Archive for August, 2015

Before the crap-tastic-looking reboot comes out this weekend, I wanted to revisit the previous attempts at bringing the First Family of comics to the silver screen. Then it hit me: I barely remember these movies at all. I kind of remember Jessica Alba taking off her clothes while she was invisible, and thinking that was pretty cool, but other than that…

Ahh, the memories...

Ahh, the memories…

So, to the internets I went, and discovered that, just as I thought, those movies are almost universally hated. And why not? There were some goofy moments, to be sure. Most of them involved Mr. Fantastic stretching and making fun of The Thing for looking like a rotting pumpkin. But it wasn’t even the goofy parts that ruined it, because, frankly, that’s just how they chose to play this one. It was a comic book movie, and the Fantastic Four comic has always been kind of fluffy. It was that the movie was just poorly written and basically uninspired that really bothered me.

The first Fantastic Four was made in 2005, back in the days before Disney bought Marvel and started putting out mostly good movies. Back then, we had seen a couple good X-Men movies, a pretty mediocre Daredevil movie, and a really, really horrible Hulk movie. So, the standards weren’t that high for comic book movie adaptations. Still, they mostly had the casting right, they had a cool villain in Dr. Doom (one of the coolest in all of the Marvel Universe), and all they had to do was tell the origin story. Seems hard to mess up, right? Yeah, right. Maybe they figured that they had a good cast, so they didn’t need a good script. In fact, the best part of the movie was pre-Captain America Chris Evans stealing every scene he was in. They should have just called it “Johnny Storm and Three Other Boring Super-Heroes.”

f4-ff-65

Still, like I said, that was the way they chose to play it, and the first movie, as silly as it was, at least was relatively harmless. Then they had to go and make the sequel. This time, there was no origin story to take up time, so the writers (including Mark Frost, the master scribe behind a few episodes of Hill Street Blues, something called The Deadly Look of Love, and unfortunately the new Twin Peaks series. Frightening.) had to write a full actual story. So they brought back Dr. Doom, introduced the Silver Surfer, and crammed in Galactus, just for fun. Well, not actually Galactus. Just a stupid cloud of smoke. I’m not sure who thought that a cloud would be cooler than a giant, planet-eating dude, but they were way off.

Once again, though, I will say that the casting of this one was very good, including a pre-Scandal Kerry Washington, Laurence Fishburne as the voice of the Surfer, and of course, Brian Posehn as the minister at the Mr. Fantastic/Invisible Girl wedding. Oh, I didn’t mention that there was a wedding storyline, too?  As if Galactus threatening to eat the planet and Dr. Doom up to his old tricks wasn’t enough to keep track of, let’s see if we can get these two kids hitched, too. (On a related side-note: why the Hell was Reed Richards so against marrying her in the first place? Hello! Jessica Alba? Doesn’t he know you gotta nail that down?)

Not to harp on this, but Rise of the Silver Surfer proves that the best casting in the world doesn’t mean the movie will automatically be good. There was a classic Saturday Night Live skit where Bill Clinton (played by the late, great Phil Hartman) claims that Ishtar was his idea. The quote, as I remember it, was, “I said, ‘Put Beatty and Hoffman out there in the desert, put a sarape on ’em, something good will happen.’ That’s what I said.” That’s probably not an exaggeration of what happened to Ishtar, and it’s probably what happened with these movies. Comic Book movies were starting to gain some traction after Spider-Man and X-Men, so Fox was able to get some decent actors in these movies, and probably figured, like Clinton, something good would happen. But you still have to make a little effort.

Even with the blunders, I sometimes even wonder if it’s possible to make a decent Fantastic Four movie and set it in modern times. The comic was originally published in 1961, and it started the whole Marvel phenomenon which is still going today. But it was a different world then. In 1961, the idea that four astronauts could try to take a rocket to the stars and get weird powers from cosmic rays was pretty cool, because that’s what was going on in 1961. We didn’t even land on the moon until 8 years later. Now, the origin seems kind of mundane (sorry, NASA.) Plus, like I said, the comic was always kind of pedestrian to me, because no matter what predicament the team got in, Reed Richards could just build something to get them out of it. He was like the Professor on Gilligan’s Island. He could build anything out of a coconut, but he couldn’t get them off the island. Reed could think himself out of any situation, but he couldn’t get The Thing to not look like a pile of old squash. the comic has had periods of greatness in the hands of capable writers, who can really get into the personalities of the characters. Which is something both of these movies failed to do.

I don’t yet know if the 2015 version is better than these, although, I feel like it’s not going to be. If you’re curious, check out my buddy Clay N Ferno’s review over at Forces of Geek. I may not waste my time on it, but it may have more to do with The Thing’s nudity than anything else!

Can't Reed build him some pants?

Can’t Reed build him some pants?