Sunday, August 9, 2015


The Fantastic Four resonates greatly with me because they are like…family to me. Now before the words nerd, fanboy or even worse get thrown around…let me clarify that statement. As a young whippersnapper, The Fantastic Four were one of the first superheroic teams I was made aware of through the influence of my mother who was not only a fan girl but a Trekkie as well (thanks Moms). My relationship with the Fab Four goes way back to my first reading experiences. I guess you could say I grew up with these characters. I won’t get all teary-eyed and describe the first time I read “Origins of Marvel Comics” (in which the reader is treated to the first issue of the Fantastic Four) or got my “The Thing” Action Figure/doll by Mego. I just want it to be clear that these characters were a part of my childhood and the foundation for the person I’ve become. That’s deep, but it’s true. They were smart, had super powers, went on globe spanning- galaxy hopping adventures but still found time to interact as a family and individuals with their own lives. This would be the recipe for thousands of sequential pages of wonder and fun…The Fantastic Four was like Johnny Quest on steroids meets the world of superheroes. I am certain that I have read somewhere that Stan Lee and Jack Kirby were deeply influenced by the science fiction b-movies and the cold war fears that also crept into their other titles as well. The Fantastic Four was a wildly imaginative yet timely concept that played heavily on the current events of our world and the inquisitive nature of man as an adventurer in our universe. When Stan Lee came up with the idea for this super powered quartet, as the legend goes, he was trying to formulate a magazine that he could position against the new comic being published by his corporate rival, DC Comics. They had just begun to experience success with a new book called The Justice Society of America wherein the heroes from the collective books that they published…teamed up in one book. The Fantastic Four was an immediate hit and thus The Marvel Universe was born.

I went to see the new Fantastic Four movie last Friday night with great hopes. I have read all the stories. Josh Trank; Young, hotshot director- the creator of the out of left field sci-fi superhero found footage escapade known as CHRONICLE. FOX Studios; The previous shepherds of the Tim Story directed Fantastic Four movies (I liked the first one, tolerated and ultimately purged the second one from my data banks)…didn’t really trust FOX at all because even with these previous movies, they never believed in the fun and wonder of an adventure like the Fantastic Four. When you combine the elements of new, wunderkind director with a studio that is nervous about source material you have what is generally known as a debacle. Ladies and gentlemen, it’s not enough to say that this new Fantastic Four film is a debacle. I think everyone should see it for themselves just to witness the absolute display of ego (by both Trank and Fox)…for in the end I believe both parties felt they were bigger than the Fantastic Four themselves. Trank said early on that he was looking at this film as Chronicle 2. Fox had already demonstrated that they were completely inept in terms of translating DOCTOR DOOM on the big screen, and when given the chance to amend that situation…stumbled even more with a lackluster Silver Surfer and a cop-out cloud of space dust as a stand in for possibly the greatest comic book antagonist of all time, GALACTUS. This evidence supports the new failure that is The Fantastic Four (Reboot 1). This is a debacle in the strictest sense of the word.


Here are some things I observed about this new Fantastic Four movie…and didn’t like:

1. REED RICHARDS and BEN GRIMM meet in high school. Not a crushing plot change, but even here I detect a struggle between studio and director and neither party really understanding what to do with the plethora of material given to them by Marvel itself. As Stan the Man and King Kirby originally wrote it…Reed Richards meets Ben Grimm during his college years. They become roommates when Reed’s previous roommate, Victor Von Doom, is ousted from the university for conducting arcane, supernatural experiments on campus that result in an explosion that causes him to be horribly disfigured. I know they were trying to adapt the ULTIMATE FANTASTIC FOUR storyline but get a clue FOX…SONY tried that ULTIMATE SPIDERMAN storyline and took a beating for it. WARNING TO FUTURE DIRECTORS AND STUDIOS…stick to canon and try to stay as close as possible to a character’s original appearance. THE LIZARD in the AMAZING SPIDERMAN was universally dogged….just as APOCALYPSE has already been accused of looking like a POWER RANGER baddie in their upcoming XMEN movie. You guys don’t have to reinvent the wheel…and you can call DOCTOR DOOM by his name…is that name really any sillier than MAGNETO?

2. BEN GRIMM IS SMALLER THAN REED RICHARDS AND HAS NO PERSONALITY. For cryin out loud, Aunt Petunia! They have all but lobotomized our ever lovin, blue eyed, THING. In the comics, Ben Grimm is the cuddly, cantankerous big guy with a heart of gold and a feisty Brooklyn tough dialect that can cause laughter or fear depending upon the situation. The script shortchanged Jamie Bell ,the actor who plays The Thing, and the audience at the same time. I, like most fans of the Fantastic Four, love The Thing and his never say die attitude. Face it, he gets the rawest deal out of the whole accident because he is literally turned into a massive ball of mud and rock. The great thing about Ben Grimm/The Thing is that he combats his obvious depression with comedy and a commitment to his great friendship with Reed Richards…the person who is inadvertently responsible for his mutation and who has also sworn to help reverse it. We see none of this in the movie, except for a short sequence when both of the characters are together on a plane. This is a tremendous disservice to fans and newcomers because the friendship that Ben shares with Reed is one of the great “bromances” in modern comics. This Ben Grimm is quiet, withdrawn and smaller in stature than Reed as opposed to being the bigger of the two in the comics. He has none of the charisma this character is known for and that subtracts a good deal of the Fantastic Four’s identity right there. The Thing is one of Marvel’s crown jewels, but you would never know the way his character is portrayed in this movie.
3. REED RICHARDS is the smartest man on the planet in the comics, but not so much in this movie. Okay, so I am supposed to believe that an 18 year old can create a matter transportation device using junk and garbage in his garage and then get recruited at a public high school science fair to work in a big scientific think tank where he is considered the only one who can figure out how to teleport from here to Planet Zero (aka The Negative Zone)? Damn, even Seth Brundle needed a little bit of funding and a few years under his belt before he started teleporting monkeys and flies!!!??? GTFOH!!!! I have heard of suspension of disbelief, but this aint the SUPERFRIENDS! On a sidenote…I thought Miles Teller was going to be a great fit for this role especially after seeing him in WHIPLASH but they really hamstring his performance with stupid lines and by trying to make him the main focus of the team. Any self respecting Fantastic Four fan knows that The Human Torch and The Thing are the meat and potatoes of the FF. Reed Richards is more or less the coach or chaperon
…quarterback if you will. It’s too much for Teller to carry and he doesn’t have the swag to put this movie on his back.

4. JOHNNY STORM as a black man has plagued us all for the past 2 years. I love Michael B. Jordan. Fruitvale Station and The Wire…the kid is brilliant. He has what it takes to give us a different but “feels right” take on everybody’s favorite hothead, heartthrob. The problem here once again is plausibility. In Trank’s Fantastic Four…Johnny is a hot rodding Fast and Furious drag racing mo-fo who obviously is supposed to be the rebel without a cause character. One of his street races leads to him getting in an accident, crashing his car and being hospitalized. His father, Franklin Storm (enigmatic head of The Baxter Organization or some such…you know the people who recruit kids from science fairs?) in an effort to stop Johnny from going down the wrong path tells him…. “You’re not going to get your car back until you help build this matter transporter these kids are working on at the Baxter Institute.” Folks…I kid you not. This character slid into the realm of absolute ridiculousness at this point for me. What qualifications does this kid have to work on a top secret experiment involving the teleportation of solid matter to an alien dimension?!!!!! I experienced my second GTFOH moment when this happens. To make matters worse…The Human Torch special effects are blurry and crappy.

5. SUE STORM is truly and absolutely…INVISIBLE. All I will say about the Invisible Woman in the comics is that she is probably my favorite female superhero…with Jean Grey and Medusa coming in right behind her. She is a matriarch, a superhero, a wife, a big sister and a good friend. On the surface, her powers may seem very shallow and exploitative…but impenetrable force fields and invisibility ain’t too shabby and when she is written by someone with a bit of imagination she becomes a very formidable weapon on this team if not the most powerful member. This movie version is lost in the sauce off the rip….she is the adopted daughter of Franklin Storm and Johnny’s adoptive sibling…and she also shows up at the science fair to recruit Reed. She is utilized the most in the finale and she reminded me of one of the kids playing Quidditch in the Harry Potter movies as she conveniently wields her flying force field bubbles. What pissed me off the most about her treatment in the movie is that she doesn’t even get to take part in the expedition to the secret dimension. She falls down when the men return from their fateful trip in the matter teleporter and she gets hit by a shockwave caused by their arrival that somehow endows her with powers. Stupid. I wish I was in Hollywood, I’d be writing all day every day if this is the kind of thing that gets you paid out there.

6. WE all are DOOMED! This is one of the biggest WTF’s in movie history. The very sight of this character will make you optically regurgitate. Never mind his origin, because I would rather not discuss it. DOCTOR DOOM is my favorite comic book villain. I think there is something primal and fascinating about a man who wants to rule the world. We get none of that here. You get exactly what they foreshadowed two years ago until the internet went into attack mode….a gothish hacker who is brilliant with a chip on his shoulder….who then travels to another dimension, sticks his hand in an unauthorized puddle of pulsating green goo….gets left behind by his colleagues and winds up having his environmental suit he wore on the voyage fuse to his body. This character looks like a chia pet/ Christmas ornament/ bowling ball. GTFOH!!!!! You failed. I’m salty.

I will end this by saying that I love the Fantastic Four universe. It is Marvel’s first family and I will always root for them because they are my heroes. I have no clue as to why this property cannot be translated in any competent manner to the big screen but it’s a shame. The core elements of the Fantastic Four concern family and adventure. Maybe that’s not cool enough for our currently dark and edgy obsessed society. I’ll admit to liking dark themed stories and heroes but damn….there’s nothing wrong with a little sunlight and optimism. Guess I’ll just go watch the Incredibles again!!!

Much love!!!

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