Fan-Cast: FF Villains, part 1: Mole Man and Puppet Master

“You can always judge a man by the quality of his enemies.”  — Oscar Wilde

At the end of last week’s “fantastic fan-casting” exercise, I said I might do some villains next time. I was right! There are many to choose from, of course, but I picked three of the FF’s earliest foes, whom I also happened to have some pretty good candidates for. (Well, I think so, anyway.) While working on it, I realized I needed to limit this post to two and save the third for next week. As with the last post, I’m attempting multiple characters, so I’ll try not to expound too much on any of them. First off…

Puppet Master

Puppet Master

Puppet Master

The villain known as “Puppet Master” is Phillip Masters, a native of Transia whose boyhood hobby was sculpting figures from clay found near the base of Wundagore Mountain. Moving to America with his parents, young Phillip continued to sculpt as an escape from the bullying of his classmates. What no one knew at the time was that continued exposure to the slightly radioactive clay was causing a mental imbalance. (The clay was later revealed to have mystical properties, as well.) Following a difficult childhood, Masters studied biology in college and became business partners with his college roommate, Jacob Reiss. Reiss died in a tragic explosion, and Masters married his widow. His new step-daughter, Alicia, was blind but a very talented artist. Many years later, she would become the girlfriend of Ben Grimm (aka The Thing) and a trusted friend of the Fantastic Four. (Unfortunately, that also meant she would become a frequent pawn of her stepfather, despite the fact that he genuinely cares for her.)

Phillip, on the other hand, became increasingly unstable and criminal in his pursuits. He discovered that, by fashioning a “doll” from his special clay in the likeness of a real person, he could mentally control that person. By manipulating the doll, he could make the person move in the same way, even when many miles away. With enough concentration, he could completely take over the person’s mind and even alter his/her memories. I should also note that Masters became quite skillful at building toys, too.

Masters was always a bit strange, quirky, but his growing insanity over the years made him increasingly unpredictable and dangerous. Early depictions made him out to be rather “dumpy”-looking, and he wore colorful clothing. But, his more “classic” look is the slender, odd little man in the above pic, often wearing an artist’s smock. He is white, bald, and appears to have an unusually wide mouth. (Or, maybe it’s just his diabolical grin.) Marvel’s wiki page lists him as 5’6″. As for his age, I’d say somewhere in his 50s, maybe 60-ish.

I think the actor that comes closest to Masters’s unusual looks and also roughly the same height is Clint Howard (5’7″,b.1959). (Not sure how slim he is these days, though.) Howard, of course, is the older brother of actor/director/producer Ron Howard. He is known to Trekkies for playing a very odd child/alien in the TOS episode “The Corbomite Maneuver”. His adult credits in genre fare include The Rocketeer, “Space Rangers”, “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine”, “The Outer Limits”, “Total Recall 2070”, “Star Trek: Enterprise”, “Heroes”, “Fringe”, etc. Now, if we wanted to go with someone taller and more sinister-looking, I think Mackenzie Gray (6′,b.1957) could be terrific! Seen recently as a Kryptonian in Man of Steel, Gray will also be a regular in the new “Legion” series. (Debuting tonight!) He has also been in “Kung Fu: The Legend Continues”, “La Femme Nikita”, “The Net”, “First Wave”, “Andromeda”, Babylon 5: The Legend of the Rangers, “Knights of Bloodsteel”, “Smallville”, “Spooksville”, and he has done a bunch of voicework, too. (Somewhat ironically, he stars as a dying sculptor in a drama this year titled Heart of Clay.)

Clint Howard

Clint Howard

Mackenzie Gray

Mackenzie Gray

 

 

 

 

 

 

harvey_elder_earth-616_from_official_handbook_of_the_marvel_universe_vol_1_7_0001

Mole Man

Mole Man

Harvey Elder is an overweight & squat, extremely near-sighted man, 4’10” tall, with poor posture and a humongous nose. Not surprisingly, he suffered a lot of ridicule both as a child and an adult. He became a skilled scientist, but the taunting and pity (including by the woman he loved) led him to quit is job. He traveled a lot, following legends to find a “land at the center of the Earth”. While he didn’t find quite was he was looking for, Elder did stumble upon Monster Island and later an underground realm dubbed ‘Subterranea’. In Subterranea he found a race of semi-humanoid creatures known as Moloids, who made him their king. He discovered and mastered some highly-advanced machinery long-abandoned in the caves by the Deviants. Elder has also encountered and learned to control several large, non-humanoid monsters within the wide network of caverns lying miles beneath Earth’s surface. Finally, he has somehow gained a measure of longevity and developed a “radar sense” of sorts, while living & working for years in his dark, subterranean empire.

Calling himself the Mole Man, Elder uses his monsters, Moloids, and advanced tech to wreak havoc on “surface-dwellers”, steal various objects, and, of course, get his revenge on his enemies and the world at large for treating him so poorly. His long-time enemies include the Fantastic Four, as he was the very first “super-villain” they encountered after gaining their powers. (Fantastic Four, vol. 1, #1) Elder may be sensitive about his physical form and a resentment for those who mocked him, but he has developed a superiority complex over those who live above ground. While not much of a physical threat on his own, his loyal minions, familiarity with the subterranean geography, and use of technology have made him a surprisingly dangerous and resilient foe.

Casting this poor guy is really tough, and obviously no one is going to be this short, fat, and ugly. (Not without prosthetics, at least.) I’m happy to cast a couple of talented actors who are somewhat on the short side, though. Paul Giamatti (5’9″,b.1967) played a (disappointing) variation of another Marvel villain, the Rhino, in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 not long ago. He has had roles in Saving Private Ryan, The Negotiator, Safe Men, Planet of the Apes, American Splendor, San Andreas, and has done some genre voicework, as well. My second choice is Timothy Spall (5’8″,b.1957), whom you may remember as Wormtail in the Harry Potter movies. He has also appeared in Crusoe, Dream Demon, “Red Dwarf”, “Young Indiana Jones”, Immortality, Death Defying Acts, Enchanted, From Time to Time, and Assassin’s Bullet. (Downsides are that he’s about to turn 60, and he has slimmed down since this pic was taken a couple years ago.) I’d be quite happy with either of these guys.

Paul Giamatti

Paul Giamatti

Timothy Spall

Timothy Spall

 

 

 

 

 

 

So far, so good? Doctor Doom is up next, so, until next week…

* All ideas copyright Christopher Harris, 2013-2017.

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Fan-Cast: Fantastic Four

“[Y]ou didn’t think to account for our personalities. The inner strength that my family has, that I’ve seen grow with us through the years. You forgot to include that in your calculus. If we’re down, we rise. If we fail, we try again. If we lose the battle, we win the war. And that is what makes us… the Fantastic Four!”  — Mister Fantastic to the Quiet Man

I’m going to try something different this time and fan-cast a whole team in one post. To do so, I’m going to have to cut down on the amount of text. So, since readers of this blog likely already know who the Fantastic Four are and at least the basics of their “origin story”, I’m going to skip all that, along with most of their history.

ff-classic-artFirst, a few notes about physical appearances and ages. We know that all four of our heroes are/were attractive and physically fit — even moreso in later years. All four are Caucasian. The Storm siblings are blonde, whereas Reed and Ben both have brown hair, with Reed’s temples having turned white in his late teens. Reed’s build was originally on the slender side, though his powers allow him to look more muscular. Ben, of course, was always stockier and more muscular, even before he transformed into The Thing. Reed’s height is listed as 6’1″, Ben’s at 6′, Sue’s at 5’6″, and Johnny’s at 5’10”. I would prefer to stay within 2-3 inches either way for each of them. It should be no surprise that my casting choices try to retain the classic appearances of the characters, though I realize that some things (e.g., hair color, eyewear, muscularity) can be altered in the service of playing a role.

According to Marvel’s wiki page, Reed — of Prime Earth, not “Ultimate” — had attained four degrees by the time he was 18 years old. While working on his fifth, he roomed first with Victor von Doom and then with his soon-to-be best buddy, Benjamin J. Grimm. I’m not sure about Doom, but it says this was Ben’s freshman year, so he was roughly the same age as Reed. (However, I read elsewhere that Ben was a few years older. This may be an effect of ret-conning.) Ben later joined the U.S. Air Force, where he became a highly-skilled pilot, and Reed went on to build his first experimental rocketship.

While working on yet another degree at Columbia University, Reed’s landlady’s niece, Susan Storm, developed a crush on him. She was only 12 (though other sources say she was older), and I’m guessing Reed was 22 to 24 years old by then. When Sue started college, she went to California where Reed was working on his project, and they began dating. By the time of the ill-fated accident that gave them their powers, Sue was no longer considered a “teen”, so she must’ve been at least 20 years old. This would put Reed and Ben in their early 30s. Johnny Storm, however, was referred to as an adolescent teenager. My sense of him was that he was maybe 4 to 5 years younger than Sue, give or take. So, for argument’s sake, at the time of the accident they were 15 (Johnny, who we remember is Peter Parker’s peer), 20 (Sue), and 30 (Reed & Ben).

ff509That having been said, while it would be nice to see casting match these ages, it might not be all that easy, and I certainly haven’t come across 15 and 20 year olds that fit the bill for Johnny and Sue. So, I have no problem casting them both in their early- to mid-20s (though the actors might be slightly older), as was done in the last FF movie. I would also understand if those casting for the next screen version decide to make Ben a few years older, which would be believable for giving him time to become a noted test pilot/astronaut. Or, they could even make Reed and Ben in their late-20s, but I wouldn’t go any younger than that. This all assumes that the next movie begins with the FF’s “origin story”. But, it wouldn’t have to. The characters can be further along in their careers as heroes and, therefore, a few years older.

Personality-wise, we have 1) the super-brilliant, sometimes distant and absent-minded Reed Richards (aka the super-elastic Mister Fantastic); 2) the streetwise, cigar-chompin’, somewhat impatient but ever-dependable jock-turned-pilot Ben Grimm (aka the super-strong, rocky-hided Thing); 3) the empathetic, commonsensical, oft-maternal, stronger-than-she-knows Susan Storm (aka the mistress of invisible force-fields, Invisible Girl/Woman); and 4) the immature, thrill-seeking, sometimes hot-headed Johnny Storm (aka the aptly-named Human Torch).

Beyond all that, the most important thing is that the actors have not only the talent but the necessary chemistry together. After all, while only two are related by blood, these characters really do become a close-knit family, as well as a well-oiled team of explorers/superheroes. That family dynamic really needs to come across on-screen for any FF movie (or series) to work.

Now, rather than suggesting two to four candidates for each character individually, allow me to present to you two possible teams. Feel free to mix-n-match, though….

Tom Mison

Tom Mison

Greg Finley

Greg Finley

Eliza Taylor

Eliza Taylor

Lucas Till

Lucas Till

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our first team has Reed and Ben in their early 30s, as played by Tom Mison (6’1″,b.1982) and Greg Finley (6′,b.1984), respectively. Mison is best known for the “Sleepy Hollow” series, but he can also be seen in Mysterious Island, an episode of “Inspector Lewis”, and various romance/comedies. Finley has appeared in several episodes of “The Flash” and “iZombie” lately, but he has also been in Hypothermia, “Star-Crossed”, and episodes of “CSI” and “Law & Order: SVU”. Then we have a 20-something Sue played by Eliza Taylor (5’5″,b.1989). She is best known in the U.S. for her starring role in “The 100”, though she’s also appeared in The November Man and Patrick. Finally, the role of Johnny in his early- to mid-20s goes to the youthful Lucas Till (5’10”,b.1990). Till, whom others have also suggested for Johnny, is known for portraying Alex Summers/Havok in the X-Men films and most recently in the title role of the new “MacGyver” TV series.

James Badge Dale

James Badge Dale

Domenick Lombardozzi

Domenick Lombardozzi

Brittany Snow

Brittany Snow

Luke Bracey

Luke Bracey

 

 

 

 

 

 

The second team is a little older, with Reed in his mid- to late-30s and Ben pushing 40. Our stretchy team-leader is played by my first choice, James Badge Dale (5’10”,b.1978), whom you may recall from “24”, “The Pacific”, “Rubicon”, World War Z, and 13 Hours. The role of Benjy goes to Domenick Lombardozzi (6′,b.1976) from “The Wire”, “Breakout Kings”, “Boardwalk Empire”, Bridge of Spies, and “Rosewood”. (While looking for a photo of him for this post, I found that someone else cast him for Ben, too. Great minds…. I will note that I think Lombardozzi’s voice is all wrong for Ben/Thing, so he’d either need to learn to talk without his usual Bronx accent and/or someone else’s voice would need to be dubbed in.) Sue is in her mid- to late-20s and portrayed by Brittany Snow (5’4″,b.1986). Snow can be seen in “American Dreams” and the Pitch Perfect movies, along with such genre fare as Prom Night, Black Water Transit, and the upcoming Hangman. Sue’s younger brother Johnny is played by Luke Bracey (6′,b.1989), who is known for his roles in G.I. Joe: Retaliation, The November Man, the Point Break remake, and the recent Hacksaw Ridge.

Alright, those are my picks for Marvel’s First Family — not counting Reed and Sue’s kids that come along later, of course. I’m thinking it might be time to fan-cast some villains next. We’ll see…

* All ideas copyright Christopher Harris, 2013-2017.

Notes on Fantastic Four (2015)

Yes, I finally got around to watching last year’s disappointing reboot of the Fantastic Four. So, I put together a brief review in the form of a few notes, much like I’ve done in the past. I’ll try not to give away any major plot points or character-specific stuff….

As with its 2005 predecessor, the acting was fine (though not great) for what they had to work with, which was a so-so (definitely not great) story & script. Unfortunately, that meant that the characters were relatively dull, too.

Fantastic_Four_2015_poster1) Reed Richards — I don’t know. Miles Tellar is a good enough actor, but he didn’t quite look the part. He played “science nerd” OK, I guess. On the other hand, Reed seemed to be just a tad bit too socially well-adjusted. I always thought he was more socially awkward, especially in his earlier years, often distracted by scientific problems/projects. My guess is he would likely be diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. (Just my take on it, of course.) Even without that consideration, some of his behavior was a little different than I think it should have been. Nothing major, though.

2) Susan Storm — Given that they were going with the brainier, scientist version of Sue (a la “Ultimate” universe), she was fine. I would have preferred a different look for her, though — like, maybe, Julianne Hough. I am guessing she was supposed to be roughly the same age as Reed (~18-20yo?), though she may have been a little older. The romantic interest between Sue and Reed was just barely hinted at, though mostly one-sided by him. Same goes for Doom’s interest in Sue. Sue’s relationship with her adoptive brother didn’t seem very close; or, maybe they just aren’t an emotionally demonstrative family.

3) Johnny Storm — Would have liked to see Johnny involved in more “adrenaline rush” activities and exhibiting more playfulness, which are essential parts of his personality. (This was a detail that the 2005/2007 films got right.) It was also a little odd to see him working with the team on the final teleportation device. (I think this may have been the case in the Ultimate version, too. Can’t remember for sure.) Given his interest in fast cars, I guess it does make sense that he had some skills in mechanics and/or engineering. To stay in keeping with the comics, it should have been made clear that he was a few years younger than Sue.

4) Ben Grimm — He may have been athletic, but he was way too small. Why couldn’t they get someone who was about 6′ or so and looked more like a stereotypical, beefy jock? His childhood/family life fits the character, though it would have been nice to hear a reference to Yancey Street and the gang. As for his “Thing” form, I liked it OK, though I prefer the classic, more “rounded” and heavy-browed version (as in the previous big-screen incarnation). This one reminded me of the Stone Men (aka Kronans) of the planet Ria. Also, his voice needed to be deeper — rumbly, even — to go along with the massive form.

5) Victor von Doom — They got this character all wrong, yet again. In appearance (pre- and post-transformation) and sound (no accent) and attitude (cocky, but not imperious) and abilities (some sort of freaky psychokinesis?), he still was not the iconic figure from the comics. Why?! Why is this so hard to do? Or, alternatively, why do the powers-that-be shy away from portraying him on screen the way he has always been written? Surely, there must be some 30-or-younger actor from Eastern Europe who could pull this off. Say,… Dawid Ogrodnik. On the plus side, at least he wasn’t some disillusioned computer hacker named Vic Domashev, as had been the rumor.

6) Dr. Franklin Storm — The comics don’t give him a lot of characterization, other than being a brilliant scientist who cares immensely for his children. He doesn’t often spend time with them or show affection in other ways, being very focused on administering the scientific think-tank at the Baxter Building. From what we saw and heard, this version of Storm is pretty much on target with that, though perhaps a little more attentive.

OK, now for a few more general comments about the film…

Fantastic_Four_(2015_film)_poster_0071) Given that Reed seemed to join the Baxter Foundation after high school, I am guessing he was about 17-18 years old. (Though, you’d think a brain like him would’ve skipped a couple grades.) Possibly more like 19-20yo, if he took some college in between times. Ben and Sue would’ve been roughly the same, Johnny even younger (16?), though Victor was probably a couple years older. However, all of the actors looked to be a few years older than those ages,… which they actually are, of course.

2) I recognized a couple early scenes adapted from Ultimate Fantastic Four, but they didn’t feel quite right. Lighting too dark; Baxter Institute looked/felt too “normal”.

3) Without giving anything away,… I’m not sure how I feel about the events that followed the accident. They didn’t follow either the original or Ultimate versions. The antagonism against Reed just felt… wrong.

4) There was no mention of “unstable molecules” (that I recall) in the post-accident uniforms’ composition. Plus, Reed was wearing something else, yet it stretched when he did. What’s up with that? If there is a sequel, will they reveal that he discovered something that allows uniforms to “cooperate” with their powers.

5) The fact that Dr. Storm and Johnny were not Caucasian was fine, of course, and the brief mention of Sue being adopted resolved that question.

6) I thought the special F/X were pretty good, despite that being one of the facets the film got criticized for. Maybe I would change my mind upon a second viewing, when I had time to see them again?

7) The fights were rather lacking. I assume the original, one-by-one attacks on Doom in the finale were meant to show they couldn’t beat him on their own — which Reed stated explicitly a couple minutes later. (A bit on-the-nose, if you ask me.) But, then the coordinated effort, especially Ben’s haymaker, was telegraphed so obviously that Doom deserves to get beat for still falling for it.

Overall, a fairly interesting variation on the FF origin story, but not quite satisfying. Too dark, for one thing, both visually and in tone. (Might’ve worked a little better as a graphic novel.) Familiar characters weren’t left familiar enough to feel like the “friends” fans were expecting. Or, at least, not this fan. Still,… it didn’t suck as much as some of the reviews (when it came out) led me to believe.

736784-namor3What can we expect going forward? Well, at one point, it looked like Fox and Marvel had worked out an agreement that put the Fantastic Four, Silver Surfer, Dr. Doom, and Galactus back under control of The House of Ideas (i.e., in this case, Marvel Studios). But, more recent reporting indicates that Fox still has the rights and may try for a FF sequel or reboot around 2020. Of course, that could be inaccurate or could change in the future. One interesting piece of related news is that the rights to Namor, the Sub-Mariner, are back with Marvel Studios. (Yet another imperious foreigner with a thing for Sue!) If Marvel also regained control of the FF, they could introduce Namor and the Atlanteans as the villain. He/they could return as an ally in a sequel down the road. This could be really cool, if done right and, of course, faithful to the source material. Keepin’ my fingers crossed….

P.S.  I really need to fan-cast the FF!

Variation on a Theme, Fantastic Four: Tetras

As genre fans are well aware, authors/creators sometimes like to experiment with alternate timelines, mirror universes, and the like. Marvel and DC Comics do this all the time. It allows them to explore “What if?” scenarios, where key events went differently in world history and/or in the lives of certain heroes and villains. Sometimes they give familiar characters different abilities or put them in a different location or time period. Or, sometimes the stories involve familiar surroundings or thematic parallels but with a whole new cast of characters. (“Familiar Names, Unfamiliar Heroes.”)

fantastic_four_logo_ii_by_balsavor-d3em5aaI would be willing to bet that a fair number of you have come up with ideas of this sort, and, of course, I am no different. Some time ago, I began developing ideas for three familiar-yet-very different teams of heroes, which I return to from time to time. Just as the Fantastic Four were inspired by Challengers of the Unknown, this first team — “Tetras” — is based on the Fantastic Four. Mostly. In a nutshell, it is a self-funded band of explorers/adventurers headquartered at an underground base below a mansion in upstate New York. If they sound a little familiar, it is because I mentioned them in a “From the Mind of Mr. Zeus” post.

The members are…

Codename: Andronicus
Civ. Name: Thomas Leonard Carrington IV, 39
Occup./Bkgrd: physicist (multiple sub-disciplines) and engineer
Eth./Ntnlty: British(/Russian) expatriate living in America
Ht./Wt.: 6’7″ – 8’2″, 470 – 900+ lbs. (6’7″ is his normal height; he was about 215 lbs. before the disease brought him down to about 130 lbs. (from slender to skeletal))
Powers/Skills: He possesses both a super-genius IQ and superhuman strength (press 5-10 tons). Due to his size and personality, he can also be quite intimidating in person, even when not exercising his abilities.
Comments: Carrington comes from a very “well-heeled” British family. His Russian mother died when he was 5, his father remarried (an Italian artist) when he was 14, and his half-brother came along shortly thereafter. He was incredibly smart & industrious, earning two doctorates by age 23, but socially immature (partly due to a superiority complex). By age 30, he had earned quite a bit of notoriety as a maverick physicist, and a handful of patents (for inventions made in his “off time”) increased his fortunes, paying for his private, subterranean lab (including a small supercollider). He then developed a degenerative disease, his body wasting away while his mind remained as lucid & brilliant as ever, resulting in the proud scientist becoming a recluse. Since the accident that transformed the members of Tetras, his already amazing IQ has increased, while his frail body has become large & muscular and looks somewhat like artistic renderings of what Neanderthal man may have looked like, but much bigger — think DC’s Blockbuster or Marvel’s Mr. Hyde. Under normal circumstances, he can pass for a taller-than-average bodybuilder. Under highly stressful conditions or when very angry or frustrated, he can mentally trigger a temporary growth spurt up to 8+ ft. tall and nearly 1/2 a ton, which also effectively doubles his already prodigious strength. Unfortunately, a side-effect of the physical and biochemical toll this transformation takes on his body is that it also dumbs him down to a “mere” 120 IQ while “hulked out”.

Codename: Solaria
Civ. Name: Alethea “Allie” Brown, 29
Occup./Bkgrd: personal physician and research assistant to Dr. Thomas L. Carrington
Eth./Ntnlty: African-American
Ht./Wt.: 5’9.5″, 135 lbs.
Powers/Skills: Allie’s ability to absorb and control large amounts of cosmic energy allows her to project this energy in blasts from her extremities, either offensively or to fly — or, with great effort & for a brief time, both. She was quite unsure of herself and her abilities when she first gained them, but her confidence has grown, and she now enjoys experimenting and testing her limits.
Comments: When Allie Brown first moved into the Carrington Estate to care for Thomas, she found the arrogant physicist to be both pitiful and maddening. Fortunately, she is a very patient and compassionate person. However, not only did she respect his incredible accomplishments, but over time she became fascinated with his towering intellect and the way he sometimes gained sudden insights, even into scientific disciplines where he did not specialize. She was surprised when he asked her to extend her responsibilities and become his research assistant. Since the failed experiment that mutated the four of them, giving them extraordinary superhuman abilities, Allie and Thomas have grown increasingly close. They have even developed romantic feelings toward one another, though neither would admit it.

Codename: Chameleon Kid
Civ. Name: Ramon “Ray” Alessandro Carrington (Thomas’s half-brother), 24
Occup./Bkgrd: playboy
Eth./Ntnlty: British/Italian
Ht./Wt.: 5’10”, 160 lbs.
Powers/Skills: Ray’s organo-crystalline body can be reconfigured into different shapes & textures. The diffraction of light around him which has a chameleon-like effect, allowing him to “blend” into his surroundings. He also possesses superhuman durability and the ability to absorb, “record”, and/or replay or redirect various frequencies on the electromagnetic spectrum.
Comments: A fun-loving, spoiled rich kid, Ray is bright, with a Bachelor’s degree in civil engineering. But, he can’t keep a job, because he is irresponsible and tends to bore easily.

Mudslide might sometimes sorta, kinda look something like Clay-Face here

Mudslide might sometimes sorta, kinda look something like Clay-Face here

Codename: Mudslide/Vulcan/Terrus/Ferrus/???
Civ. Name: Christopher Vassar Blake, 35
Occup./Bkgrd: ex-Army Ranger (Sgt.); ex-black ops; personal bodyguard for Dr. Thomas L. Carrington and head of security for the Carrington Estate (inc. the lab)
Eth./Ntnlty: American (caucasian) fr. South Carolina
Ht./Wt.: 6’2″, 215 lbs.
Powers/Skills: He has the ability to temporarily merge/phase(?) his body with nearby rock, soil, mud, and metals and exert control over them (like Image’s Grunge). While doing so, he can choose to maintain a human form or some other form (e.g., rockface, pool of mud, pile/layer of dirt, etc.) However, those elements are still subject to normal laws of physics (e.g., rock cannot bend, nor can he change his physical state without the regular requirements of temperature, pressure, etc.). He exerts some form of self-directed telekinesis to move in these forms. He possesses limited invulnerability to projectiles while merged, though some energies may cause him to melt or fuse. From his military and intelligence training, he has expertise with various firearms & demolitions, as well as intelligence-gathering and associated technologies. He has also reached first-level Expert (E1) rating in Krav Maga.
Comments: Blake was briefly part of an unnamed intelligence agency’s black-ops squad before being discharged for insubordination, then hired by Carrington. He has a slight temper problem, but it usually only surfaces when something goes badly due to poor intel or (what he considers) incompetence.

Codename: n/a
Civ. Name: Jasper Binghamton Wellesley, 40
Occup./Bkgrd: Originally hired as Carrington’s butler/chauffeur shortly before his disease manifested, Wellesley soon became Carrington’s personal assistant. They developed an odd friendship and Wellesley was eventually promoted to head of household staff.
Eth./Ntnlty: British
Ht./Wt.: 5’9″, 150 lbs.
Powers/Skills: Trained as a 4th generation “gentleman’s gentleman” to British high-society, Wellesley has a wide range of training, including nursing, cooking, tailoring, defensive driving, as well as additional training in firearms, wilderness survival, and various emergency conditions. He is very efficient, thorough, and an effective manager of personnel.
Comments: Though not technically a member of the Tetras team (else they’d have to rename themselves “Pentas”), he is valued and well-liked by all, and his unofficial roles often include confidant and peacemaker. Ray Carrington insists on calling him “J.B.”, which annoys Wellesley, but he tolerates it. Essentially, the character is a cross between Batman’s Alfred and the Avengers’ Jarvis.

There ya go! Comments?

Not thrilled with the name “Tetras”, but it’ll do until I come up with something better. (Your suggestions are welcome.) I enjoyed doing a bit of mix-n-match with quasi-familiar powers & appearances. Throwing in a British “butler” as an unofficial fifth member was fun, too. I still need to flesh out my other two teams a bit, but I’ll introduce you to them down the road, eventually.

‘Til next week…

* All ideas copyright Christopher Harris, 2013-2016.

Most Anticipated Non-Sequel Films of 2015

Just to be clear, I haven’t done any sort of survey of fandom or even of friends & family. These are just the (non-sequel) films that I am personally most excited to see this year — and, of course, limited to the sci-fi/fantasy and action/adventure genres. I’ll start with a “Top 3”, then some honorable mentions. In order of release date:

Terminator_genisys_empire_magazine_2015-300x300Terminator: Genisys (7/1/2015):  I may be cheating a little on this one, but officially it’s not a sequel but a reboot. I am a huge fan of the Terminator movies — even the last one wasn’t too terrible (cringe!) — but I admit that I have mixed feelings about this latest effort. Essentially, it will erase the previous timeline(s) and start over… again. Not sure if that is good or bad. It’s sort of like DC comics trying another “crisis” that is supposed to solve lots of problems and make things simpler. But, does it really? Regardless, when I saw the trailers for Terminator: Genisys, I… how shall I put this… I began to feel quite positively toward the reboot. I believe my exact reaction was something like, “Cool!” or “Dude!” The cast looks great and the action seems to be a mix of the first two Terminator movies. I am definitely in!

Ant-Man posterAnt-Man (7/17/2015): Two weeks after Terminator: Genisys, we get our second adaptation of the year of Marvel Comics characters. This time, though, we get brand new characters in a brand new setting. My preference would have been to bring the original Ant-Man, Dr. Henry “Hank” Pym, and the Wasp, Janet Van Dyne, to the big screen as contemporaries (if not members) of the Avengers. Instead, the studio decided to go with the Scott Lang version, recruited by an older, white-haired Dr. Pym. There has been a bit of controversy over departing writers and directors, but I wasn’t particularly attached to them, so I’m willing to give the final creative team the benefit of the doubt. I enjoyed the trailers and am really looking forward to seeing what they do with the characters.

 

 

Fantastic_Four_2015_posterFantastic Four (8/7/2015):  This is another reboot with a lot of mixed emotions expressed by the fans. Some of the early comments by the actors and director made me (and a lot of others) rather skeptical. Mad, even. It sounded like they were drastically changing these beloved characters and their origins — something the fanbase is generally against. (I’ve blogged on this many times before.) But, I think the release of the trailers (especially the second) has eased the fears of many, including myself. They appear to be borrowing more from the Ultimate version of the team and their “origin” than the original, and I’m OK with that. The visual effects look really good, too, and the darker tone might just be more realistic than other takes. So, I have to admit that I am looking forward to it. The only thing that still has me worried is how they will portray Dr. Doom….

 

OK, those are my “Top 3”. Now for my “honorable mentions”…

Ex Machina (1/21/2015):  Yes, this one already came out, though I probably won’t see it for awhile. I read something shortly before it was released that talked about it having somewhat erotic undertones and questions about sexuality (or something like that). That isn’t my thing, but the issues of artificial intelligence and what it means to be human are what draw me to it. (Cute robot chicks are nice, too.)

Minions (7/10/2015):  I do love the minions — those darling, goofy rascals from the Despicable Me movies. This new film will center on the trio of Stuart, Kevin, and Bob in a tale of silliness and dastardly supervillainy set in the 1960s. Fun for the whole family!

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (8/14/2015):  The original TV series this is based on aired in the mid-1960s. It was a Cold War action drama about spies and counterspies and plenty of Bond-like gadgetry, starring Robert Vaughn and David McCallum. Unlike its contemporary, “Star Trek”, I somehow never watched the reruns. (I may need to track those down, eventually.) This is probably a good thing for me, since I won’t know enough to be disappointed at how much the new movie, starring Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer, changes from the series. I think it’s still set in the 1960s era. Hopefully, they’ll keep the tone — somewhere between James Bond and “Get Smart” — and chemistry that made the original a hit.

Finally, here are a few more I am interested in but not quite as much as those preceding. (No, they are not “dishonorable mentions”.)

Mad Max reboot, Tomorrowland, Transporter reboot, Hitman “remake”, London Has Fallen, The Martian, Creed (Rocky semi-sequel)

I will eventually see them all, of course. What about you? Are there any you are particularly stoked about? (This list might help: “Upcoming Movie Release Dates“.)

Notes on Fantastic Four Movies

Sometimes, after watching an action-packed movie — especially one that is sci-fi/superhero-oriented — my head is just swirling with the whole experience. (You probably know the feeling.) So, over the next few hours, or maybe a day or two at most, I jot down impressions about what I liked and didn’t like. You know how I like superhero movies to be true to the source material, right? I try to be charitable with my criticisms….

So, here are the notes I made after watching the Fantastic Four (2005), lo, those many years ago. Nothing profound, but you may find them somewhat interesting, and maybe you had similar feelings or observations. Or, maybe you totally disagree, and that’s fine, too.

FF movie posterThe effects were FANTASTIC!!

The acting was fine for what they had to work with, but the characters (both casting & characterization) left something to be desired.

1) Johnny/Torch — the overall personality and love for extreme sports was great, but he was a little too old; having him as a NASA washout who Victor then hires is not believable (though, I suppose, Vic may have hired him as a favor to Susan); would have been better as an extreme sports-loving, pranksterish undergrad who sneaks onboard the rocket (to the station) on a dare or as the “ultimate thrill-ride”.

2) Susan/Invisible Woman — I love Jessica Alba, but her look was all wrong for the part. I would not have made her a geneticist, especially not a head of research — not at her age and lack of experience. (Is she supposed to be a genius, too? She already had a PhD by 24?) The part calls for a smart woman (but not a scientist) with more Western European looks (e.g., British, German, Scandinavian, or French). Elizabeth Banks (Betty Brant from Spider-Man movies) would have been good.

3) Reed/Mr. Fantastic — A slightly different look would have been better. Plus, the gray temples should have been more noticeable. It should have been explained better why the effects of the radiation chamber were only temporary, too.

4) Ben/Thing — Probably the only casting I really agree with, though they should have made him slightly taller and definitely bigger/bulkier (as Thing). Or, maybe this is just “stage 1”?

5) Victor von Doom — McMahon looks the part, but they should have dubbed a deeper, more menacing voice with Eastern European (i.e., “Latverian”) accent. Also, he should have been more elitist and condescending, like an arrogant nobleman who expects butt-kissing servitude. He should NOT have mutated into a poor-man’s Colossus, let alone one with electrical powers. He shouldn’t have even gone on the mission; but, if they “had” to have him there, he should have been the only one properly shielded from the radiation storm. Then, when it came time for his revenge, he could have built the signature Dr. Doom armor (with electrical blasts, I suppose).

6) Alicia — I liked her characterization (minimal though her screentime was) and don’t mind TOO much that she wasn’t a white woman with orangey-red hair.

There were certain plot elements that didn’t make sense or could have been done better. For example:

1) When Ben escaped the medical/research facility, why couldn’t the others have caught up to him? He only had a few seconds’ head start, and he must have left a pretty noticeable trail….

2) It would have made MUCH more sense for them to go back to that facility, perhaps even kept quarantined and studied by others (though Reed & Sue would likely have insisted on helping).

3) Why did Sue’s force-blast have so little effect on Doom?

4) Since it was established that Ben had no understanding of genetics, how did he know how to set the machines to change him BACK into the Thing? Could it have been as easy as flipping a switch, turning a dial, or pushing a couple buttons?

As you can see, I did like some stuff, but there was plenty to be annoyed with, too. Non-comics fans may not understand, but for long-time, loyal readers/fans like me, these “details” can be important and irksome when they are messed with. Notice how my questions/comments lean toward the negative…?

The sequel, of course, came out a couple years later. Here’s what I jotted down about that one….

FF sequel movie posterAdditional comments re Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007):

1) Surfer’s general look and effects were great! Also, Fishburne’s voice (sufficiently altered) fit nicely, though it would have been nice if a) there was some sort of accent and b) there was a moment or two showing him learning/assimilating one or more Earth languages. (Question: Why bother learning any, if the plan was to “consume” the planet anyway?!)

2) Can’t remember how much of a link there is between Surfer’s power and the board in the comics, but I know he is far from powerless without it.

3) Not sure I like the added power of “phasing” through solid matter. His powers are supposed to be “cosmic-energy” based and have nothing to do with matter manipulation. On the other hand, just throwing energy blasts around could get boring quickly.

4) I would not have brought Doom back so soon, but at least his scheming was in character.

5) I liked how Surfer (re-)learned compassion from the FF’s selfless acts and caring for one another, which was, if not identical, in keeping with the general story from the comics.

6) The ending was slightly anti-climactic. I guess I understand the keeping-Galactus-shrouded-in-mystery bit, but I would have liked to have gotten just a glimpse of the guy, even if he wasn’t nearly so human-looking or dressed in the usual purple-n-blue garb.

Overall, still a fun superhero flick with cool effects!

As you can see, I didn’t pick too much at the plot. I guess I am more willing to overlook a weak plot or plot holes — in an effort to just “go with it” and enjoy the movie — than I am willing to overlook changes and inconsistencies with the characters when compared to their comic-book counterparts. While I won’t tolerate too much campiness or outright stupidity, neither do I expect sophisticated writing in an action movie.

In case you’re wondering, I never saw the low-budget, never-officially-released FF movie that Roger Corman produced back in 1994. Probably just as well. I was thrilled that the team got a big budget intro to moviegoers in the 2000s but was still disappointed that they didn’t do a better job at casting or sticking to the source material. Now, a new Fantastic Four movie is set to reboot the franchise sometime next year (2015), and I have very mixed feelings about what I’ve heard, so far. (For example, some unusual casting choices and comments about altered origins and possibly different powers, etc.)

Let’s keep our metaphorical fingers crossed that the new version of the Fantastic Four is faithful enough to satisfy the core, comic-reading fans, yet different enough to intrigue the general sci-fi/action fans. Don’t screw it up, guys!