Sunday, January 7, 2007

It's Critic-ing Time!!!

This week I watched 'The Incredibles' on DVD for, I dunno, the 5th time, I guess. The Incredibles is my eighth favorite movie of all time, by the by. And if you read my first blog post you know what's coming.
Why the holy hell wasn't Marvel's 'Fantastic Four' one eighth as good?
Very possibly my favorite Marvel comic of all time and certainly one of the best comics anywhere, the Fantastic Four had been the vanguard of Marvel for 44 years and THAT was the best they could come up with?
Don't get me wrong. Unlike 'Superman Returns' I own the wretched thing on DVD and I'm itching to go see the sequel, but what were they thinking?
O.K., first they got bogged down in the origin story and screwed up Doctor Doom from word one. I guess they were trying to make him the movie Green Goblin: a crazy tycoon in armour. But what works one on one against Spidey looks silly battling the FF when it's FOUR against one in a very short street fight. Doom killing guys in parking garages hardly captures the scope of the comic book version. Doom is a KING, A SORCEROR, and a mad scientist rolled into one. This movie made him Electro in metal chaps.
When the FF battle Doom in the comics the reader watches them wade through armies of robots to even get to his castle. These FF hit him with fire hydrant blasts at the local bus stop. This Doom is not the driven untouchable maniac version that made him worthy to return to fight Marvel's First Family for 40 years.
This Doom was EASILY DEFEATED. And the victory feels hollow and small.
So the villain shouldn't have been a Goblin rip-off, and the FF shouldn't have felt like X-Men rip-offs. Cause they did.
Comic book FF are a close-knit but flawed family of wealthy and benevolent adventurers who save the world daily and travel the stars, time, and other dimensions.
Movie FF are a handful of disconnected, disaffected rebels and outcasts afraid of the changes in their bodies and afraid to leave their building. In short, they act more like the X-Men.
The X-Men have their schtick, and I don't begrudge them one damn bit. Movie X-Men and movie Spidey did right by their comic characters, fully capturing teenage angst and confusion.
The FF are something else altogether, and their movie didn't get it.
The FF are a moral, fundamentaly NORMAL family who happen to have superpowers. (Like the Incredibles). Their stories should encompass imaginative adventures, colorful space battles and putting the kids to bed at night.
In the comics origin I don't remember Reed or Sue ever taking one second to be scared of their abilities, wonder how they happened or try to CURE themselves. They INSTANTLY set out to save the world. Why? Because they were adults. They weren't mopey teenagers. Ben and Johnny? O.K., fine Ben was mopey, and Johnny was a crazy kid. But Reed and Sue were the parental characters and they didn't have to struggle in the same ways.
The FF comic was best under Stan Lee, John Byrne, Mark Waid, and J. M. Straczynski.
Why aren't comic book writers such as these or Peter David (my favorite) being tapped to write screenplays? Why is the FF screenplay from a guy who wrote '6 million dollar man'?
I won't take it back. Writing is the main problem here.
The effects are good, the actors have all been brilliant in other things. Reed good, Ben good, even Johnny and Sue were o.k. The material was lamer than it needed to be, and I blame the writer.
Having seen the trailer for Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, I had to restrain myself from giggling like a schoolgirl because VISUALLY it looks freakin' amazin'.
But I checked the internet and the writer is the same.
For God's sake, why? Give someone good a chance.
Stan created the FF as a middle-aged man writing what HE wanted to see in comics and blazed a trail to realism in the medium: heroes with feet of clay without secret identities. His cameo as Willy Lumpkin bringing bills instead of the comics' traditional fan mail was a hoot.
Unfortunately a lot of the picture felt like bills instead of fan mail.
Why do writers think the origin should be the whole movie? They wasted a lot of the first 'Spider-Man', and almost all of the 'FF' just bringing the audience up to speed. Now, by contrast, I have no idea HOW the Incredibles got their powers and it doesn't matter for a second.
I wish the rumor I heard from my buddy Kirk had been true: that the FF movie was going to start like the Beatles' 'Help!': with the FF already established as media sensations and well into some wacky adventure. Because it falls a little flat in the movie: Ben saves ONE firetruck which HE endangered and suddenly New York loves them? Far cry from saving the world from an alien Skrull invasion like the comics. THAT buys you some public acclaim.
Also, gimme a Skrull invasion. And I don't wanna see Doom again unless it's at the head of a robot army.
Stop thinking small and give the audience a little credit. And a clever line of dialogue here and there, something quotable. Be more faithful to the source material, not the other Marvel movies.
The FF should remind us of the family ideal, kind, helpful, close-knit, loving.
Yes, be angsty X-Men when you're teenagers, but when it's time to grow up gimme the comic book Fantastic Four any day.

Next, I stop complaining for a moment and tell you about stuff that makes me happy as a squid on Tuesday.