Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Fantastic Four

I'm going to talk about the Fantastic Four! Hey, I did say I was turning over a new leaf.

I watched the Fantastic Four movie last night. I didn't like it.

I loved it.

The four seemed like characters instead of caricatures. I understood who they were and why they worked well together personally and power-wise. Sue and Johnny Storm seemed like actual people (and siblings) rather than just "team filler"; Ben Grimm was enormously winning. And watching Reed grow from Generic Genius to Nascent Leader was fun (watching Ioan Gruffud snore would be fun).

The team's origin made much more sense to me, as did Von Doom's (including a sensible reason for his enmity toward Reed Richards). And Doom wasn't forced into the ridiculous Republic Villain speech he uses in the comics: "Doom requires ... table salt! Table salt ... and the destruction of the Accursed Richards!!!" Yeesh, is it any wonder his DC counterpart is Dr. Domino?

While I was happy that Doom didn't sound preposterous, he had the Buffy-style snark-chat ("ooh, I'm so casual about evil, I'm cool!") that annoys me so much in current media. Who wrote his lines? Peter David? Judd Winick?

The special effects were appropriate. Although I was VERY disturbed to see that The Thing has four fingers on each hand. Why on earth would that be? It made him look like a cartoon, not a "man or monster".

The movie did a good job of "smoothing" over the rough edges of the legend. You know, why they have awkward codenames, silly "battle cries", and the practical advantage of welcoming their celebrity status. Each of the four has a clear relationship with each of the others, and the film was pretty economical and fairly subtle (well, Hollywood subtle) about showing it.

Sorry to ask what may sound like a stupid question but... is the comic book like this?

If so, I might like it.

I don't know you anymore.
The Waid / Wieringo run on Fantastic Four is really avery similar to the way you describe the movie -- though I think you may have seen some sort of special "director's cut," because that doesn't sound like the movie I saw. Anyway, you should check out the Waid / Wieringo FF.

And then, once you've steeled your resolve and girded your loins, smoke the REAL stuff, the height of the Kirby FF, which is easy to get now in the Essential paperbacks (volumes 2-4 are the best).

Seriously. It's hard to read more than a couple of issues of that stuff at a time because, like the Golden Age Starman, it's so DRAMATIC. Only it's also psychedelic. "Like sitting in a Wagner opera while stoned on LSD," I'd say, if I'd ever seen a Wagner opera or been stoned on LSD.
A friend of mine (who may end up posting her regarding this before too much longer) is a big Fantastic Four fan. The only Marvel stuff she's really into. She says that the Fantastic Four seems more "DC" than most of Marvel stuff. But I guess she could explain it better than I can.
did you tell someone your blogger password or something?
Who are you and what have you done with my idol.
Well, *I* liked it. I've even blogged about it. :-)
Y'know, it's worth reading just to see how long before he grows big and green from the repression and starts trashing the blogosphere.
Y'know, it's worth reading just to see how long before he grows big and green from the repression and starts trashing the blogosphere.

Ack, hope I'm insured.
The Thing has always had eight fingers and toes. So does the X-Men's Longshot, while their Nightcrawler has six. The Abomination (one of the Hulk's chief enemies) has ten fingers and four toes.

My wife, born with nine fingers, keeps track and gets the action figures.

--Mr. Ripley
I liked FF, too. Yeah, it was terrible in so many ways - the blatancy and sheer number of product placement events, and watching Jessica Alba try (and fail) to pronounce a complete sentence without pausing, stumbling, or changing pitch and tone, to pick my two favorite. But it seemed to be having fun with itself, and it didn't take itself too seriously (except as a marketing vehicle, in which case it was deadly serious) which is something that most superhero films don't do, because they're trying too hard to say something about the lead character and his greater social context.

A movie about the Hulk should be a no-brainer (in both senses of the term) - he's big, he's green, he's pissed off, and he punches his way through entire army divisions in the desert while screaming "Hulk Smash!". That's it! That's all you need! But that wasn't enough for Ang Lee - no, what this movie needs is a leaden estranged/absent father story to make it all meaningful and stuff! The result was a complete fucking snoozer. For a Hulk movie!

FF was what people think about when they hear the phrase "superhero movie". Costumes, cheesy dialogue, rubber science, superpowers, evil villains, lots of fighting and property damage, a little cheesecake, and so on. It wasn't trying to be "dark" or "deconstructionist" or "relevant" or even "definitive". You think this years' Superman movie will be one-tenth as fun as FF? No way, they're going to load as many layers of Iconic and Meaning and American Way onto it as possible, until it sags from the weight.

Someone check Scipio's basement for pods.
Someone please refill Scipio's meds.
My wife enjoyed the movie more than I did, probably because she had no knowledge of the source material that the movie was light-years away from.

Stan Lee as Willie Lumpkin was a nice touch, though. Maybe he'll be Professor Yinsen in the Iron Man movie.
I haven't seen the movie yet. I was a big fan of FF back in the day but stopped reading around the time Alicia turned into a Skrull. I have tried FF again in recent years and found Waid's run was okay and the recent writer is blah. What has suprised me is that I am really enjoying the Ultimate Fantastic Four even though I despise the other ultimate lines. Maybe you should try those.
I've always been more of a DC fan, thought I read some of everything, and FF was my favorite Marvel comic for a long time.

That said, I didn't like the movie all that much. Even with lowered expecatations, I kept seeing what it *might* have been, if only. Particularly wasted was the potential pathos of Ben's sacrifice to re-become Thing, a pretty defining moment in the comics.
"Particularly wasted was the potential pathos of Ben's sacrifice to re-become Thing"

Huh; that was one of the things I liked best! I don't think it was wasted; it was understated (something Marvel comics seldom are).
I thought it was a decent movie as far as superhero ones go, but I never had the courage to admit until now for fear of being mocked. Or possibly lynched. Thank you for helping me find my courage.
Scipio-- it seemed rushed to me. I would have at least liked a bit more of a nod or acknowledgement of regret/loss after the fact. I do appreciate that you liked how understated it was, but as a fan of the story (a whole issue) where it originally happened, I felt a bit cheated.
I quite liked the Johnny & Ben dynamics, they both did quite well and carried the movie - but Reed & Sue had no chemistry, never struck me as being comfortable playing who they were playing (which is different from the characters not being comfortable, if you follow). Doom was a on premise a decent reimagining, but the actor was a poor choice (he'd make a better Namor, I think) and the electrical thing still doesn't make heaps of sense. But I find Doom boring generally, and the dullness of the love triangle accomplished nothing.
Ten issues from now
We'll find out Scipio was
Replaced by a Skrull.
John Byrne's run on FF, written and drawn back before he became the Cranky Old Man of the Internet (Hey you kids, stay offa my forum!), is really good, too. He nails the family dynamic you mentioned, and even gets to do different take on it when She-Hulk joins the team, that of the outsider looking in.
The only worthwhile part of this piece of garbage was Chris Evans shirtless and in spandex.
Walt Simonson's run on FF was my favorite. I also dug Byrne's stories many moons ago. I don't know how they hold up today.

If you are looking for fun, don't get the Waid issues. I liked them, but lots of depressing stuff happened (including Franklin getting sent to hell & subsequently traumatized). Again, I appreciated the heaviness & unabashed sentimentality, but most of the Waid issues couldn't be called "fun."

Honestly, I like the Marvel Knights 4 series. It's easy to sample- most stories are 1 or 2 issues. I've been buying random back issues when I have the money, and I have not regretted it.

Of course, nothing beats the Essentials. If you can overcome your distaste for Kirby, they're top notch.
Love your blog, which makes the preceeding article all the stranger... Did someone get a signed invisa bra from jessica alba courtesy of big movie studio? I'll fill this one under "to each his own." If nothing else, I respect youd do a blog in favor of something that is so publicly disliked.


It might be simply a case of expectations.

Those who already LIKE the Fantastic Four as they are the comics probably had every reason to dislike the movie. Since I had no love for the FF comics or their traditions, I had no "comic book sensibilities" to offend.

I also enjoyed the Punisher movie a lot; probably the same phenomenon.
Hmm. Just as a warning, you would probably not enjoy Ultimate Fantastic Four. It is very heavy on what you call "snark-chat" and the characters are all teenagers. (I, on the other hand, enjoy that kind of dialogue when used properly, so naturally I blew through the first three trades of Ult FF and really liked them. I was more annoyed with the fact that nobody lets Sue Storm wear a real shirt--her midriff is *always* showing.)
FF4, Daredevil (The Director's Cut at least) and Punisher are way fun if you havn't read the books. Of course, this goes for Starship Troopers and Lost in Translation as well.
I wonder if the Fantastic Four movie is in for the same fate as the Daredevil movie: it broke $100 million box office, sold a bloody metric assload of DVD's, yet a couple of years later no one seems to want to admit to liking it.
Anyway, like most comics, when it's on, it's on; when it's not it's just painful. Waid, Byrne, and Simonson all did great runs on FF. Claremont, Defalco, I think Jeph Loeb, all did frickin' terrible, long runs.
Personally, I think the FF movie was goofy fun. Disposable and slight, but really very harmless. I guess people were expecting the director to wring some Deeper Meaning out of the scenario, but, let's face it, FF just isn't amenable to that kind of treatment. So instead we got a little action-adventure which the kids around me in the movie theater seemed to love. And a lot of men who were *very* easy on the eyes. Worked for me.
It wasn't very good, in my opinion. Doom sucked. The pacing was off until after the middle. But, I didn't hate it either! The Thing was quite good, the other actors were respectable, the special effects worked, and it did hit a lot of the required notes for an FF movie. The "smoothing" tactics were serviceable, the climactic scene was very decent, and...and...hell, when you boil it all down I guess I cared what happened by the end, and that's enough, isn't it?

The second one will be better, undoubtedly.

Recommendations: a lot of people will disagree with me, but the much-touted Waid and Simonson FFs are no damn good (the Waid stuff in particular is abysmal), so don't start there. Also I would suggest avoiding UFF like the plague, in my opinion its popularity is entirely dependent on what it's riffing on, and I can't imagine it being that fun without knowing the source material. The Byrne run is a pretty good starting point if Kirby puts you off, but then again if you haven't read the original FFs maybe you don't know Kirby as well as you think you do? The "4" stuff is okay. There are the odd mid-70's FF comics which are okay. But the middle Kirby material is really something else again, and very noticeably different from any of his other work. Sinnott's inking gets crazy smooth after a while, characterizations firm up to crystal-clear, and the whole thing starts to get a Look that just can't be mistaken for anything but gold.
This whole thread is just crying out for a "Which FF are You?" Quizilla.
The FF movie was fun. Not as good as Batman Begins, but a fun popcorn movie nontheless.

And as someone once said, the Fantastic Four, like Captain America, would probably feel right at home in the DCU, moreso than about any other Marvel property.
"it broke $100 million box office, sold a bloody metric assload of DVD's, yet a couple of years later no one seems to want to admit to liking it. "

The difference is the whole tiresome Ben Affleck/Jennifer Lopez thing. I think that may well have soured everyone on anything Affleck.
It was fun. I wouldn't say "great", hell, I wouldn't say "good", but I didn't mind watching it.

The Thing's characterization is spot-on though.
No deeper message? I thought it was a statement on the personally empowering effects of nudism.

The little bit with the guy being all "Why don't you go back where you came from?" to Dr. Doom was kind of weird.
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