Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Thoughts on the film: Fantastic 4 Rise of the Mediocrity

Because I hate myself, I watched Fantastic 4, Rise of the Silver Surfer last night.

There's much wrong with that film and its many flaws have been brought out for all to see, but if I had to pin down the one thing that bothered me the most about the film is that it felt so contrived.

Johnny Storm somehow and for no logical reason whatsoever gains the ability to switch powers with his cohorts. Why? Because somebody thought it would be funny to watch Jessica Alba fly around on fire panicking. And then at the end Johnny uses all their powers at once, which he assumes is possible even though nothing up to that point has suggested that he can have more than one power at once, and in fact he has been losing his power every time he switched.

But okay, let's say this silly thing has to stay. Johnny gets to have everybody's power, not just his own. Know what? Johnny's a cocky asshole. Johnny would not just hand back all the powers when he's done. He'd get so excited he'd struggle at least a little before sacrificing all this power. And I'd much rather watch a hero struggle with desire for power than watch Dr. Doom sneer ineffectively while creating a nuisance.

Instead of having a real conflict within one of your major characters, it seems like somebody decided it would be cool to have a few seconds of Johnny with everybody's powers at once and contrived a story to make it happen.

But the truth is, it IS a cool idea. There are things you can do to make it an awesome story, none of which was done here.

For example, while Johnny's fucking around with this new thing he can do, The Thing - Ben - grabs Johnny and switches with him for a few seconds, during which time he jokes and giggles.

Granted, they played with this in the first film, but they didn't go far enough. Here's a guy who can't live a normal life. He can't go anywhere without being stared at, can't fit in normal sized airplane seats, can't wear normal sized clothes, will never ever fit in again. You know he has to dream about being normal; anybody would.

And for a few seconds he sees his human hands again, then has to give it back to Johnny.

Now I don't know about you, but I wouldn't be able to stop thinking about that. I'd wait until Johnny was asleep, then smack him and fly away on my new flamey rocket feet. He wouldn't mean to do it for long, maybe one night of hot steamy human love with his girlfriend where he can feel her hands on his skin, or a chance to walk among regular people without being stared at. Then he'd have every intention of going back to his life, except maybe by then he didn't want to....

Instead, Ben laughs it off and that's that. Then we get some silly plot about a character with few non-expository lines and his magical surfboard.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: CONFLICT. You have to push your characters to do things you don't want them to do - things THEY don't want them to do. Your characters have to have flaws and you have to exploit them.

If not, you're nothing but brainless entertainment.

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