Saturday, July 23, 2005

Finally got to catch the Fantastic Four last night. So backdated I am with the movie scene.

I worried about how the presentation would turn out. I have been a long-time fan of the foursome and I felt there was no way any movie could capture the grand-scale adventures that the first family of superheroes always found themselves in.

Much credit to the director who knew the limits of his medium and focused his movie on the strongest feature of the four: family and friendship. Sure, the look was cheesy (self-referred to as "Armani meets astronaut," by the Torch himself) and the CGI no great shakes -- obviously cartoony and without any pretentions towards making them 'realistic' -- but it's the simplest, most ordinary of human relationships that hit us the hardest.

The frustration of the Invisible Girl, who can't make the man she loves see her the way she sees him. The frustration of the Torch with his enormous ego caged in by his own unadmitted sense of responsibility to his loved ones. The frustration of Mr Fantastic whose mind is a tyrannical ruler over his heart as far as the woman he loves is concerned, along with the guilt over the fate of his best friend. And the pathos of the perennially unfortunate member of the group, the Thing, whom Mike Chicklis plays with such sadness in his eyes that his sense of rejection and outcastness is almost palpable as he reaches down for his wife's cast off wedding ring and can't pick it up because his fingers have turned into bricks.

Doom, however, plays an odd role in this script. There was really no call to empower him with special 'powers.' In the comic books, he is already disturbing enough as a seriously twisted human being whose brilliance of mind makes him more than a match for the four combined. Luck is seldom on his side, though. Guess there wouldn't have been enough movie time to explore Doom's history properly so it just got conveniently subsumed under the same plotline as his nemeses'. That was disappointing.

One thing I had to question is the crowd's reaction to the chaos on the Brooklyn Bridge. There was so much damage, so many lives put at risk, not by any supervillain attack but just a chain of events caused inadvertently by the Thing. Yet when the danger passed, everyone cheered the four and they became celebrities. If it was the X-men, the story would have been different. Perhaps it's this fundamental plot thread following the four that it's impossible to make a dark Fantastic Four movie to compare with our favourite leather-clad mutants. Fortune favours the four.

The movie isn't just about a bunch of superheroes but about the coming together of a family, dysfunctional as they may be, who fight amongst themselves as often as they fight their enemies. In comicdom, the oft spoken tagline of the Fantastic Four reads, "They were the first, and they were the best." I wouldn't say that of this movie, but an open mind did bring both giggles and tears. It was a fun ride.

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