I think about a world to come where the books were found by the golden ones, written in pain, written in awe by a puzzled man who questioned, "What are we here for?" All the strangers came today and it looks as though they're here to stay.

-David Bowie "Oh! You Pretty Things"

Friday, October 7, 2011

Reboot City: Fantastic Four

It wouldn't be hard to do Daredevil right. And, honestly, I can't believe that they haven't gotten The Punisher right yet. They were so close with Punisher: War Zone. So close. The reason is that all you would have to do is read the Marvel Knights books based on these characters. And the movie would just happen. But Fantastic Four is a completely different issue. There have been hundreds of good issues and hundreds of bad issues. There have been two terrible movies, and a couple of cartoons that were actually pretty good.

I think the reboot of Fantastic Four would have to be a lot different from the tone of the comic book movies that we have seen recently. As a matter of fact, this film could be done well if it only responded directly to the problems of the recent Fantastic Four movies. Here are a couple things that need to change:

The next Fantastic Four movie needs to skip over the origin story of the Fantastic Four. Batman's origin story is interesting and timeless. Green Lantern's origin story matters too. Xavier's original dream is necessary to the telling of X-Men stories. And we need to hear Uncle Ben tell Peter Parker that "With great power comes great responsibility." I've encountered the Fantastic Four in a lot of different forms over the years, and I think I can easily say that the re-telling of their origin story is boring and it does not make for a good movie. In the original Fantastic Four film, the origin story felt like a waste of time to me. They got hit by cosmic radiation and transformed. It really had nothing to do with anything except for Reed Richards' guilt for turning Ben Grimm into the Thing.

As a matter of fact, I think that we need to meet the Fantastic Four when they have become completely status quo, when they have blended into society so much that they're not really these amazing heroes. I think we should meet them when they're taken for granted by society. The Fantastic Four will always be there for us, so why bother honoring them. Not only that, but the group should be used to living in the same place with one another. Reed Richards should wake up every morning and just be used to holes in the walls, flames burning around him, bumping into an invisible entity, and a giant stone golem rumbling through the halls. The origin that we ought to see is that of Franklin Richards, the child of the married couple Reed Richards and Sue Storm. Fantastic Four has always been a family book, and there is nothing new and exciting about families. Families are all about being normal and used to one another. If Reed's guilt over transforming Ben Grimm into a monster is important to his character - and it is - then there are hundreds of ways to express this that do not involve spending twenty minutes developing an origin story.

And speaking of Grimm. Fantastic Four has to stop being so grim. There were jokes in the first two Fantastic Four films, but honestly the entire thing was entirely too serious. I admit that there needs to be some degree of seriousness for this movie to matter at all. But Fantastic Four has always been about a spirit of adventure and the glory of technology. The team is constantly averting the end of the world and putting themselves in the line of fire. They show what is good about humankind, but they do it like an old Jules Verne book would do it. Maybe instead of a deep exploration of the relationship between Richards and Doom, Fantastic Four needs to be involved in an inventive and original science fiction story. I think they could combine some of the sense of wonder that you get from the Hellboy movies with a kind of head-spinning sense that the Fantastic Four live in a world that is so different from ours. As a matter of fact, I think that important villains like Doom and Galactus and all of them need to be referenced in the background, but the family and the tone need to be established in the first movie moreso than the villain. Even though both of these movies were riddled with problems, I think that both Green Lantern and Sherlock Holmes told us that you don't have to deal with the main boss in the first film. Give us our main characters and then make us beg for the arch nemesis. Maybe in the face of all the adventure there can be an interesting mystery that, when solved, leads to none other than Victor Von Doom.

And, finally, get better at casting. I think Michael Chiklis and Chris Evans were absolutely perfect as The Thing and The Human Torch, but Reed Richards was poorly cast and Jessica Alba was probably the worst actress who could have ever played the Invisible Woman. It would be better even to go with a nobody who had the look and could act than to get the star power pull for a movie that is absolutely terrible.

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