The new Fantastic Four movie runs like an ill-conceived first draft. Personally, I think it deserved a 30% on Rotten Tomatoes rather than a suspiciously low 9%. It’s notably less awful than Green Lantern (26%).
Fill in the blank: “One thing most of the main characters share is ________.” The first thing that came to mind for me is petulance. It’s a weird direction for Dr. Doom. Other justifiable answers include insanity, mood swings, daddy issues, a lack of action scenes, unbelievably weak dialogue, a complete lack of fun in their lives, poor acting from normally okay actors, a shocking lack of energy and initiative, a director that thinks they’re in Chronicle, and a studio that thinks they’re in an X-Men movie. It is still better than Green Lantern in every way, and a better love story than Twilight.
Another weird direction for Dr. Doom is having him act like a Human Resources killjoy against a romantic rival. “It’s not professional. That’s not what it looked like…” He’s previously been kicked off the team for lighting the project’s servers on fire, so maybe this isn’t the most fitting or most interesting way for him to conflict with Reed over Susan. E.g. he’s brash enough to launch a renegade, drunken space mission. Maybe he could get brave enough to ask her out at some point?
Writing advice from 2009: “Tip: [If you're using a super-scientist] get him out of his lab as much as possible. Field research is more interesting and has more storytelling potential than lab research.” The Fantastic Four spent maybe 5-10x as much time in a lab as they did in the field. The stakes on their lab research were alarmingly low. Okay, it’s great that Reed Richards is really interested in finding out a way to make teleportation possible, but I think he’s the only one riding that train. It’s a train-ride with 5 minutes of combat and 90 minutes of quasi-adolescent angst. You don’t want to be on that train.
Writing advice from 2014: Don’t work anywhere with a containment unit. They have never, ever contained anything and are a leading indicator that everybody involved is about to die in a fire.
I liked the darker direction they took with the relationship between Reed and Ben, but I’m not sure what the plan was for the Human Torch and the Invisible Woman. They contributed so little to the movie in their time on screen that their roles either needed to be totally overhauled or (if this weren’t an already-established franchise) cut altogether.
If a high school friend woke you up in the middle of the night and asked if you want to go into space even though you have zero training, no relevant experience, no applicable skills, and a crew that is all drunk out of their minds, you have nobody but yourself to blame when it goes to hell. And keep in mind that Ben is supposed to be the sensible member of the team. (One way to resolve this would have been having Reed work Ben into the project more quickly — e.g. Reed could insist that Ben be added to the program because Reed trusts him a lot more than Victor). Also, maybe giving Ben some rarer skill and/or more meaningful interaction with Reed than lending a screwdriver.
Pattern recognition and uniform-making, really? Susan Storm is like half a step below a Bond girl.
There were something like 4 writers and 10 editorial staffers credited. I watched the movie ~5 minutes ago, and I can’t remember any line that stood out in a positive way besides maybe “You would have been too busy to notice.” This is not the stuff that 50%+ ratings are made out of.
Visuals and audio effects were pretty solid. Oddly, The Thing sounds a lot more human than TDK’s Batman does. And his CGI looks a hell of a lot better than it did in his first movie. Some other reviews mentioned that The Thing doesn’t wear clothes, but given that he’s a pile of rocks, it feels like a nonissue. Out of all the changes this movie desperately needed, the wardrobe is not top-30.
I feel like Susan Storm and her father showing up at Reed’s high school science fair (apparently at random) could have been handled a lot better. Personally, I would have cut the high school science fair and had them be contacted by the Baxter Foundation after nearly destroying the world. Once you’ve nearly blown up the world, a high school science fair is a huge step down.
The attempts to work in comic book catchphrases and the team name were notably clumsy. I’ll check my notes, but off the top of my head, I don’t remember another Marvel-licensed movie struggling like this. Having “It’s clobbering time” come from an abusive brother is the bizarrest use of source material I’ve seen in any movie (superhero or otherwise) in a long time.
The goofiness level was unintentionally high. E.g. the “CONFIRMED KILL COUNT” running during the video recap of The Thing’s combat operations, a video recap that the Army apparently outsourced to ISIS gornographers.
Writing advice from 2011: “…the organizations are almost always callous and/or sinister secret agencies that bend over backwards to make their conscripts hate them. If I could offer some human resources advice, I’d be very careful about unnecessarily antagonizing your workforce, especially superpowered combat specialists that don’t want to be there. Also, have you tried not hating your subordinates?” Uhh, yeah, that is still good HR advice, it turns out. Also, not rehiring known psychopaths that have previously set your servers on fire and darkly wonder about whether humanity deserves to be saved.
If you’re a science teacher and your brightest student has been working on a teleportation project for years and manages to pull it off at your high school science fair, disqualifying him because “that’s not science” is, umm, a bit backwards. This is why the only scientists that come to New York City are supervillains and/or useless… For everyone else, there’s everywhere else.
I feel like the Thing’s combat operations (which happen almost entirely off-screen) would probably have been much more interesting than the movie they actually showed. And also probably a better love story than Twilight.
The product placement was annoying bordering on obnoxious, but once the box office returns come out, this’ll look a lot wiser in retrospect. [UPDATE: Probably the smartest decision the filmmakers made, actually.]
I watched it Friday evening (6PM) on opening weekend and the theater was at 40-50% capacity. The correlation between Rotten Tomatoes ratings and a superhero movie’s box office success is very strong.
My expectations were modest — e.g. “What if they made a watchable version of Green Lantern?” The movie is better than I think anyone could have reasonably anticipated. It’s more like an exceptionally funny version of Star Wars. 5 stars.
PS: I’d suggest against bringing most kids younger than 13. The violence level is more like a Vin Diesel movie than a talking raccoon movie. (You did notice that the talking raccoon has a machine gun, right?)
In my opinion, it was the best superhero movie this year (Amazing Spider-Man 2 and Captain America 2 so far). UPDATE: Not as good as Guardians of the Galaxy.
The action scene with the speedster (Quicksilver) was amazing, but I think it indicates how ridiculously hard it would be to use a speedster as anything but a one-off change of pace rather than a main character. Quicksilver spends the rest of the movie at home because his powers were strong enough that he would have broken the plot.
I believe the only major problem with the movie was that the plot holes were massive. SPOILERS:
The movie apparently isn’t sure how many people know about / are afraid of mutants. For example, at one point a government official claims that the whole mutant business in Cuba (X-Men: First Class) was “unconfirmed.” Uhh, several mutants employed by the CIA engaged several U.S. and USSR ships, with probably thousands of people witnessing a destroyer being telekinetically lifted from the sea and at least 10 military casualties. If mutants can get through that “unconfirmed,” I need to hire their publicist and/or defense attorney. Later on, there’s a scene where a U.S. businessman reveals to a (North) Vietnamese delegation that one of their members is a mutant and they instantly freak out. So… people do care what mutants are?
One recurring limitation of the X-Men series is that the plot is frequently driven by stupidity. For example, Dr. Trask has an apparently foolproof mutant-detection device but forgets to use it at a presidential press event. That works out about as well as you’d imagine. Also, taking Magneto into custody is definitely an idiot ball — “maybe the beyond-maximum-security prison we’ve built for him this time will work better than the last twenty!”
Another recurring limitation of the X-Men series is that its characters are notably uncreative when it comes to solving problems besides just killing people. For example, you’d think that a character with the ability to impersonate anyone would be able to come up with some more creative way to discredit a (criminal) scientist than turning him into a martyr and instantly vindicating his research. For example, exposing that he’s a criminal and/or committing outlandish acts while impersonating him?
It is completely unbelievable that the final confrontation between Magneto, Mystique, and the President ends well for most mutants.
A lot of the comedy was impeccable and the writers did a lot more with side-characters (especially a hardened/paranoid space Marine and affable Fix-It Felix) than I’m used to seeing from Disney. It had many of the best traits of Pixar movies–unusually innovative scene selection, strong characterization all around, emotionally effective protagonist-vs-protagonist conflict, an unusually interesting villain, an engaging romance, memorable bits of flair (e.g. two awesome space marine weddings), etc. There were a few more kiddy elements (e.g. too much toilet humor and slapstick), but on the whole this movie was extremely adult-friendly (definitely more so than Pixar’s last movie, Brave). Although Wreck-It Ralph involves video games, I think the movie would be highly enjoyable even if you’re not a video game fan. (In contrast, I think Scott Pilgrim would be sort of weird for people that were looking for a more traditional superpowered story).
FIVE YEAR OLD: “Now that I’m President of Candyland, everybody that was ever mean to me will be… executed.”
SPACE MARINE: “This place suddenly got a lot more interesting.”
I’d give Captain America 3 out of 4 stars. If you’re into superhero action, I’d highly recommend it.
The writing was consistently clever and entertaining. I’m not sure how much of it I will remember a few weeks from now–most of it wasn’t brilliant–but it was a very fun time.
The movie played with a few superhero tropes. For example, there’s the obligatory chase scene where a villain tries to escape by throwing a civilian into danger. A villain throws a boy into a river and runs off. The Captain glances at the boy, who says something like, “I can swim. Go get him!” However, I think they could have more smoothly handled the trope that the super-serum could not be replicated. Spoiler: The project falls apart because one scientist gets killed and he didn’t have any notes or additional doses of the serum anywhere? Didn’t he have any lab assistants? (I don’t think it would’ve been hard to plug this hole. Maybe he was worried that the Nazis would steal his notes, so he did as much from memory as possible and/or he used a code that only he could understand).
I liked that Steve Rogers proved himself, whereas many other superheroes are just passively chosen for greatness (e.g. they’re born with superpowers or happen to be in the right place at the right time for a genetically-modified spider bite). Rogers is selected as the test subject for the serum because he shows uncommon character, cunning and bravery. The bravery struck me as a bit banal (he leaps on a hand-grenade without knowing it was a dummy). The cunning was much more memorable. That flagpole scene was pretty kickass.
The opening night audience was somewhere between overjoyed and ecstatic. If you liked the previous Harry Potter movies, you’ll probably love this one. I liked it, but it never felt like a great movie. Currently, it’s scoring a stratospherically high 97% on Rotten Tomatoes, but I don’t think it’s close to the same level as classics like Up, The Godfather, Casablanca, Terminator 2, District 9, The Matrix or the like.
Most awesome moment: McGonagall quipping “I’ve always wanted to cast that spell.” Also, there was a cool scene with a basilisk made out of fire.
Most ridiculous moment: 19 years in the future, everybody has more hair than Charlie Sheen. I bet Ron’s parents would have killed for some of that magical Rogaine.
It’s less action-heavy than previous X-Men movies. That’s fortunate, because the action is largely derivative of previous X-Men movies.
The character-building is surprisingly good. I think 2-3 more minor characters like Havok, Darwin, Angel, Riptide (the unnamed tornado villain), Banshee and Moira the CIA agent/love interest could have been removed so that there was more development time for the others, but to the writers’ credit I think each of them had at least one worthwhile moment besides Angel.
I feel Beast and Xavier are a lot more interesting here than they were in the previous movies. Wolverine’s cameo was hilarious and the Magneto-Xavier relationship was good but rushed. (I don’t think Magneto interacts enough with Xavier that he would be as shaken up about losing him as he was).
The cast was generally competent. However, Kevin Bacon (the lead villain) is notoriously inept. A few of his scenes were unintentionally funny. Besides Emma Frost, the ladies were notably not bad, particularly compared to previous superhero disasters (e.g. Jessica Alba and Halle Berry). However, all of the ladies got small roles.
There were several female characters (Mystique, Emma Frost, Moira the love interest and Angel) but, besides Mystique, I thought the writers didn’t accomplish much with them. The Moira-Xavier romance was half-hearted. I think it would have helped to eliminate Angel and use that time to develop Moira and/or Mystique. Also, the movie failed the Bechdel test. (At least two named women must have at least one conversation about anything besides a man).
Spoiler: The black guy is the only protagonist to die? He barely got enough screen-time to say his name! (Still, he’s less awful than the jive comic relief in Transformers).
The political propaganda was a bit less heavyhanded than usual, mainly because the U.S. military is a potential genocidal villain and not a current genocidal villain yet. (That’s pretty much as politically evenhanded as the X-Men series gets). Also, there’s a likable CIA agent and a CIA supervisor that is not totally evil, whereas the military was pretty consistently portrayed as some combination of evil and/or useless. (For example, Xavier implicitly compares U.S. soldiers to Nazis “just following orders”). However, I’m inclined to give the screenwriters a pass on making the CIA bosses grossly sexist because that strikes me as plausible for this time period.
Besides Mystique, the nonhuman-looking characters looked surprisingly goofy. Beast and Azazel (Nightcrawler’s dad) looked like extras on a Sy-Fy production. Yeah, if my dad looked like Azazel, I’d probably join the circus to get out of the house.
I noticed two one fairly minor plot hole. There’s a scene where the characters are staring at incoming missiles and Azazel can teleport himself and others. Hey, maybe instead of staring at your impending death, Azazel, maybe you can warp everybody to safety like (SPOILER) you did after the missiles were disabled? Just saying…
While critics in general are happy to give approval to comic book films (and, I think, many critics do treat them fairly), I think there’s no question that there are elements of bias in many critics’ reviews.
First, look at the language many critics use. When giving a positive review, many will say things like “despite its comic book origins,” or “leaping beyond comic books,” as if being based on a comic book is in some way a handicap.
Actually, I think being based on a comic book (or a novel or TV show or anything else) is a handicap for a movie.
The screenwriter for Battlefield Earth has written an amusing article describing his experience. And, also, an unsuccessful search for love on a Scientologist cruise. No matter how bad your writing is, please rest assured that it’ll never be that bad. And, if it IS that bad, please find some other line of work.
Spill.com did a mock script showing how Michael Bay (the guy who did Pearl Harbor and Transformers) might have tried The Dark Knight.
I recommend that you read all of it, but this is my favorite part.
BRUCE WAYNE is standing in front of a mirror, flexing his sculpted, shirtless torso.
BRUCE: Let’s do this.
Cue AC/DC’s “Back in Black.” A series of quick shots show BRUCE gearing up: putting on the boots, slapping on the gloves, a brief glance across those beautiful pecs. Finally, there is no longer BRUCE WAYNE, but BATMAN standing before us.
BATMAN: Back in black.
Pyrotechnics erupt in the distance. Wailing guitar solo.
The Independent reports that Kevin Spacey will be reprising his role as Lex Luthor in the next Superman movie (Hat-tip to io9). God, I hope not. He has none of the competence, charm or combat skills a supervillain needs to shine in a movie. Lex Luthor can’t have an interesting fight. (And no, Superman limping around because of Kryptonite is not interesting). So casting Luthor as the villain would pretty much guarantee that the movie has at best mediocre action scenes*. I like Superman saving planes as much as anyone, but no one reads a comic or watches a movie to see the superhero stop a natural disaster.
Virtually nothing in Superman Returns worked. At the very least, the next Superman movie needs a new cast, new writers and a new villain. A different mood might help too. I don’t think that a “darker” Superman will be much better, but it’s hard to imagine that it could get any worse.
*In the cartoons and the comics, Lex Luthor actually gets superpowers, so his fight scenes are interesting, but that’s probably too campy for a movie.
B. MAC ADDS: I walked out after around an hour of Superman Returns. I can’t remember the last time I walked out on a movie. Hell, I made it through Superhero Movie.
The bad news is that Hayden Christensen, the same “actor” that ruined Star Wars and Jumper, is starring as Case. Dare I say that John Travolta could do this better? Egads. How could we have come to the point where John Travolta is the lesser of two acting evils? Hayden [censored]ing Christensen.
I loved the new Batman movie. I’d say that it was the best DC-licensed movie I’ve ever seen, but that would be damning it with faint praise. Although the action was low-key and frankly forgettable, the writing and side-characters really redeemed it. Instead of getting campy one-liners from the Joker, the script echoed The Lord of the Flies. It wasn’t exactly deep or insightful, but it was unexpectedly dramatic and entertaining.
I would venture to say that Iron-Man is the only Marvel movie released this year that approaches watchable. (I liked Iron-Man, but I found its action scenes disappointing).
Speaking of the new Punisher movie, you can see its trailer below. It looks like it will be beyond bad. I’m not adverse to wanton, cybernoir violence (The Matrix!) but the concept should have translated to film much better than it did in the 2004 Punisher film…
Under what circumstances (if any) would it be possible to make a grossly incompetent main character likable and engaging? Are there any cases where making the main character consistently incompetent would make a story more interesting?
If you happen to find yourself in Hong Kong from November 2-4, Marvel is hosting a preposterously swanky 8-course meal at Bo Innovation, a 3-star Michelin restaurant. “From the Avengers to Spiderman to Guardians of the Galaxy, each chef will have one night to create an exclusive Marvel-themed menu…” At a price of $300/person, this […]
In the Deadpool trailer, Ryan Reynolds’ character takes a shot at his last superhero movie, Green Lantern. I predict that it’ll actually do even worse critically than GL did (26% on Rotten Tomatoes). His movies (e.g. Green Lantern and RIPD) tend to be fanatically committed to comedy but have an awful record at actually being […]
John Lucas just published a superhero novelette about a superhero whose marriage counselor told him to grow a set. “Less than 24 hours later, he finds himself mired in an underworld of crime, violence, and ill-advised self-improvement.” The novelette, A Hero Is Always Alone Sometimes, can be downloaded for free on Amazon from 8/26 to […]
The new Fantastic Four movie runs like an ill-conceived first draft. Personally, I think it deserved a 30% on Rotten Tomatoes rather than a suspiciously low 9%. It’s notably less awful than Green Lantern (26%). Fill in the blank: “One thing most of the main characters share is ________.” The first thing that came to mind […]
My expectations for the Ant-Man movie were exceedingly low — mainly based on concerns about the source material (no memorable villains, not much interesting personality, not conventionally useful superpowers, etc). In actuality, it’s a consistently funny movie with reasonably good fight scenes. Right now it’s averaging 79% on RT and I think that’s about righ