Friday, June 15, 2007

Marvel movies

I rented the Fantastic Four: Extended Edition DVD, as I said I would.

Before I destroy my credibility, this review is almost entirely correct. "Jack Kirby: Storyteller" is a perfectly wonderful documentary on Kirby the man and Kirby the King of Comics. "The World's Greatest Comic Magazine" is a charming tribute the 40 year history of Fantastic Four. I recommend these wholeheartedly and unreservedly as worthy of a rental, or a sale, in themselves. Easily.

The movie? Yes, I watched it.

Mind you, I never saw the theatrical version.

I must say I didn't hate the extended edition of this as much as I expected to.

I assume the 20 added minutes are mostly material about the FF and their interrelationships. If this assumption is correct, then the extended edition is almost undoubtedly better than the theatrical version, if still not exactly good. To the extent that anything works in the movie, it is these relationships, which are, by and large, well handled.

Ioan Gruffudd's performance as Reed Richards is severely hampered by the fact that the writers were painfully lacking in the ability to write the character as smart. Jessica Alba gives a decent enough performance as Sue Storm, but feels poorly cast for the role, although, frankly, it doesn't feel like they ever came to a solid idea of who her character is within the framework of their movie.

Chris Evans and Michael Chiklis are quite good as Johnny Storm and Ben Grimm. And the writers do just fine writing the jock and the lunk.

That brings us to Dr. Doom.

As a fan of the original Lee/Kirby comics and 40 years of comic book history, I found this Doom to be a useless wiener.

As a movie fan, looking for an formidable foe for this group of superpowered people, I found this Doom to be a useless wiener.

Julian McMahon lacks anything like the gravity or presence to bring to life either the classic comic book character or the incredibly lame Lex Luthor/Magneto hybrid from this script to life as any kind of force. None of this is helped by the fact that the writers seemed even less capable of giving him anything smart to do or say than they were with Reed Richards.

Mind you, I found the character interactions interesting enough that I was tempted, for a brief moment, to be interested in Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, although with great skepticism... but maybe... I mean, I've missed the other big cheesy popcorn movies this year and... Galactus! Live action Galactus... right?

Apparently not.

Apparently they've gone with a Galactus that resembles the Ultimate Galactus, which may or may not be an interesting alternative version for a comic retelling, but holds absolutely no appeal for me as a big Hollywood movie story. Especially since apparently wiener Doom is back.


I also saw the Ghost Rider: Extended Edition DVD.

This also has a documentary, "Sin and Salvation", about the history of the comic book series. Unlike the well-paced Fantastic Four documentary, this one is broken down into four individual documentaries, one on each decade the comic has been around, with no "Play all" function. The only real benefit to this, for me, was how clear it was that each successive documentary became increasingly less interesting to watch, the one about the '00s being almost like a punishment of some kind.

Like Fantastic Four, this comic had tremendous potential to stink up the room, and I'd heard plenty of opinions suggesting it had. As it goes, it doesn't.

That's about as nice a statement as I'll make for it, however.

Nicolas Cage is perfectly capable here. Matt Long does a fine job, but is quite poorly cast as a young Nic Cage. Sam Elliott is terrific in a gimme role. Peter Fonda seems to have fun chewing the scenery.

Eva Mendes... well. She is lovely, but she's only a mediocre actress and frankly comes across as dull as dirt. She has no star quality at all and generates no chemistry with Cage whatsoever.

But that's really the problem with the whole movie. Bad dialogue aside, there's little really wrong with the movie. It just never really catches fire. It's a movie waiting for a misstep that never really makes one, but then it never does anything to really inspire excitement or meaning. It just eases forward, step by step to its conclusion, carefully not being bad, but never quite getting around to being good either.

Nothing much else to say about it specifically, except to ask if I'm the only person who thinks Blackheart should be pronounced "BLACK-ert", like a pirate was saying it?

My point, if I need one, is that there was a time when a movie adaptation of a comic book, especially a Marvel comic book, meant stupid. Terrible, head in hand, embarrassing to be a comic book geek kind of stupid.

Then someone came up with the bright idea that they could get fresh, exciting moviemakers to make them. This worked quite well. Regardless of how one felt about the movies themselves, they were not only commercially and critically successful, people were excited about them.

Now, they've started moving in the studio hacks. The short-term results of this are evident. The movies are still doing ok box office, because they're big and marketed like crazy and not bad exactly, but they're quickly losing momentum. People aren't excited about these movies anymore. I suppose with big enough budgets and big enough marketing campaigns, they can continue this streak of successful mediocrity indefinitely, but the excitement was kind of fun.

Wasn't it?


r_sail said...

I agree completely about Ghost Rider.

I hear that FF2 is better than the first, which in all reality, doesn't say much, if anything at all. Tim is now directing The Losers... and has said that it's going to be an 'edgy pg-13'. To which I say, WTF? It's The Losers, damn it! 300 did super well with an R rating, why can't The Losers get a good director and the correct rating?

I'm very much losing interest in comic book movies. I'll still go see The Dark Knight, though.

I suppose I should check out those Kirby docs too.

Neil Sarver said...

This post by Tom Kessler says, "Another interesting factor of the commentaries is the fact that Tim Story comes off as a complete non-entity. Unless I'm simply unable to distinguish his voice from that of writer, Mark Frost, Story has remarkably little to say about his own film."

I found this interesting, even if I'm not convinced to make the same conclusions as he does from it.

I do certainly see little about his directing skills to impress me, although, frankly, with FF, I thought the script must, if anything, be worse than the finished film. The complete lack of brain-power in being unable to write either Mr. Fantastic or Dr. Doom as genuinely smart is frankly depressing.

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