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!


5 Movie Sequels / Crossovers I’d Like to See

When I originally conceived of this post and started jotting down ideas about a year ago, none of these were in production — or, at least, not publicly known. Now, two of them are about to be released, and another is being considered. As they say, great minds think alike!

10_Cloverfield_LaneCloverfield 2: I thought 2008’s Cloverfield, by writer Drew Goddard and director Matt Reeves, was an enjoyable twist on the monster movie genre. From the shaky camera work — subsequently (over)used by others — to the fact that the monster isn’t fully revealed until near the end (because it is from the POV of a small group of residents), along with the “found footage” aspect, the innovative perspective was… interesting. I was kind of hoping for a sequel but unsure of what that would look like. Same “attack” but with a different group? Another attack years later? NYC or elsewhere? How to make it not just a repeat, especially since audiences have already seen the monster? Anyway, as you probably know, the recently announced 10 Cloverfield Lane appears to be that sequel, and it is scheduled for release in a month! (Producer J.J. Abrams “announced” it with a trailer during last month’s 13 Hours and a second trailer during the just-ended SuperBowl 50.) It looks exciting and adds a creepy twist to it, so it could be just what I was looking for. Let’s just say, I’m hopeful.

Independence Day 2: The original Independence Day (1996) was an awesome alien-invasion flick, and a blockbuster in both cinema and video sales. So, I could never figure out why the powers-that-be didn’t make a sequel. It seemed like a natural candidate, after all. I even had a spark of an idea for it, taking place in the months that followed, showing the aftermath, scientists analyzing the alien technology and adapting it to help get humanity back on its feet, all the while dealing with hundreds of aliens who survived, escaped, and are determined to wreak havoc. Something like that, anyway. Last year, we found out that producer Roland Emmerich was finally putting a sequel together, Independence Day: Resurgence, and he had assembled several of the original cast to return! (Unfortunately, no Will Smith, though.) Part of the official synopsis says,

“Using recovered alien technology, the nations of Earth have collaborated on an immense defense program to protect the planet. But nothing can prepare us for the aliens’ advanced and unprecedented force.”

Sounds good! I was even kinda-sorta-partially right about that whole using-alien-tech thing.

Unbreakable 2: Unbreakable (2000) was another one of those surprising hits, as M. Night Shyamalan gave us his take on a “realistic” superhero/villain movie. Of course, it owes much of its success to the terrific performances by Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson. Everybody wanted a re-match between reluctant hero David Dunn and criminal mastermind Elijah Price (aka Mr. Glass). Or, maybe Dunn could find himself facing another superpowered villain or two? But, at the same time, maybe Unbreakable is one of those movies that should just be left to stand alone. Last May (2015), Shyamalan revealed that he had some ideas for a “sequel”, but he wanted to use multiple media formats.

““Could you do a six-episode Unbreakable series on Netflix or HBO? Yeah! That’s cool. I even had an idea of doing a story that goes in one form, and a second part that’s in another form, and a third one’s in a different form. You never do the same form,” Shyamalan told IGN. “It would be like, movie, then, let’s say, cable, to TV, whatever, and then a play; it goes straight online, and it finishes like that. It’s in four different forms, and it never goes back to the old one. It could be kind of cool.”

I understand his enthusiasm, but I don’t like the idea of having one “chapter” as a play. Most of us don’t/won’t go to plays. (Hear that, J.K. Rowling?) Anyway, subsequent reports had the writer/director saying he was ready to consider a sequel just in film form, as long as he can come up with an un-traditional sequel, a “completely original take… unexpected.” He also said he has an idea “percolating” that “doesn’t feel at all like a sequel of any kind. It’s just a whole new movie.” Jackson has indicated he would be interested in a sequel, too. Count me in!

Commando movie posterCommando 2: Commando (1985) is of my favorite Arnold Schwarzenegger movies. Full of R-rated violence and humorous (and often corny) one-liners, it was the epitome of 1980s action flicks! SPOILER! SPOILER! SPOILER! I just think it’s high time we saw retired elite Black Ops Commando John Matrix (Ahnuld) shooting, slicing, and blowing stuff up again. Bring Alyssa Milano back as his daughter Jenny, either as a damsel-in-distress or maybe to do some butt-kicking of her own. Heck, could even have Rae Dawn Chong come back, too. I don’t care. Just make it happen!

Rambo vs. Predator: Speaking of 1980s action… This one would obviously be not only a double-sequel but an unusual crossover of franchises. Certainly less obvious, and hopefully more successful, than the Aliens vs. Predator crossovers were. I first thought of this several years ago and came up with a basic premise, as laid out here…

Opening scene has Rambo working as either a wilderness guide or teaching survivalist training on a large nature preserve (e.g., Montana? Colorado?). A small group (4-6) of Predators observes him and decides he is worthy prey. When he is alone one evening, they capture him and string him up on the edge of a clearing, where they landed their ship. But, rather than slaughter him right away, the bored hunters decide to play with their prey, while giving themselves a little bit of a challenge. They then cut him down, strip him naked, and, using recorded sound-bytes, one tells him, “No ship… no gun…” (as they lay aside their shoulder-mounted weapons) “20 minutes… we hunt… trophy” (and points directly at Rambo). The message is clear: these creatures are giving him a 20 minute head-start before hunting him down! Nice of them to even the odds a little by not using their ship or their shoulder-cannons, but he had seen enough to know they had plenty of other weapons — like those nasty gauntlet blades! — and armor-tech. He takes off running at full speed!

After a few minutes, Rambo comes to a stream, heads up it a ways, circles back around, then proceeds to use natural cover from which to watch the Predators (who are too cocky, at least at first, to use their invisibility cloaks). This may be one of the toughest, not to mention oddest, situations he has been in. But, his instincts kick in and he begins to formulate a plan. After all, this isn’t the first time he has been hunted. Plus, he has “home-court advantage”, having hiked over every inch of the preserve several times in the last 8 years. He also has weapons at his cabin and a few caches of supplies scattered over the preserve that will come in handy.

Meanwhile, after 20 minutes most of the Predators set off at a jog in the direction Rambo ran, where they will soon split up to hunt on their own. It’s a contest, after all. However, the one who “spoke” (first among equals?) heads off in a different direction to climb the largest nearby hill. He changes positions a few times during the hours that follow but manages to keep track of Rambo (sometimes) and his fellow Predators. He watches appreciatively as Rambo first evades, then stalks & picks off the others one by one. This is truly a worthy prey….

With the right production team and Stallone heavily involved, I think this could be a great tribute to both franchises and an awesome action flick in its own right!

There ya go. Do you have any sequels that haven’t been announced but you are dying to see? Let me know below…