Cross-Hatchings for August 2015

Bits and pieces. Random items that didn't rate a full column. You all know the drill by now.


Fantastic Flop: Well, we saw the new FF movie.

And it's not the horror everyone is making it out to be... however, it's not the Fantastic Four. In fact, it's not even the Ultimate Fantastic Four, which I guess was the jumping-off point for this particular adaptation.

Julie said it was the same basic plot as the first one but with all the fun sucked out of it. Certainly, now that we have this one to compare, the previous attempts are looking a lot better in retrospect. Even the low-budget unreleased Roger Corman production suddenly seems more forgivable.

Nevertheless, it still looks like the Hanna-Barbera cartoon from 1967 is the film adaptation to beat.

I say that somewhat facetiously, but you know, that crude sixties cartoon got a lot of stuff right that no one else has.

First off, the Saturday morning cartoon didn't WASTE TIME. They introduced the characters and the premise in the sixty-second intro montage and then got down to business. That's all you ever need.

Second, they didn't run away from the material. The cartoon premiered with the Mole Man and then went on to do episodes with Dr. Doom, the Red Ghost, the Silver Surfer and Galactus... and none of those got 're-imagined.' They pretty much walked right out of the comics and onto the screen.

"But you can't do that," is always the response to this. "A straight-across adaptation would never work. Today's audiences wouldn't buy it."

Except they do. Look at the record. The live-action superhero films that have been the most successful are the ones that have gleefully jumped into the superhero universe with all its attendant absurdity and never, ever, tried to apologize for it. For God's sake, we live in a world now where Ant-Man is a success. The more 'realistic' you try to make superheroes, the more you invite the audience to pick holes in what you're doing. Worse, the more you try to justify it, the more you slow it down. Way too much of the new Fantastic Four is glacially-slow exposition. The last thing you want with the FF is one of those dour, 'realistic' origin movies. This movie looks like it was made for the people that thought Man of Steel was too lighthearted and peppy.

A Fantastic Four movie should move like lightning. If it was me, I'd structure it like Raiders of the Lost Ark-- hell-for-leather adventure all the way with introductions done on the fly. Stan and Jack knew that, back in the day.

How many Fantastic Four comics opened like that? "Here's all you need to know for now, let's go!"

I don't understand why people keep trying to re-invent the wheel with these movies. If you want audiences to come and see the Fantastic Four, you should be trying to actually give them the Fantastic Four. The thing that's missing from all the live-action FF movies so far is, for my money, the thing that makes the FF who they are. The sense of excitement, that explosive combination of Big Science and Big Adventure that was Jack Kirby's signature.... leavened with the asides and one-liners that Stan Lee made into his signature style. That's the FF movie I want. Maybe some day someone will make it.

As for this latest effort, I think I'd have liked it a lot better if they'd called it something else. Because somewhere buried in there is kind of a cool movie about dimensional travel, science versus the military, and a couple of genius kids trapped by their own brilliance and the harsh coming-of-age that their sudden transformation forces on them. Unfortunately, that has nothing to do with the Fantastic Four. Which means that the bits of the movie where they keep trying to force FF superhero tropes into the story they're actually telling are the weakest parts of the thing. Even so, it's worth a look if you can see it for free, but don't spend money.


Speaking of Embracing the Superhero Concept... A couple of weeks ago I mentioned how charmed we were by the new Supergirl pilot with Melissa Benoist. As we get closer to the premiere and my in-box fills up with all kinds of promos and whatnot, I am struck by one thing more than any other--

--they get it.

In particular, young Ms. Benoist seems to grasp that her being Supergirl means something. I love that she's not running away from it as so many other actors in superhero roles have done in the past.

It goes beyond just being nice to the fans. It's understanding what the fans are responding to.

Especially when watching Melissa Benoist with younger fans, I am forcibly reminded of Clayton Moore's Lone Ranger and how Mr. Moore treated the kids that he met at public appearances and so on.

He knew how important it was to them that they were meeting the Ranger and he tried to live up to that.

You don't really see that today. Maybe somewhat with Chris Pratt as Star-Lord. But most actors in superhero films will tell you what an honor it is to be playing a cultural icon, and then in the next breath be sure to mention how they're doing a new Broadway show or how they hope to direct or, you know, anything except more talk about being a superhero. They all are terrified of the specter of George Reeves and Adam West and the way their post-superhero careers nosedived.

But it seems that Melissa Benoist is not worrying about that at all. She's clearly tickled to be Supergirl and to connect with young fans because of it.

That in itself is hugely refreshing and makes me like the show even more. I hope it's a big success for all of those involved and that nobody working on it ever gets jaded about what they're doing.


That's really all I've got for you this time. I've got a giant pile of comics-for-review stuff that I'm trying to get through, and we also had a couple of bookscouting adventures I keep meaning to write up. I am hoping to get to one or the other of those...

...by next week. See you then.

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