Advertisements
    Advertisements
  • Following Us

  • Categories

  • Check out the Archives









  • Awards & Nominations

  • Advertisements

Non-Review Review: Fantastic Four (2015)

The second scene of Fantastic Four opens on a shot of a red neon sign reading “Grimm”, panning down slowly to a scrapyard packed with exhausted husks of old vehicles that have long outlived their usefulness. If you were to reduce Josh Trank’s Fantastic Four down to a single shot, that would be it; the purest possible distillation of this hundred-minute effort to adapt Marvel’s (literal) first family to the silver screen. It is possible to make a good Fantastic Four film, even if the movies bearing the family’s name suggest otherwise; The Incredibles proved as much.

What is remarkable about Fantastic Four is just how thoroughly and meticulously the edges have been sanded down, replaced with a misshapen grey blob that wants to be X-Men or The Avengers, or anything but what it is. All the moving parts of the film are compelling on their own merits. This is the first studio effort from Josh Trank. It is a vehicle for Miles Teller. It has a soundtrack from Philip Glass (and Marco Beltrami). It features Victor Von Doom in an era when studios have demonstrated they are not afraid of comic book tropes and absurdities.

Fantastic finish?

Fantastic finish?

Fantastic Four effortlessly squanders just about all that good will in a ruthlessly efficient manner, a demonstration of how brutal a bad script and a cynical edit can be. Trank only fleetingly shines through, commandeering the film for about ten minutes in the middle. Miles Teller is reduced to an exposition machine. Any unique identifiers on the Philip Glass soundtrack are pared down for generic superhero movie bombast. The film is so concerned that the audience won’t take a character named Doctor Doom seriously that he’s barely in the film.

The most interesting aspect of Fantastic Four is the recurring sense that the characters themselves openly resent the direction that the project took. Sadly, even Reed Richards cannot stretch far enough to bend the film back into shape.

Clobbering time...

Clobbering time…

Continue reading

Advertisements

J. Michael Straczynski’s Run on The Fantastic Four – Civil War (Review/Retrospective)

To celebrate the release of Thor: The Dark World towards the end of next month, we’ll be looking at some Thor and Avenger-related comics throughout September. Check back weekly for the latest reviews and retrospectives.

J. Michael Stracynski’s Fantastic Four tie-in to Civil War is a strange beast, in that it seems to exist more as a collection of talking points and plot beats than as compelling narrative in its own right. Using the safe camouflage of a tie-in to a massive line-wide event, Straczynski is not only able to sneakily set-up his pending Thor run, but also to vent quite liberally about his own feelings on post-9/11 America. The result is a story which feels disjointed and far too talky, a simplistic and familiar opinion piece dressed up as a Fantastic Four story.

Yes. Yes there is...

Yes. Yes there is…

Continue reading

Stan Lee & Jack Kirby’s X-Men – X-Men Omnibus, Vol. 1 (Review/Retrospective)

To celebrate the release of The Wolverine later in the month, we’re taking a look at some classic X-Men and Wolverine comics every Monday, Wednesday and Friday here. I’m also writing a series of reviews of the classic X-Men television show at comicbuzz every weekday, so feel free to check those out.

Stan Lee and Jack Kirby are the architects of the shared Marvel Universe. The pair collaborated on titles like The Fantastic Four, The Avengers and Thor – helping reinvent American comic books during the sixties. The comics redefined what superheroes could be, honing in on the changing sensibilities of the era. However, not every series was a run-away success. Not every idea worked from the very first issue.

The X-Men are one of the most iconic bunch of superheroes in existence. They have had everything from blockbuster films to celebrated cartoon shows. However, they had a rocky start. The book limped along through its first years of publication, never quite connecting with its audience. Indeed, the book almost died a quiet death in the early seventies, before writer Len Wein and artist Dave Cockrum revived the team for a relaunched Giant-Sized X-Men. After that, Wein handed the book over to Chris Claremont, who really defined the book and its characters during an extended run on the title.

Reading these early issues, from Lee and Kirby, it’s quite clear that the X-Men aren’t working. There’s a lot of stilted awkwardness to the stories, as Lee and Kirby try to find a compelling hook for the team. They come quite close – it’s surprising how close at times – but it’s easy to see why the premise took so long to catch on.

To me, my X-Men!

To me, my X-Men!

Continue reading

The Fantastic Four #108 – The Monstrous Mystery of the Nega-Man (Review)

To celebrate the release of Star Trek: Into Darkness this month, we’ll be running through the first season of the classic Star Trek all this month. Check back daily to get ready to boldly go. It’s only logical.

We’ll be supplementing our coverage of the episodes with some additional materials – mainly novels and comics and films. This is one such entry.

Jack Kirby is one of the defining comic book creators of the twentieth century. He started out working in the medium during the Great Depression. He was a major force during the Golden Age of comics, creating the character of Captain America in 1940. However, Kirby displayed an incredible ability to evolve and adapt over time. In the 1970s, for example, Kirby would move towards crafting cosmic odysseys and epic god-like conflicts. However, during the 1960s, he played a huge role in the development of Marvel Comics during the 1960s. With a flair for science-fiction story-telling and a knack for crafting iconic characters, Kirby came to be one of the talents who defined the period known as “the Silver Age.” Working with Stan Lee, Kirby created characters like The Fantastic Four and The X-Men, who defined not just Marvel, but the entire medium.

I think it’s fair to cite Star Trek as a major influence on Jack Kirby’s work in comic books, particularly his later work on The Fantastic Four. I know that his fans can be very protective of their idol, and he certainly deserves a lot of the praise heaped upon him. I know that Kirby’s possible influence on Star Wars remains a massive bone of contention. That said, I suspect that Star Trek made quite an impression on Kirby.

A smashing time...

A smashing time…

Continue reading

Look! Jack Kirby’s Designs for Argo!

I’m actually reasonably happy with Argo winning Best Picture. I’ve given up on the idea of the Academy Awards ever mirroring my own tastes, and Argo is a pretty great film from a director who is developing into a wonderful talent. And the awards last night spread the love around. It’s hard to hate a ceremony that can give Quentin Tarantino a Best Original Screenplay Oscar for Django Unchained.

Anyway, in celebrating the success of Argo, how about a look at Jack Kirby’s original designs for the fictitious movie Lord of Light (which became Argo)? Kirby was a comic book legend, who created The Fantastic Four, The X-Men, Captain America, Thor and countless other iconic comic characters. In the seventies, Kirby had an ever heavier science-fiction bint, creating his wonderful Fourth World and The Eternals and O.M.A.C. As part of the operation to rescue the escaped diplomats, Kirby designed these storyboards for the movie, which actually hit upon several of the author and artist’s favourite themes – including advanced god-like beings and the merging of the rational with the mystical.

Check out his sketches below. Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

Continue reading

Dan Slott’s Run on The Amazing Spider-Man – Ends of the Earth (Review)

While Ends of the Earth might not work quite as well as Dan Slott’s other epic from his Amazing Spider-Man run, Spider-Island, it does succeed in playing to the writer’s strengths with the character. It seems like Slott is fascinated with how Spider-Man interacts with the world – both in terms of the other fictional constructs of the shared Marvel Universe, but also in how the character tries to make his world a better place through more than beating up bad guys. Apocryphally, Stan Lee once argued that comic book fans don’t want change, but “the illusion of change”, and Slott manages to do something which almost seems impossible. He offers a take on the web-crawling wonder that is by turns classic and yet boldly new.

The last sand…

Continue reading

Dan Slott’s Spider-Man – The Amazing Spider-Man & Human Torch (Review/Retrospective)

The Amazing Spider-Man and Human Torch is a sweet little book, if just a little bit too nostalgic for my tastes. A five-issue miniseries, it allows Dan Slott to show us five vignettes exploring the relationship between Marvel’s iconic webhead and the youngest member of the Fantastic Four. Slott leans a little bit too heavily on continuity in places, trying too keenly to fit the story inside an established mythology, but The Amazing Spider-Man and Human Torch reads like an affectionate homage to the relative innocence of the Silver Age. I don’t doubt that Slott’s solid character work here helped secure the writer his current position as author of The Amazing Spider-Man, and the story is a fun (if light) look back on the hokey adventures of yesteryear.

At liberty to discuss it…

Continue reading