Fantastic Four — Collaborative Review

Hannah: Melissa and I have now both seen the Fantastic Four reboot, and, well… We’re underimpressed.

Fantastic Four

Melissa: I don’t think we’re the only ones either, and that’s a shame. To be honest, I was hoping the movie would prove me wrong – I had my doubts from the beginning. And I tried to be objective, I really did. But I’m a fan of the original movies and I couldn’t help comparing the two. That said, I enjoyed the film more than I thought I would, but I still left the cinema feeling disappointed with the remake as a whole.

Hannah: I also enjoyed it but left disappointed. There were things I really liked, but I couldn’t help feeling like it was a “pre-MCU” movie. It had the same feeling as the Sam Raimi Spiderman movies, for instance. I loved those movies at the time, but in retrospect, they give off a strong feeling of “not quite there yet.” Not as focused or polished or confident, and without the idea of a larger universe, they don’t feel as expansive.

But let’s talk about the good parts.

Melissa: The idea of an alternate universe had huge potential. It was certainly an interesting divergence from the original story, and an accident in space.

Hannah: Yes, I was really into that idea, and how it might streamline things or allow for variations on their powers. I enjoyed the five characters and how distinct their powers were. The transformation sequence was positively harrowing!

Melissa: I agree with you about the transformation, it was brutal. So let’s take a closer look at the main players:

Human Torch – I thought Michael B. Jordan did a pretty good job in the role. He struck me as a bit of a loner, someone who wanted to carve out a path for himself instead of living in his father’s shadow. He had a subtle humour, and a confidence which suited the role. But Chris Evans is a tough act to follow; a hot-head with impulse control issues – the perfect combination for Johnny Storm.

Fantastic Four Johnny Storm

The Thing – Jamie Bell was great, and I enjoyed the development of his relationship with Reed Richards. I particularly liked the glimpse into their childhood; the bonds they formed early in life. But when he became the Thing, I was oddly detached from the character. It was bizarre that Reed left the group to fend for themselves for a year. I get he was scared, desperate to turn things around, but to leave without a word. What does that say about his commitment to his friend? It just didn’t sit well. I waited the entire movie to hear ‘it’s clobbering time’ and was ultimately disappointed. The line had no personality, and I was left feeling disappointed. To be fair though, it’s always hard when CGI kicks in, and there’s bound to be layers of separation between the audience and the actor playing the role.

Dr. Doom – I liked Toby Kebbell’s portrayal of Victor; the dark tortured personality – a result of being a genius with limited social skills. But then he disappeared for half of the movie and his motivations fell short. Julian McMahon (in the 2005 movie) did the manipulative, ego-centric billionaire really well, and so his transition into a monster made sense.

Hannah: Invisible Woman – Sue is a better female character who gets better treatment than ANY FEMALE MCU CHARACTER. She’s smart and independent, but not cocky or with a chip on her shoulder. She has her own vital set of powers, and isn’t defined by anyone else in the movie. And I really appreciate that even though some romantic elements were present, they’re kept in the background and never a major motivating force. Reed and Sue are an established couple in the comics and have been all along, but that wouldn’t have fit yet. There’s room for it later.

Fantastic Four Sue Storm

Melissa: I agree. Sue was my favourite character. I loved her – Kate Mara brought everything I thought she would to the role; intelligence, morality, and a strength which bound everyone together.

Hannah: Mr. Fantastic – I was so pleasantly surprised by this character! I was expecting “awkward nerd turns out to be the best at everything and gets the girl.” But he was actually shown perfectly comfortable conversing with everyone in the movie. He was pleasant without being annoying. Welcoming and encouraging, with no prejudices, and a kind of “leader from the background.” Smart, with a real comic-book-hero outlook on teamwork. But he still does monumentally stupid things sometimes, and makes interpersonal mistakes like the rest of us.

Melissa: Yes, I think that’s true for most of the movie, which is why I was so disappointed by the change in direction. Instead of stepping up, being the leader they needed him to be, he bailed. I might have accepted a few days, weeks at the most, but he only came back after he was captured. Then, when he did return, he did little to build those bridges.

Fantastic Four Reed Richards

Hannah: Yeah. It just didn’t make much sense, and that’s the main “negative” of the movie. The motivation wasn’t there for any of them.  Doom started out so interesting, but like you said, that just disappeared. I loved Reed and Ben’s friendship, especially when Reed sends Ben that selfie, because it shows how close they were and that Reed wasn’t just dumping him (which would be the plot of any other college movie). But then Reed runs away for a year.

That directly ties in to my other biggest problem, and that’s the pacing. Right when it was getting good, they cut it off entirely and jumped ahead a year. All the investment in the characters, gone, because we don’t actually see this part of their development. We never get the emotional payoff afterward, either. The gap created a major conflict between the characters, a fascinating choice, but that’s just waved away at the end. This should be a movie about constructing families, and all the bones are there to make it work, but we don’t get to finish it. Instead there’s a fight scene and an uninspiring speech from Reed and then a textbook “We’re a team, we need a name!” finish, all devoid of connection.

Fantastic Four

And the “science.” Don’t make me laugh. It was too ridiculous to be sci-fi, but not quite tongue-in-cheek enough to brush off as comic-book craziness.

Melissa: That sums it up perfectly, Hannah, especially your points about connection and lack of emotional payoff.

Hannah: Thank you, thank you.

There was a lot of potential here, and it was an enjoyable watch, but it would’ve benefited from another half an hour of runtime and a few more goes with the editor. Cut the weird timeskip, and tie the second half closer to the first. Then it could’ve been raised from a “fun” movie to a really good fun movie.

What do you think – did Fantastic Four pull it off? And here’s the question on everyone’s mind… Does it deserve a sequel? Let us know in the comments.

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Tuesday Chatter: Feedback Welcome

sourcererDuring the first year I blogged here, I posted a lot of planning-type stuff and sometimes asked for reader feedback. One of the reasons I did that was because most of my social media friends were people I knew only in the blogosphere. I stopped doing it in January because one of my goals for the year was to turn Sourcerer into a seamless five-or-six-day-a-week pop culture blog.

But anyone who’s trying to build audience for creative work is wise to ask readers what they want now and then. So I’m asking for feedback on a few things today. Everyone is welcome to chime in.

  1. Comics, TV, and Movies have been the core of our content here so far. The tv/movie blogging has tended to focus on comics-based, horror, and occasionally sci-fi series. If we were going to expand our tv/movie offerings, what would you like to see?
  2. On the stand-alone photos. How many of you enjoyed those enough to stop by regularly for them? And those of you who did like them (it’s ok to be honest here) — did you typically interact with them by coming to the blog itself, or did you interact with them solely from your reader and/or on twitter?
  3. Look/feel. Anything I can do to improve your experience of this blog as a reader from a layout-design-widget standpoint?

Any other constructive feedback to help us improve the blog is welcome. We’re getting into the time of year where I do any redesign & long-term content planning that needs to be taken care of before we get back into the starting blocks for 2016.

Also, would any or you who have never contributed here before like to step aboard and join our hearty crew? If so, hit me up and we’ll work out a way to discuss it privately.

arrr, Mateys!

arrr, Mateys!

Other notes 

We’ve got a collaborative review of the Fantastic Four movie from Hannah and Melissa running tomorrow, and you don’t want to miss that. Also, I’m working on a guest post for Hannah. Not sure when it’ll be finished or when it will run, but the first draft is done.

We’re taking Thursday as an off-day for a bit. We’ve never been the strongest on Thursdays, and I’m to the point where I’m just not willing to publish our valuable, wordy content on Thursdays unless we have a glut of it, or unless we work out a specific plan for that day. If I do anything at all on Thursdays for the next little while, it’s going to be to reblog and/or do quick roundups to encourage you to visit some of our contributors & friends.

Is there an X-Men Conspiracy?

Found on Wikipedia

Found on Wikipedia

I’m not sure if “conspiracy” is the best term for it, but it’s catchy, right? The question has been bouncing around, and I really got to reading about it after a link from Cirsova. The question is whether Marvel comics has been suppressing the X-Men and the Fantastic Four, in terms of merchandising and in the comics. The thought on the motivation is mixed, from basic business sense (Marvel isn’t making much on the X-Men and Fantastic Four movies developed by Fox) to far more sinister decisions to undermine these movies and make them fail.

I’m not sure I have the answers, either. Certainly I’m not holding the smoking gun. But for your comics Wednesday enjoyment, I can consider several of the recent series, and what they might mean in terms of the idea of a conspiracy. Sinister motives? Or writing themselves into a corner? The questions I have for you as we consider the X-Men Conspiracy!

The Conspiracy: Merch

I guess I’m not sure which merchandise people are considering, when they talk about there not being any merchandise for non-Marvel-rights-owned characters. Potentially action figures, and I’ve been out of that market a while – though I did see an action figure of Hyperion recently, and that’s one heck of an obscure character, who’s currently an Avenger in the comics.

Funko Pop bobble head Ghost Rider

I bought this guy!

The merchandise we have gotten recently has been Lego: Marvel Superheroes, which was full of characters from throughout Marvel (and the very most powerful ones were Super Skrull, a definite Fantastic Four character, and Phoenix, very much so of the X-Men). That, and we’ve been looking down the dangerous road which is Funko Pop bobble heads, which include a number of Marvel characters (I got Ghost Rider!).

Then again, thinking of the advertising we’ve seen… there’s Disney Infinity, with the Marvel heroes. The only character I have seen for that outside of Marvel Studios movies is Iron Fist. Well, and kind of Nova. But both of those are Marvel Studios-owned as well, I’m pretty sure.

So, what do I think? The merchandising is almost pure money-making business, and you make decisions for that based on where you make the most money. That’s why Disney Infinity (and Skylanders before that) exist in the first place! So are they focusing on their own properties with that. Conspiracy? Or just really obvious business decision-making, being made by sales sorts of people who make business decisions? I say the latter.

The Conspiracy: The Comics

Here’s where it gets much harder. Who knows what’s happening in the writer’s room at Marvel? Well, we all kind of do – well after the fact, when we see the story arcs in their fullness. But the comics about the different teams of heroes, or even about many of the specific heroes, are written by a number of different writers at one time, much less over the course of time!

battle-of-the-atom-1-cover

From my review over on Comparative Geeks.

Here’s some of my thought on this question, from reading the comics. Especially last year’s 50-year anniversary of the X-Men crossover event: “Battle of the Atom.” This crossover included the past – in the form of the All New X-Men, which I’ll get to in a minute – the present X-Men, fractured into two camps, and the future. The future they worked in reminiscent to Days of Future Past, which made sense to me also with the movie on the way…

In this future, there’s some advance for mutant rights. A mutant president is elected! And, at the inauguration, is killed by sentinels.

And really, all I got out of the whole crossover was the thought that, after fifty years of writing, after struggling all that time with rights issues and building the battle between mutants and humans – they never get anywhere. They are still envisioning a future where the mutants are losing.

I guess you look at the news today, and it makes sense for the battle for civil rights to be never ending. It’s hard to pick the day where you look up and say, “it’s over! We’re all equal now!” Still, I would understand how, as a writer, you’d kind of want to go back to the drawing board at that point. Think harder. Approach the issues from new angles.

The event was, overall, depressing and not that great. I wrote more of a review of it here. But even thinking about it through the lens of the conspiracy, I don’t think it’s that. I think it’s 50-year writer’s block.

Alright, that was my focus, let’s do a lightning round of other series and crossover events of the last few years! Then you decide.

  • All New X-Men: This series is all about the original X-Men, brought forward through time travel to the present. It feels, to me, like the way to do a reboot without doing a reboot. It’s also a great way to bring in new readers, which is the point of a reboot, right? Point against conspiracy.
  • The Trial of Jean Grey: This was a recent crossover event, based out of All New X-Men. I haven’t read it, but the idea? Young Jean Grey has been brought forward from the past, and can stand trial for the crimes she will have committed, in lieu of her older self. Logical to me, and a good way to re-hash the Dark Phoenix Saga in a new way. That part still sounds like writer’s block to me. But the crossover? It’s with the Guardians of the Galaxy. Sure, logical, they’re in space. However, they also had a movie coming out later in the year. So was it all just a way to get all the X-Men fans to become Guardians fans and go see the movie? Point for the conspiracy.
  • Uncanny Avengers: This team came out of 2012’s Avengers vs. X-Men crossover, itself I suppose a possible candidate for this list. The plot? The X-Men and Avengers just duked it out across the globe, and to get people on their side again and put their differences aside, they form a “Unity Squad” of Avengers and X-Men, to fight super foes. Super foes who of course end up as the perfect ones for their combined efforts. Their first opponent? The Red Skull, or rather a clone of the Skull, straight from 1945. Last thing he remembers, he was a Nazi and hated Jews. Now he wakes up in the present, and the right sort of folks for a Nazi to hate is mutants. So he does that. I follow. The comic went on to deal with issues from Rick Remender’s Uncanny X-Force, which makes sense as Remender is the writer. And then they had a bunch of dead X-Men and Avengers characters show up. Were they drawing in fans? Or was this a logical continuation of long-term plots for the comics faithful? I think it’s just comics for comics, point against the conspiracy!
  • Axis: Right now, there’s a big crossover event happening rolling out of the pages of Uncanny Avengers. I’m not reading it right now, but it’s involving apparently huge reversals, with the good guys becoming bad, and the bad good, so of course lots of Loki. Conspiracy? I guess I’ll have to read it to know; is this the logical result coming from the very first issues of Uncanny Avengers?
  • New Avengers: I love Jonathan Hickman and his current run on Avengers and New Avengers, but I don’t know if I smell conspiracy just because he’s now writing these titles (he wrote a lot of Fantastic Four and FF) and he’s good. You can tell he used to write FF: the New Avengers prominently feature Mr. Fantastic, and some other characters who have featured prominently in the pages of Fantastic Four over the years, like Namor and the Inhumans. Wait, the Inhumans are getting a movie! Conspiracy? Or the characters Hickman knew and wanted to be working with? I go story with this one.
  • Inhumanity: Spinning out of Hickman’s plot, however, was the event Inhumanity. This event created a whole bunch of new Inhumans (including fan favorite Ms. Marvel so who’s complaining?), and people argue that this is Marvel’s way of creating new super-powered people who aren’t mutants. Yeah… that sounds about right. Before Inhumanity, Kamala would have just been a mutant. She even has a Wolverine team-up. Conspiracy? Maybe. But they’re always trying new angles to create new characters; not so easy to do!
  • The Death of Wolverine: And finally, the Death of Wolverine. Did they maybe really do it? For a while, at least? Did they kill the unkillable man? Yeah, maybe. It let them sell a whole bunch of comics, all sorts of aftermath comics, as every adamantium-laced character got to spend some time musing over Wolverine’s passing. But they’ve been building towards it for years, with Wolverine first having to lose his powers, and having to kind of reference this fact in the fifty or so titles he appears in. So maybe it has to do with the fact that he was a character in half their titles: cut him, and you have to think about things differently. So story, or conspiracy, killing the most popular X-Man? I could go either way on this one.

You can see why I don’t feel like I have the answers: lots of the plots lately make some story sense beyond the idea of locking-out the X-Men and Fantastic Four. Who’s to say? Feel free to weigh in in the comments below!

As a final thought, I find it hard to even see the figures on comics sales. But we know the movies are all making bank, and there’s a lot more planned where these came from! Have the comics become the gold mine for producing future movie plots? That one I find it much harder to answer, and that one is a really big, long-term business decision that deserves a reminder that Disney bought Marvel.

So… maybe.