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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Time Runs Out – the Conclusion of Jonathan Hickman’s Avengers (and the Marvel Comics Universe)

It was the spark that started the fire – a legend that grew in the telling.

At the beginning, it was an origin story. The rebuilding of the Avengers. The reconvening of the Illuminati. And with overtones reaching back to the beginning of the Marvel Universe.

The left is from Avengers - the right is from New Avengers. Also on http://comparativegeeks.tumblr.com/

The left is from Avengers – the right is from New Avengers.
Also on http://comparativegeeks.tumblr.com/

At the end, it’s the mirror of that story. The collapse of the Avengers. The Illuminati replaced by the Cabal. The end of the Marvel Universe.

Jonathan Hickman’s run writing Avengers and New Avengers has been a blast. I’ve blogged about it a good deal because it’s one of the main comics I have been following on a regular basis – although I have stepped down to reading it in the trade paperbacks/collected digital volumes. That said, I am here now because these two comics just released their last trade last week – the end of the four-trade, two-title saga called Time Runs Out, which led directly to the current Marvel Secret Wars and which ended the Marvel Comics Universe in a very real way.

Yes, it’s comics, it’ll probably come back. Still, for now, es ist kaput.

So how did we get there? Even if the why of the universe ending was corporate and marketing and business, the mechanism that got us there took about 100 comics. So what happened? Why did time run out?

A Quick Rundown of Hickman’s Avengers and New Avengers

To make this a quick rundown, I am going to be sourcing things out to previous posts I have written. In these posts, I have a number of screencaps from the comics with some further explanation of things so it’s not just me I’m referring to, it’s the comics themselves.

At their heart, these were two parallel and competing stories. In Avengers, as in the image above, it’s a bit of a reboot/reforming of the Avengers team. A fresh start, a new beginning. With an expectation of greater threats: with a need for a bigger team. So an origin story of sorts there. Meanwhile, new “villains” (many of whom end up new Avengers), new problems, and new versions of “old” heroes – like a female Smasher and a new Hyperion. Meanwhile, with the larger backdrop of the villains and the big fight to come (Infinity, which I blogged in three parts), there is a larger narrative and origin story of the whole universe. Callbacks to a narrative of, essentially, the big bang.

In New Avengers, that story becomes one of universal death. Of the opposite of the big bang: a big collapse, with the whole universe collapsing at once. Which they get to see happening, multiple times: the entire multiverse (multiple universes) is collapsing, universe by universe dying. I included Mister Fantastic’s excellent explanation in my original review.

Thus, the dual character of life, and death, between the two stories, which I have found really cool, and which I talked about as one of the great themes in Hickman’s comics in generalContinue reading