Thursday, August 6, 2015

The Fantastic Four: Movie Review

  I'm torn on this one.

   When the word about the movie first appeared, I had high hopes for The Fantastic Four - but it's been difficult to hang onto that, given the flood of negative reviews and general grim tidings (it's always bad news when a film company embargoes reviews like that).

   Perhaps it was good to go in expecting the worst - my first reaction was: it wasn't quite the train wreck I expected. 

   For one thing, it's just great to see the team on the screen. (The FF was my first favorite Marvel comic, as created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in the 1960s.)

   Also, the actors are very good - each one a good match for their character. 

   But the story was just agonizingly slow. It took forever to get to the point, as the team's origin is presented in clinical detail - and it's based on the Ultimate Fantastic Four, which is an alternate version of the original version - this one involving travel to a different dimension, rather than a trip to space.

   But the movie's biggest sin is that it's unrelentingly dark - it's almost a horror story. There's not a speck of humor and precious little humanity or kindness on display.

   And the treatment of Dr. Doom, Marvel's greatest villain, is just sad. Here he's a disgruntled environmentalist who happens to be a genius inventor, drawn in to work on Reed's teleportation device. 

   Reed Richards (the never-named Mr. Fantastic) is intelligent, but he lacks the inspirational leadership so vital to the character (see Captain America for a great example of why that's important). In fact, his character commits a cowardly act that's terribly out of character.

   Ben Grimm (The Thing) almost seems an afterthought - it takes a mighty stretch to work him into the origin story. 

   Sue Storm (the Invisible Woman) doesn't get to be much more than grimly efficient, but at least she's a scientist here, not a "mere" girlfriend to Reed.

   Only Johnny Storm (the Human Torch) seems properly in character - he has the only light moments, and his character exhibits the kind of high spirits and jabs of wit we would expect.

   I was sad to see so many kids in the audience at the show this evening, because this isn't a movie for children. There were at least two obligatory curse words, and there were several gruesome (though not overly graphic) deaths. And it's all so dark and gloomy - not at all the fun superhero film the parents who brought those kids might expect.

   What's missing is the joy in the original series - the glory of scientific exploration, the family affection, the action and adventure - and most importantly, the humor! In the comics, the Thing and Spider-Man are the most humorous characters to spring from the Silver Age of Comics (perhaps that's why they're so popular?). 

   The Thing was always poignant because he's trapped in this horrific form, but he's rarely depressed - he uses comedy and his quick wit to overcome his condition. None of that is on display here.

   There was so much potential for a terrific adventure - and instead, we have a movie that's simply sad. Even the final action sequence just falls flat.

   Maybe the fourth film will get it right, where the first three have stumbled. 

   Unfortunately, thanks to this one, we probably won't see that film for years and years.

Grade: C-


1 comment:

Kevin Findley said...

It's the end of the world. Chuck and Harry Knowles have found common ground.


I'm probably going to see it anyway. Why? Same reason you like to see the green at the end of a particularly bad hole in golf.

False Hope.