Tuesday, May 17, 2005

The Not So Fantastic Four

By now, I'm sure many of you have been wondering, well where is the New Yorker's take on Fantastic Four? Why hasn't she put up a link for the trailers on her blog? Is she lazy or just plain ignorant?

The answer is neither my fine friends, in fact, Fantastic Four is just the kind of movie that I would be all jazzed up about. It's based on a Marvel Comic Book about a group of explorers/scientists turned superheroes, and its one of those big blockbuster studio summer affairs.

Nevertheless, I must say there's not really anything about this movie that's got me excited. Let's look at the evidence we have so far. First there was the teaser , which I thought was terrible, and then internet trailer , which I thought was better, but still unimpressive.

That first teaser was just one big fairly incoherent montage set to horrible rock music. The cuts were impossibly fast, and appeared to be different shots from the same three or four action sequences in the movie repeated over and over again. I found the music so unpleasent that I briefly considered puncturing my eardrums with pens so I would never have to hear such an annoying horrible noise again in my life. The last part of the teaser was the highlight, because they tack on a clip of Johnny Storm looking into the camera and saying "You know that looked cool." What's funny about it is that it does not look very cool, ...at all. In fact I found myself thinking how they could have made a film which such a neat premise, so uninteresting and unappealing. The problem with this teaser, is that it makes Fantastic Four look like a generic Superhero film. Oh look, they were scientists and then something happened in space, and then they got cool powers, and then they fought a bad guy. There is no attmempt to single out any of the characters (besides briefly trying to summarize their powers)or give them any sort of real personalities beyond their super powers.

But its just a teaser right? Well the longer internet trailer , ain't much better. The full length trailer doesn't really do a better job of expanding on the plot, and it still fails to make the plot of the film have any twist or gimmick that would set it apart from the madlibs version of a Superhero script.

(insert #)________ (insert profession)__________________ were

(insert verb) ____________ when something went terribly awry.

Now the (insert same profession as before)_____________ s must battle the

evil(insert sci-fi name) ______________ or the entire city of

(insert noun with latin or greek root) _______________ will be destroyed.

Yeah, and? What are the personal stakes of the characters? Now I have not really read this comic, so I am judging this all strictly as a movie, so I don't have that much background info on all of them. Is the Fantastic Four just three smart alecky youngn's who hang around with The Thing, an older guy who looks like a cross between the Incredible Hulk and the Rock Biter from Never Ending Story? I think Michael Chiklis is a good actor. Whether or not his abilities will come through the shoddy looking CG is another factor. As for Ioan Gruffold, Chris Evans, and Jessica Alba, they might as well be the same person with different hairstyles, as I could detect no real difference in their characterizations, mannerisms, or delivery of dialogue. If Jessica Alba's acting were any flatter she'd make Chirstopher Columbus have a panic attack. She's the sort of actress I want to like, yet invariably can find no reason to do so. The script seems like a bunch of strung together action film cliches and cheesy one liners, and I would be shocked if there was a modicum of a real story in the script. This is no wonder with Fox's apoplecticly whimsical choices for the writers who wrote and then rewrote the movie. First there is Michael France, who seems a somewhat logical choice, having worked on The Punisher(eek), The Hulk, and Goldeneye. But then they threw Mark Frost into the mix, a writer who does a lot of TV work, wrote several episodes of Twin Peaks, and was a series writer on Hill Street Blues as well. Perhaps the studio was thinking, let's get a guy who does big movies, and a guy who does small stuff, and we will end up with exactly the right tone! But since these writers did not work on the screenplay simultaneously, it seems to me like one of them ended up sewing courdoroy to satin with yarn, and calling it made.

There were a couple of cool shots in the trailer, particularly the one where Johnny Storm dives off the building and flies inbetween buildings as a fireball. I also thought the flame entity in space looked neat. But director Tim Story doesn't add a lot of faith into the equation for me. His last feature was Taxi, and well... we all know how that turned out. Danny Devito, eat your heart out.

In a way I'm sort of surprised that this is going to be the big theatrical July 4th release this year. None of the cast are huge stars, and Fantastic Four, while quite popular in its own right, is not as iconic as something like Spiderman or Batman. The official movie website is pretty neat and well designed, but I don't even think they've necessarily been promoting the hell out of it the way they should if they want it to be enormous. This movie sort of looks like a poor X-Men rip-off, and I find that curious, being that Fox owns both franchises. But I guess you can never expect a studio to withhold from ripping something off- even if it is themselves...


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