Why The Fantastic Four is so Good for our Culture

Lex Luthor.  Doc Ock.  Red Skull.  The Joker.  Brainiac.  Dr. Doom.  Seeing a pattern?  Actually there are two.  The amazingly brilliant individual who is also an insane egomaniac intent on controlling the world.  It’s a part of our culture, this “Mad Scientist” stereotype.  Certainly the comic book universe has its share of high-level genius good guys – Batman, Ironman, and Dr. Banner to name a few.  But they have their own issues.  Batman is his own special kind of sociopath.  To say Ironman is arrogant is to not do justice to his hubris.  He is a womanizer and has a slue of anti-social tendencies.  Banner becomes The Hulk when he gets upset, angry, or even when his pulse gets too high.  With a monster like that inside him, he is a unique kind of terrifying without being evil.

Then there is Reed Richards.  He is superhumanly brilliant; Richards can learn a new technology or pick up a concept in moments.  He is also indisputably good – to the point of being naive about the motives of others.  And his supportive, powerful wife is stunningly beautiful.  Now that is an anti-stereotype the world could use; a prodigally intelligent and socially positive man.  That he is with one of the most beautiful women in the world, and somone who is the glue of the team only underscores his unusual combination of good, clean, and smart.

Which is why the two Fantastic Four movies were such a disappointment.  At least one casting choice was unfortunate and the plots were fairly simple.  Not that Mr. Fantastic was played badly, and certainly the stories are nothing like the tacky embarrassments of the 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s.  They were just nothing like the quality and consistency with the comics to be found in the recent Marvel movies related to The Avengers, the Spiderman reboot, or the newer X-Men movie.

When Marvel announced that they were going to reboot the Fantastic Four franchise I was delighted.  It means a chance to try again with the chemistry that is so necessary for the team to come alive.  More important, it’s another opportunity for large audiences to see that anti-stereotype.  I can’t wait.

Anyone else interested in the Fantastic Four reboot?





About Cian Beirdd

I live with my kitty, and encourage his tuna and catnip addictions. I have a website as well; https://cianbeirdd.wordpress.com/cian-beirdd/
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8 Responses to Why The Fantastic Four is so Good for our Culture

  1. Loki says:

    So far, I have to say, the reboot is looking sad. I really hope they’ll surprise me and make an awesome one, but this week’s list of actors being considered for Doom would be enough on its own to make me worry — they all look like they’re in their early thirties, and while I might be very wrong since I’ve not seen any of them in anything, none of them look like they’d have the presence required for Doom.

    I did not like the two previous FF films much either, but I at least thought they got (most) of the casting pretty ok down. I’m sure they could have done better, but they could have done a heck of a lot worse, too. Those movies suffered far more from the formulaic, uninventive plots than it did anything else. And indeed — that’s a bit of a challenge with the FF. The Thing’s confidence issues aside, they’re not angsty, they’re not tortured, they’re not dysfunctional. They’re a wholesome, happy, well-adjusted extended family who happens to fight super-crime. As you say about Mr. Fantastic, they’re role models to a far bigger extent than most (Marvel) super heroes. If Batman’s the Marvel-character at DC, the Fantastic Four are the DC characters of Marvel. They’re the shining good guys who tackle problems and save the day. Great recipe in 1960, highly dated in 2015.

    So am I excited about a reboot? Well, all my other concerns aside, if I read something that convinces me they’ve figured out a way to be true to the Fantastic Four’s characters and relationships in the comics, but structure a film around them which still manages to be interesting, clever and engaging, then yes, I will be. But at the moment I’ll remain skeptical.

    • Loki says:

      On the plus side, it has Vaughn attached to produce, and Michael Green (who might have botched Green Lantern but still made the excellent TV series “Kings”) to write, and the notion of putting it in a shared universe with the X-men films is intriguing. I also like several of the actors that have already been cast, I’m just less sure about how suited they are for the parts.

  2. Cian Beirdd says:

    Funny isn’t it, the Fantastic Four was the first group of superheroes that didn’t get along all the time, and now they are, indeed, dated. The first run had three great actors and one stunningly attractive one; that won’t work anymore. And unless you are going to try a Nolan, origin stories are generally formulaic for a reason; it is true to the characters as they are remembered. Here’s a thought. When Marvel was crashing, a brilliant kid of 18 reinvented the entire studio, keeping the characters he could but ditching most of them. Maybe it’s time to reset the origins and relationships of the FF?

    • Loki says:

      I’m questioning the need for an origin story in the first place, I guess. The previous movies are not that old. “The Incredible Hulk”, for all its flaws, knew better than to try to re-tell an origin story when the previous film had spent its entire running time on one. I’d hope they’d do something more akin to that.

      I think the FF relationships work great, though they can certainly change around the origins without it bothering me much. The previous films’ choice of including Doom with the rest of them on the ship, for instance, was completely fine by me. (If memory serves they maybe stole that from the Ultimate version? Or?) But if you start meddling too much with the character relationships (unless it’s in a “building up towards the old ones by starting the story at an earlier date” kind of way) I kind of question the need to use the characters at all. At that point, it might be just as well to make new ones.

  3. Cian Beirdd says:

    The original characters, from my understanding, were more clashy. They come to terms very quickly in the movies. Considering personalities and powers, there is a lot of room for conflict. But I don’t know what I would prefer, I just know that FF deserves another try.

    • Loki says:

      Really? My impression of their friction is that Johnny and Ben would good-naturedly bicker, and that’s about it. But that’s cool. If they could do a “The Incredibles” sort of spin on it, about a family going through a lot of stuff internally but banding together when faced with outside threats, it could be very good. (“The Incredibles” was in a lot of ways a very good FF movie, come to think of it).

  4. Cian Beirdd says:

    Honestly I haven’t watched them for awhile. And yeah, now that you mention it ‘The Incredibles’ is a perfect starting point.

    • Loki says:

      I really think so. “The Incredibles” has the family friendly vibe I feel FF should have (it differentiates them from angsty stuff like Spidey and Daredevil, dark and driven stuff like Batman and Punisher and devil-may-care heroes á la Iron Man), but without that meaning it ever feels trite and predictable or having low stakes.

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