Interesting, But Not Fantastic (Four)

My intention is not to take cheap shots at this film. I’m sure a lot of talented people worked very hard to produce a winner here. There have been a total of four FF films made. An early, Roger Corman cheapie, two Fox big budget misfires in the first ten years of the 21st century, and now this one.

Sadly, the advance reviews and word of mouth seem very accurate in registering the disappointment this most recent outing delivers.

As someone who grew up in the ‘60s reading and re-reading, steeping in the original Lee/Kirby 101 issues I have a profound home in my gut for the legend. I’m not married to the canon but clearly no big screen interpretation has been able to capture the spirit of those foundational stories. Actually an argument can be made that Brad Bird did so with The Incredibles. The key there and in the comic book FF is family. The FF are ultimately a dysfunctional family that bonds together to save the world from equally fantastic perils.

This iteration of the FF is directed by Josh Trank whose movie Chronicle was a truly superior “found hand-held footage” people-with-super-powers surprise a few years back. Like that film his FF is dark both visually and in tone. There isn’t a light touch moment to be had here and that was something the founding FF had in great abundance once it found its footing. This interpretation takes matters too seriously and fails to capture the soap opera froth of the source fiction. In canon the four steal a United States rocket ship and accidently expose themselves to cosmic radiation. This question provoking origin is the launch pad for some of the greatest super hero comic story arcs of all time.

It may be that very collective history that works against this movie. Take away the weight of the Fantastic Four and this is an interesting idea that is professionally crafted. This flick has great effects and good performers but the script takes itself very seriously so little fun is had by the principles and the audience. The hour and forty minutes goes by with little energizing audience engagement taking place. You watch it not really caring about the characters once the early, childhood years are put behind us. The sheer burden of having to be the Fantastic Four may have hurt an otherwise interesting story.

The Thing has improved visually with each flick, from a rubber suit with visible zipper to Michael Chiklas sheathed in shiny orange plastic we now have a totally CGI figure. This all digital Thing is the best to date, but even this one fails to capture the great pain that is felt by him in this science experiment gone super-wrong.

Still, my greatest disappointment is the continual failure to put Dr. Doom on the screen in the way he deserves. Doom is probably the greatest comic book villain of the 20th century. Without him there is no Darth Vader, but so far he is not being portrayed as the genius/noble/disfigured diplomatically immune Latverian ruler in techno armor. I would say the same thing to folks dumbing down Doom as I would to Zack Snyder: “Have more faith in the source material. Stick to the legend.”

I don’t imagine this interpretation will have legs or produce a sequel. Another reboot is almost certainly going to come about. Anyone know what Brad Bird is doing?

NOTE: The contents of House of J. are copyright 2015 by J. D. Rummel. Use of any material contained therein is expressly forbidden without the written permission of the author.

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