flaws, but it's still a pretty good movie, and it gave us a great Sue Storm. Not only is Alba charismatic and compelling in the role, but the characterization is believable and actually improves on a lot of what we've seen in the comics without entrenching her in decades of continuity. Though the script does still position her as the object of affection for two men to battle it out over, she is never without autonomy, and she's the first to call out their machismo as antiquated and boring. When she finally ends up with Reed, it's because he swallowed his pride and confronted his treatment of her. Regardless of anything else, FF gave us an unapologetic Sue who would settle for nothing less than what she deserves in life, and that in and of itself deserves praise.

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