Flashback/Backslide’s review of the first Fantastic Four (or rather, the first modern version of the Fantastic Four, not to be confused with Roger Corman’s unreleased 1994 film or the upcoming Josh Trank film) outlined the film’s misguided approach to comic book film adaptations. After watching Spider-Man and X-Men rake in huge box office profits, Fox tried to create a formula for financial success, blending Spider-Man‘s humor with X-Men‘s handling of superpowers along with modeling their villain after the antagonists of these earlier films.
Unfortunately, he result is a financial success but a critical mess. The film begins with the super-team attempting to live out their lives as normal as possible with Reed Richards and Sue Storm planning their wedding. Their efforts are halted (of course) when they encounter the Silver Surfer who threatens to destroy the entire planet. Stopping this new threat requires teaming up with an old enemy while the tension among the Fantastic Four members threatens to stop the team before they even fight the Surfer.
Seven years have passed since the film was released and in that time 18 Marvel-based films have hit theaters. With so many comic book films, it’s easy to start seeing patterns. The superhero’s struggle to balance “great responsibility” with a normal life is seen across many films and is a hallmark of the Marvel-style hero. Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man films pull off this theme better than most. In the Fantastic Four films, The Thing most effectively captures this dynamic although Jennifer Lawrence’s Mystique and Kelsey Grammer’s Beast are more compelling. We also frequently see the hero’s sacrifice used as a narrative device and the finale of this film is remarkably similar to the finale of The Avengers. As is the internal discord between the Fantastic Four members which mirrors the in-fighting in X-Men and the Marvel Cinematic Universe. With the upcoming MCU Phase 3 films, it looks like we’ll see much more hero-on-hero fighting.
The shortcomings of this second Fantastic Four film stalled the franchise’s pursuit of a trilogy. It would take seven more years and a complete reboot for the Marvel super-team to be seen again. Early rumors suggest that the reboot will take the heroes in a new direction, even using a different comic source for the adaptation. A new direction may save the franchise. We already saw Marc Webb’s Amazing Spider-Man reboot stall after it stayed too close to Sam Raimi’s version and tripped over the same problems that tumbled Raimi’s franchise in Spider-Man 3. Casting rumors alone have given fans reason to look forward to Trank’s franchise. Whether or not you are fans of the first two Fantastic Four films or the stars of the next film, we can all agree the world of comic book films would benefit from an effective return of Stan Lee’s original super-team.
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Flashback/Backslide’s Marvel Blogathon continues Monday, March 1st with a review of Iron Man written by Sherise from Furious Reviews. In the meantime, check out the most recent entry in the Blogathon; a review of Spider-Man 3.
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