The Top Five Most Okay Superhero Movies: Fantastic Four/Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer
The Internet is full of lists on “The Top Five Best Superhero Movies” (any Superman movie made by Richard Donner) and “The Top Five Worst Superhero Movies” (any Superman movie made by someone else). But here at Fempop, we’re committed to doing the unexpected.
I would like to again remind you these movies are not being ranked in order of quality, but in order of okayness. As Superman Returns is almost good enough to be a good movie, so too does FF or F4 (or Fan-Fo’ if you’re Kanye West) have just enough redeeming qualities to make the list. When you put both movies together. And drink heavily.
On the one hand, there’s some good casting. I’m not sure you could find someone better to dress up in an orange rock costume than Michael Chiklis, and I’ll give brownie points for having the Thing be okay practical effects instead of okay CGI. Chris Evans’ is perfectly cast as the Human Torch and Ioan Gruffudd… doesn’t embarrass himself as Mr. Fantastic. In the sequel, Doug Jones and Laurence Fishburne play Silver Surfer, so the character is like two good actors for the price of one. And the director of both movies is black, so it’s good that an African-American got a shot to do something in a superhero movie other than get a blowjob from Lyndsy Fonseca. I mean, he sucked at it, harder than Lyndsy Fonseca, but at least he got a shot. And Dr. Doom actually looks pretty good.
And they got the atmosphere right. There’s a warm, jokey tone to the family dynamics in the movie which makes it feel inconsequential, since most of the time they’re not doing anything, but it’s right for the characters. In some alternate dimension there’s a Fantastic Four movie where everything’s dark and edgy; it sucks just as much, and there’s also the inherent lameness of having Johnny Storm be an alcoholic or whatever.
But then, oh god, the mediocrity rises like bile. The Fantastic Four aren’t a sitcom. They’re Star Trek. Our guys are always hurling themselves into deep space, or through dimensional portals, or shrinking down to the size of atoms. That’s the appeal; the insane imagination that all of the comic’s best writers have imbued it with. Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. John Byrne. Mark Waid. The movies insist on being grounded and realistic, to the point where the first movie is entirely about Mr. Fantastic trying to stop being Mr. Fantastic. No action scenes. No thrills. No chills. Just doing research and talkin’ and montages and falling for Sue Storm…
The sequel at least brings in Galactus, but then it makes him a cloud. People defend it by saying “oh, a giant guy with a purple hat, that’d never work.” Really? Sauron, giant guy in black armor with an all-powerful ring, that seemed to work. Megatron, giant robot walking around stomping on people, that seemed to work. Maybe they could change the design a bit, shine it up a little, but a cloud? Come on. Who cares about an evil cloud? “Oh, I’m really glad they beat up that cloud!” “Oh, I hope they don’t get killed by that giant cloud!” Fuck you.
Dr. Doom is a personal insult to anyone who’s ever read a comic. This is the guy who inspired Darth Vader. Dude has his own country. He has a grand, operatic vendetta against Reed Richards. Sometimes he seems like a good man who does bad things, other times like a bad man who does good things. Just hire some slumming English actor, Jeremy Irons or someone, and feed him all the scenery he wants. Instead, we got the guy from Nip/Tuck. And he never wears the mask. For decades, comic book readers wondered what this guy looked like under the mask. Turned out, all those “oh god no!” reactions were because he looked like the guy from Nip/Tuck. I know that show was a Ryan Murphy joint, but it wasn’t that bad.
The movie character has nothing to do with the comic book one besides the look and name. Even his powers are different. If they’d just named him “Dr. Destroy-It” or something, no one would’ve minded. It’s not like general audiences were clamoring for Dr. Doom to show up. All calling him that did was piss off the fans. It’d be like if Batman Begins, they were all set to go on Ra’s al Ghul, then some studio guy said “Whoa, wait a minute, the Joker is Batman’s greatest enemy. Let’s make this guy the Joker. I know he’s a Far East terrorist who intends to destroy Gotham with fear gas, but let’s just paint his face white and give him green hair, no one will ever know the difference.” They might as well have called him the Green Goblin, since he had the exact same characterization and storyline. Just, you know, worse.
And Julian McMahon, he’s the least of the casting woes. Jessica Alba is completely wrong for the character of Sue Storm. Say what you will about Kate Bosworth, it wasn’t her fault she was too young for Lois Lane, she gave it the old college try. But Alba… she’s not even blonde. Look, I don’t mind turning a white character into a different ethnicity. It’s a fact of life. But if you’re going to have a white character played by a Hispanic actress, don’t have her on-screen brother be a Caucasian man. Make sure she can act. Don’t give her blue contacts and blonde hair, so she doesn’t even look attractive even though she was only cast because she looks attractive. Just… don’t. Either make the character Hispanic or cast a Hollywood actress who can pull off being a young, attractive, pleasant blonde. That would be all of them.
Then the ending of the second film has Johnny Storm learn that he needs to be a team player by—giving him everyone’s superpowers and having him beat Dr. Doom on his own. Does that make sense? No, it doesn’t.
Fantastic Four: It’s not all bad. Just… a lot.