2.25.2014

Stop Screwing Up the Fantastic Four Movie

I've made my peace with the eventual rebootification of everything. The world and everything in it is not eternal but exists in a constant state of transformation. It empties and replenishes itself, like an ever-turning water-wheel at the mill of the collective unconscious.  This is as it should be.

Sometimes, though, when the water-wheel gets jammed, it behooves one to step in and try and un-gunk the works. This is one of those times, my friends.

The recent casting news for 20th Century Fox's reboot of Fantastic Four has provoked a lot of completely predictable (and mostly justified) online tooth-gnashing. In case you missed it:
Rachel Maddow * has been cast as Reed Richards aka Mister Fantastic.
Kate Mara has been cast as Sue Storm aka The Invisible Woman.
Jamie Bell has been cast as Ben Grimm aka The Thing.
And Michael B. Jordan has been cast as Johnny Storm aka The Human Torch.
* Okay, it's actually Miles Teller. But come on.


Complaints ranged from the good points (Teller's track record of one-liner spewing parts is a poor fit for the super-serious Reed Richards) to the bad (Mara isn't blond) to the ugly (Jordan is not Caucasian like the character in the comics).

Let's start with the "good." Yes, Teller's track record suggests he is a poor fit for the part. Also, he is far too young, and he looks absolutely nothing like him. But since the theatrical tradition is inextricably linked with wigs, make-up, costumes, CGI, et al. and - like comics themselves - based on make-believe, I'm not the type to instantly go apeshit over such news. Hell, Sue Storm looks different under every artist who has ever illustrated her.

Moving on to the "bad." As with the above, I don't think hair color is a dealbreaker. Is it odd that producers got a blonde (Kirsten Dunst) to play redheaded Mary Jane for Spider-Man (2002) and a redhead (Emma Stone) to play blonde Gwen Stacy for Amazing Spider-Man (2012)? Sure it is. Dunst and Stone both did a good job and ended up looking like their comic book counterparts, so who cares? 

Then comes the irritating part of Hawks' quote, above, "the ugly," which implies that any resistance to Jordan's casting is the result of racist Fox News Republicans, etc. the same folks and mindset who brought you the Santa Claus is white "controversy" of 2013.


Here's what John Byrne, author and artist of my 2nd favorite run on Fantastic Four (behind Lee/ Kirby) has to say about this trend of race-swapping when it comes to adapting comic books to the screen:

Race-swapping, especially, invites charges of racism if one complains about it. Yet, isn't it the one who supports the swapping who is really being racist? As noted many a time before, there is a lot more to being Black in this country than can be reflected by taking a White character and slapping a coat of black paint on him/her. And the assumption that a Black character is going to be "cool and bad-ass" is its own kind of racism, too. In fact, as seems to elude so many people, any time, a judgment is made about an individual based on his or her race, it's racist. Even if it's a "good" judgment.

(Full thread for context.)

And Galactus...
becomes a bad Weather Channel... IN SPACE effect.

So, obviously, the powers that be need some specific advice on how to get this property to screen without altering it completely/ second-guessing the source material. Here are some foolproof suggestions.

1. READ THE COMICS

I haven't read the script for the reboot, so it is within the realm of possibility that writer Simon Kinberg and director Josh Trank are indeed channeling the comics lore onto the screen.
The Lee/ Kirby run on the title is the obvious starting point. There is more imagination and excitement in any ten panels from any one issue of their run than has been seen in any incarnation of the FF onscreen. Want to figure out how to blend domestic drama and family dynamics with a cosmic odyssey? Pick any issue at random; it's all laid out for the aspiring screenwriter.

Don't want to go back to the 60s, for some reason? How about the 90s? Walt Simonson's run is insanely good - why don't people talk about this more? Or am I just at the wrong parties?


The 90s still too retro for you? How about Jonathan Hickman's run, only recently completed, and the most critically acclaimed one for the title in decades.

You've got options; use them.
2. JUST RIP OFF THE INCREDIBLES


Step one - watch The Incredibles. Step two - make some simple transcriptions (the kids would have to become Johnny and Ben, obviously, and the villain morphed into Doom, but is that so difficult? It requires only minimal tweaking. And you've even already got Franklin Richards as the mysteriously-powered baby.) Step three - film the greatest Fantastic Four movie ever made. Step four - count your money and bask in the adoration of comics fans everywhere.

3. JUST FILM FANTASTIC FOUR #236


Like I wrote above, John Byrne's run on the title in the 80s is second only to Lee and Kirby's in my personal estimation for best use of the group. And for the 20th anniversary of the book, he provided fans with this love letter to the franchise. Nothing in my mind could be a better introduction for a wide audience to the characters and core concepts. And it's all storyboarded out for you, already!

The story begins with what appears to be a re-telling of their origin story:


but turns out to be... just a dream. Albeit a dream/ nightmare each member of the group is having independently of one another.


Bam - you've just informed the audience with great economy who these characters are and how they got to be that way, and you have a compelling mystery to figure out. Who is doing this, and why? 


Who indeed! Now I'm skipping around (and over) quite a few pages. What's happened is Doom has enlisted the aid of the Puppetmaster (the father of Alicia - aka The Thing's girlfriend) to create a miniature town ("Liddleville") filled with miniature robots. He has captured the FF in the real world and transferred their consciousness to exact (but powerless) miniatures of themselves. 

A perfectly fine comic-book-y thing to do.
Reed figures it all out and, after convincing Ben (who of course would lose his human form once again) to go along with them, uses the equipment Doom has arrogantly made available to him to dose everyone with gamma rays. Having regained their powers (though still miniaturized) they take the battle to Doom.


And bam - you know everything you need to know about Doom and his relationship with Reed and the gang. (Not to mention the Puppetmaster/ Alicia Masters, who, naturally, was played by Kerry Washington in the 2005 film.) 

Spitting image.
They manage to outmaneuver Doom and are restored to their bodies and off they go for further adventures. 

FF #236 is just a jumping off point, obviously, but it's a damn strong one. And you can take it any direction you want to go - just don't second-guess it. Why discard it in favor of the untried? If you want untried, go create your own group; it worked for the freaking Incredibles, after all. Not to mention for Lee and Kirby. It's not like the idea of a super-group itself with a family dynamic is 100% original; what makes it work is the way they - and Byrne and Simonson and Hickman and others - have done it.

~

Like I say, only a small percentage of the intended audience for this film knows or cares anything about the characters or would recognize the changes. And the comic itself reboots and rebrands itself whenever it feels like it. From that perspective, whatever the films do is just another variation / another creative team using the characters and should never be seen as "forever ruining" the franchise, etc. 

I speak to you directly, O Hollywood: if you continue cobbling together inferior facsimiles of the source material, you may stumble upon some profitable arrangement, sure. But if you take any of these suggestions to heart, you have a blockbuster on your hands, and you barely had to do any work. It's all already there for you - and storyboarded, to boot. Have at thee! Take us to the Negative Zone and Latveria already!

36 comments:

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    1. You didn't finish that sentence, my friend...! And?

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    2. I've seen it, too. It's a terrible movie, but relatively speaking, it's better than either of the later big-budget F4 movies. I mean, at least nobody wasted hundreds of millions of dollars on the thing.

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  2. Yes to this post!!! Yes to all of it. The first thing one of my guy friends said to me about the woman cast as Sue Storm was... "she showed her boobs in House of Cards". Eye roll from me. I mean... really. Sigh. I want more from these movies. My husband loves Silver Surfer. So we drug our butts back to the theater to see Fantastic Four 2 only to see Silver Surfer get ruined! I don't mind so much that the white part is cast as a black person. Well.. I don't know. My husband is black and loves comics and we always joke with him that there are just no cool black superheros. So I suppose this is an attempt to remedy that. I can't say that I won't go and see this movies because I will. Why lie??? Honestly... I don't love the Fantastic Four anyways so I guess whatever they do will be fine with me. Guess we'll just have to see.....

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    1. Black Panther, Luke Cage, the Falcon, one half of Cloak and Dagger, John "Green Lantern" Stewart; probably others I've forgotten. But they are very much a minority, that's for sure.

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    2. I really don't mind that they add a new character, black, white or otherwise, I mean, the FF series has shown countless times great stories can be produced with different team members. My own reaction is more along Byrne's, that it's the racist mindset that is unchanged, with this sort of paternalistic band-aiding/ race-swapping. Or that simply "let's make one of the characters black" activates some kind of response mechanism in "the black mind," whatever that is, that suddenly makes the FF acceptable.

      My wife (who is black) doesn't care either way - she can take superheroes or leave 'em. So this approach would seem to not take her into account. (Plus only half of our daughter, I guess - I wonder which side of her demographic they are trying to appeal to, here!) And I'm not even a huge Johnny Storm fan. It's just the rather muddled approach I find so simplistic and tiresome.

      Thanks for reading / commenting, I know this isn't the easiest topic. Future posts this week will be 100% about ninjas.

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    3. There is definitely an element of paternalism to doing things this way. However, I think there's still something to be said for it. Consider, if you will, all the little black boys and girls who have grown up during this era of rampant superhero films (let's date it from the first "X-Men"). Wouldn't it be nice for them to be able to go to the movies and see big, colorful, fun movies and see at least a few heroes who looked like them? I mean, sure, there's Storm, and there's Catwoman in that one movie we pretend never got made. And Frozone, I guess. Oh, and Nick Fury! But that's basically it.

      I'd prefer that they could get their fix via characters who were intended to be black, like Falcon and Luke Cage and Black Panther, but really, I think every step in that direction is a good one. If the F4 movie turns out well, there WILL be an entire generation of black children who have a type of movie role-model they've never had before. That, to me, is cool. The specifics of how we got there haven't been unproblematic, no doubt about it, but I'd rather take problematic baby steps than no steps at all.

      Maybe this is just liberal white guilt talking, though.

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    4. Hey, who knows. I know it rubs me the wrong way and seems symptomatic of a certain reverse-side-of-the-racist-yet-still-racist way. I'm just not sure I agree that the way to address the problem is to go about it this way, nor is just making established characters black anything but a SMH approach. Could be just me, but that's why I write these things, to get my view across. I welcome yours (and anyone else's) of course.

      Good discussion here, I think I've covered my own views in the blog itself.

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    5. The most major one is John Stewart. And actually in a comic I read recently there was a black Superman. It was in the new Action Comics I think. Of course it was an "alternate reality".

      LOL... that comment about the Catwoman movie... I totally forgot about that. BAH!

      I think of the movie Hancock. First off.. I like that movie. Second off an interracial couple??? WHAT! Honestly it was nice to see that on screen. A black superhero Will Smith and an interracial couple was a win to me.

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    6. I thought Hancock was alright. I'd actually forgotten about him. Spawn kinda counts, too, I guess.

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    7. If neither of you have read Don McGregor's original Black Panther stories, do yourselves a favor and plunk down the cash for a copy of the Jungle Action Marvel Masterworks, or find it via other means... holy crap those are fantastic.

      http://www.supermegamonkey.net/chronocomic/entries/jungle_action_20-21.shtml (preview of the first tow.)

      Now THAT would (and should) be a kickass movie.

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    8. I have not read them. My sole knowledge of Black Panther consists of his making the occasional appearance in other heroes' books. He always seemed cool as hell, though; I loved his design as much as anything. He's one of several characters/teams who I've wanted to start reading for literally decades now.

      Now I know where to start, though, whenever I finally get around to doing it!

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  3. First, I feel compelled to point out that the movie is called "The Incredibles," not "The Invincibles."

    Second, I am somewhat inconsistent on the subject of race-swapping when rebooting properties like this one. On the one hand, I'm cool with it simply because it pisses off racists. Not everyone it pisses off gets pissed off because of racist reasons, mind you; but a decent number of them seem to be motivated along those lines, and that's good enough for me.

    On the other hand, I totally agree that sometimes, changing a character's race simply because you don't want ALL of the faces in your movie to be white faces is . . . perhaps not the most honorable reason to change a character's race.

    My problem with this new movie specifically is not that I'm upset they've turned Johnny Storm into a black dude. I like Michael B. Jordan a lot, thanks to "Friday Night Lights," and I think he'll be really good in the role. What annoys me is that the studio couldn't be bothered to also cast a black person as Sue.

    Now, the counter-argument online is going like this: "Well, there ARE families that have one black sibling and one white sibling! Especially in cases of adoption!" This is true. And in and of itself, that'll be fine. But let's not kid ourselves: that isn't the reason the movie was cast that way. The movie was cast that way because somebody at Fox figures that White America MIGHT accept a superhero movie with a 1/4ths black team of superheroes, but no way on Earth will it accept a team that is 1/2 black.

    Hence, Kate Mara. She's a good actress; she'll probably be fine as Sue. (She'll be a damn sight better than Jessica Alba, if nothing else.) But how much cooler would it have been to see Kerry Washington in that role? Or, I dunno, Gabrielle Union or Megan Good or Tika Sumpter. Or any number of chicks who aren't white girls. Fox, don't try to sell me on this fiction that you're trying to honor "non-traditional families." You're not. You're scared people in Alabama won't go see a movie if there are too many -- i.e., more than one -- black people in it.

    The bottom line for me, I guess, is that our society is still a very troubled one when it comes to race relations. Is it AS troubled as it was fifty years ago? It is not. But it's still plenty troubled. Things like casting a black dude as a white character DO help in the long run, I think. It creates its own set of problems, but I think it solves more than it creates, and therefore it seems like a net win to me. I'll take that, because if we can ever get to that fabled Roddenberrian ideal, and genuinely not -- as a culture -- fret over things like this, that'd be a good thing.

    That said, better not nobody ever make James Bond a black guy UNLESS it's in the guise of a full, from-the-top reboot. And he'd better NEVER EVER EVER be turned gay. I'm with Picard; the line must be drawn right there.

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  4. Crikey, what a mistake re: Invincibles/ Incredibles. Where did my brain go on that one... fixed!

    Will comment more later. Babies beckon.

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    1. Don't, I've seen worse typing mistaken than that. One of my company's vice presidents once sent out a company-wide email that misspelled "counts" as "cunts."

      Oops...

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    2. Speaking of typos, that was supposed to read "don't fret." D'oh!

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  5. By the way, I forgot to mention that it's the OTHER two actors whose casting really bothers me.

    Miles Teller -- Bryant votes HELL plus NO on this. Now, to be fair, I've never seen him in anything. He got great reviews for "The Spectacular Now," and is said to be great in the upcoming "Whiplash." So maybe he'll be a terrific Reed Richards. I mean, it COULD happen. Lots of people got up in arms over Heath Ledger as The Joker, too, and we know how that turned out. Thing is, I wasn't one of those people; I knew he'd be great. All I know is that visually, Teller is about as far away from Reed Richards as I can imagine without dipping into camp or parody.

    Jamie Bell -- dude played Tintin. End of story. Tintin cannot be Ben Grimm. Speaking of race-swapping, the single best casting idea I saw for The Thing was Terry Crews. Oh, if only we lived in that world. Like Teller is said to be, Bell is a good actor, so at least there's that. But in no way does he strike me as being capable of playing this particular role, even via mo-cap.

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    1. The casting for each of the FF is just crazy. Maybe they'll all surprise me, but it just strikes me that no one involved seems to have a clue.

      All this talk on casting - no one's talking FF #236! That makes Bryan a sad panda... (just kidding - I'm sure no one's read it. It's just a perfect vehicle for this - or any - reboot!)

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    2. I'm actually very poorly-versed in Fantastic Four altogether. But #236 does seem like it'd make for a strong movie. Just maybe not the first movie in the series; seems like a #4, to me.

      I suspect we will not get a Fantastic Four series successful enough to warrant a fourth film until I'm sixty or so, though.

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  6. This entire cast bothers me. As soon as I heard about this I pretty much made up my mind not to see it. There are other things I could be spending my money on, including increasing my run on FF (currently from 37-the end of vol 1).

    I don't have a huge problem with characters changing races. I thought Michael Clarke Duncan was awesome as the Kingpin. He was just about the only part of that movie I did like. I also enjoy SLJ as Fury. But I just can't get into Johnny Storm being black when his SISTER is white. I guess one of them will be adopted?

    The big budget FF movies sucked. They did okay with the FF themselves. I liked the byplay between Johnny and Ben quite a bit. But, boy, did they screw up the villains. Doom sucked, Galactus sucked and even the Silver Surfer (star of the late, lamented 90s Earth Presents... series) sucked. I wasn't sad to hear about the reboot but the shitty casting will keep me out of the theatre for this one.

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    1. Yeah, I dug Duncan as Kingpin, too. Man...I miss that guy. Talk about gone too soon.

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    2. The Daredevil movie is probably my non-FF biggest example of completely boneheaded casting/ contempt for the source material. I liked Duncan as an actor, but he was COMPLETELY miscast as the Kingpin. That was literally the worst casting for a superhero/ supervillain I can think of. (Second is Colin Farrell as Bullseye.)

      I'll be getting to DD later in the week (I hope.) Been tearing through my Millers and getting worked up about the above the last few days. The DD movie was put together by someone who called up an actual fan and was told Bullseye, Kingpin, and Elektra had to be in it, but who had no clue what those characters looked, sounded, or acted like.

      To each his own, of course, but gaaaaa.... I do like Duncan, and like I say, it's not the skin color that bothers me. (See Byrne's comment in the blog above.) Plus the suggestion that black people are biologically incapable of understanding or relating to a story that doesn't feature characters of their skin color. This is such a weird idea to me, and I can't believe it doesn't offend more people. But... I suppose given the alternatives history has afforded, it's a much milder offense than what could be. (Still wrong, though, IMHO.)

      Ultimately, if it's a good story/ well-made movie, I shrug it off. I definitely mock/ deride the impulse as being wrong-minded and counter-productive, but I honestly don't care if the movie's good. Which DD certainly wasn't - few superhero movies have pissed me off like DD since he was my favorite as a kid - and FF doesn't seem like it will be, unfortunately.

      Joe - nice 90s' Earth Presents callback! I totally forgot about that series.

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    3. I don't believe I said, or even implied, that black people are incapable of relating to stories that don't feature black people. Clearly, they can, just as white people can relate to stories that don't feature white people. That would be a ludicrous thing to think/believe (although I'm sure that isn't stopping some people from believing it).

      I think it'd be difficult to deny, though, that the scales are currently weighted FAR in favor of there being more movies of the comic-book/adventure/fantasy sort that feature white heroes than there are that feature black heroes. And in many of the ones featuring black heroes, they aren't the leads, but third or fourth-billed. Consequently, it's hard to argue that black kids aren't growing up in a world where they see that 29 times out of 30, it's the white guy who's THE hero, and the black guy is just some other lower-tier hero, or worse, just some guy (like Morgan Freeman in the recent Batman movies).

      Call me crazy, but I think it's important for there to at some point soon be a scenario where black kids can have someone who looks a bit more like them be THE featured character on t-shirts and lunchboxes and trapper-keepers and whatnot. Nothing in that sentiment implies that a black boy can't totally groove on Iron Man and/or Batman; but if he could totally groove on, say, a Luke Cage movie that had ads run during the Super Bowl and grossed $800 million worldwide, wouldn't that be a nice thing to add into the mix for a whole generation of kids? And wouldn't it be cool for there to be white kids totally obsessed with Black Panther?

      Now, granted, casting Michael B. Jordan as Johnny Storm doesn't make those things inevitable. But it at least gets us a bit closer to it.

      And with that problem solved, we can get to work on there being an Eskimo superhero, which is all I actually care about...

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    4. Yes to Eskimo Avengers!

      I wasn't suggesting you, personally, were implying that. (Now there's a sentence...) I know what you meant/ are saying. I do feel like there's something really misguided about the approach (discussed in the blog, not the one you're discussing in the comments here) and it leads to such assumptions being made, though. (i.e. the white liberal guilt you mentioned earlier.) It's more than a numbers game. People are more than a numbers game. (Again - not saying YOU are saying that. In fact, I'd be surprised if you disagreed, as I've never gotten that impression from you or anything you've written to me.)

      So no, I don't call you crazy, certainly not, for writing what you wrote, there, but I don't entirely agree. For the reasons I feel I've sketched out as best I can. I appreciate your engagement, here, as always.

      Anyway, I think I'd run the risk of simply repeating what I wrote initially if I keep going, so I'll leave it there.

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    5. People are definitely more than a numbers game; you definitely have not misinterpreted me on that score. That said, I do feel that the realities (such as they are) of numbers games ought to be factored into discussions of these sorts.

      My final word on the subject probably ought to be this: I am always going to be okay with the idea of a character's race being changed provided that said character's race is irrelevant to the story. So, for example, I would be okay with the idea of a black Captain America; similarly, I'm okay (if a bit befuddled) by the idea that the John Stewart Green Lantern might be played in a movie by Dwayne Johnson, because as far as I know, Stewart's race isn't actually very important except on a symbolic level.

      If you were to query me as to whether a new reboot of Shaft could have Shaft be played by a white dude, or an Asian dude or something, I'd more more inclined to say no. Because that character emerged directly from blaxploitation, to which race IS important. Now, if you had Shaft be a white dude and all the bad guys be black, flipping the script the way some productions of Othello have done; then, it suddenly becomes valid again.

      A much shorter version of all this would be for me to say: I'm cool with it, provided it's being done thoughtfully or compellingly.

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    6. I can definitely hang with that! Really, like I say, so long as the story is good, I just see it as another reboot.

      But, it sure would be nice to see a FF movie based on the actual characters and stories.

      And for that, I say to Hollywood, follow my 3 simple steps and start counting your money, rather than rebooting it with some new marketing formula when this one lays a big goose egg at the box office.

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    7. God...you know what I keep forgetting? They haven't cast Dr. Doom yet. Watch, it's going to be, like, Mark Wahlberg or Shia LaBoeuf or somebody like that. Jack Black, maybe. Ugh.

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    8. Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo...

      A young Chris Sarandon (Fright Night era) would be a great Doom. Or 70s Oliver Reed. Alas, these are not helpful suggestions for a casting director.

      What's funny is how much of a screen icon Darth Vader is. Darth Vader is freaking Doctor Doom with a mix of Darkseid. The Dark Side of the Force COMPLETELY stole Marvel's thunder with Doom. Though perhaps that could be turned into cinema gold if they just went full out and Vader-ed the shit out of Doom for the reboot.

      I should mention, too, how much of a FF nerd I was in my younger days. I want all of their supporting cast and rogue's gallery well-represented in at least a trilogy. (i.e. lest anyone think I'm just some guy with an opinion - well, that I am, certainly - but I have a long background of being disappointed and jerked around by attempts to materialize the FF on the big and small screens.)

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  7. I'm a FF outsider, however I'm familiar enough with this kind of thing to get a sinking feeling to realize how far it's gone in Hollywood.

    One thing I think I can guarantee is this, no fans are going to be pleased as the studios try to please everybody. The great joke is all this is a result, more or less of how studios are run today.

    A good overview of what I'm talking about can be found in "Sleepless in Hollywood", by Lynda Obst. She's responsible for such films as Sleepless in Seattle, The Fisher King, Contact et al. In other words, she's a prof who's been in the business long enough to see which way the wind is blowing. She doesn't paint an encouraging picture, and if Obst to be believed, Hollywood is not a friendly place for Marvel or DC fans right now.

    The way Obst frames it is in terms of an Old and New Abnormal in Hollywood:

    From the Los Angeles Review of Books:

    "The shift from what she calls the “Old Abnormal” — Hollywood’s traditional dysfunctional self — to the “New Abnormal” is profoundly economic in inspiration. The big money is now in the international market, which used to represent about 20 percent of global revenue but now accounts for close to 80 percent. And the quickest way to sell seats in emerging markets like Russia and China is to provide audiences with known quantities, like superheroes and adaptations of mega-selling book series aimed at teenagers and young adults. The industry describes this, with an unwitting nod to the dystopian nightmares of Philip K. Dick, as “pre-awareness.”

    The problem with all this? The studios feel the Superhero flicks should be lowest common denominator, so that instead of films like Superman and Superman II, which had heart and thought, as well as special effects put into them, we get what are referred to as tent poles:

    "Every big movie project is now a “tentpole” — a noisy crowdpleaser whose main job, from the studios’ point of view, is to attract enough business to justify a sequel, followed ideally by a whole franchise of follow-up movies.

    "...it also raises a troubling question. Has the movie industry given up its artistic ambitions and turned itself into a mere purveyor of glorified carnival rides?"

    The full article on Obst's book can be found here:

    http://lyndaobstproductions.com/content/lareview072613.html

    Either way, for any comics fan who hopes and wants more from Superhero movies, or just anyone who hopes for more from movies in general, we may be in for a bumpy ride.

    ChrisC

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    1. Thanks, Chris. I've seen these Obst remarks before. And while I think we live in an era where the best superhero movies are being made (compared to other eras - I agree Superman and Superman II are fun films, but I'll take Batman Begins, X-Men, Captain America and a couple of others over them) I can't disagree with her overall argument, particularly if one includes things like Transformers and other known quantities under the glorified carnival ride umbrella.

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  8. I think comments like Obst's come from a place of having one's head up one's own butt. The industry has always been a business first and an art-form second, and guess what? That's the way it should be. If the industry doesn't make money, then no movies get made, and hence there are no good movies. If the industry makes money even on dreck, then movies get made, and then there are at least SOME good movies.

    There were numerous excellent films released last year, and many of them were of the tentpole variety, ranging from "Gravity" to "Oblivion" to "The Desolation of Smaug" to "Iron Man 3" to "Monsters University." There was a lot of crap, too. But there always is.

    There were also plenty of excellent mid-range films: "Her," "The Wolf of Wall Street," "American Hustle," and "Inside Llewyn Davis," to name just a few. People have been soothsaying the artistic doom of the industry for years now, and yet every year, there are great movies getting made. Heads up asses, I tell you; heads up asses.

    And specifically, people who are fans of both superheroes and movies are living in lucky times right now, let's have no mistakes about it.

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    1. I agree with with much of what you say, particularly about the oft-foretold death of the industry, which I've been hearing my entire life. But there's no doubt about the evolution of the business she describes (even while decrying it.) You can trace a line from the collapse of the studio system and its becoming just another division of a conglomerate's stable of moneymaking entities (late 60s / early 70s) to then being altered to fit more of a profit and bottom line model to be repackaged and sold again (the 80s) and so on, and see a definite change in the business model to the kind of emphasis Obst and others describe. I wouldn't say she has her head up her butt or is misrepresenting the situation, myself. That isn't to say, though, that the old models of moviemaking commerce and spectacle didn't do the exact same thing to the models they themselves replaced, in more or less the same context, and art/ publishing in general, down through the centuries. So I guess I see it as an ongoing phenomenon more than she does.

      And really, like you say, there's always crap. Over a century of movies should offer enough data to support the conclusion that the average has always been 10 (maybe even 50) to 1, crap to quality. From the silents through the goldens through noirs to 70s to Top Gun to now.

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    2. Now, that you mention it, is IS really rather presumptuous of me to call an industry professional out for having her head up her ass. Fair enough.

      But...Top Gun? I thought everyone loved that movie!

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    3. I sure as hell do. You can't see me, but I'm air-guitar-ing the theme as I type these words (or in-between typing them.) I just meant it as a particularly illustrative example of an 80s "carnival ride" movie.

      (It forever amuses me that Maverick basically starts World War III at the end of that movie, yet he is treated like a conquering hero. Like Drago/Rocky, I guess the idea is that he's just too damn awesome for the Russians to be anything but totally kick-ass inspired "good on ya, tovarisch" to retaliate.)

      (That would make a great post-apocalyptic sequel, actually. TOP GUN: TWO MONTHS LATER. The world is a smoldering ruin... I feel the need... the need... for speed! (And potassium iodide.)

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    4. Okay, I feel better now. Whew...! I was hoping I'd misinterpreted that!

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  9. And it gets stupider and stupider...

    http://www.mtv.com/news/1868328/kate-mara-fantastic-four-comics/

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