Fantastic Four

fan 4I would never have believed myself someone to be reviewing two uninspiring Super Hero movies in a row, but I came across an article from Screen Rant that makes another post feel necessary. You can click on the link above for the full article if you want, or you can just read my summary of what its author said:

Screen Rant Article Summary:

  1. Fantastic Four failed because the production team went with a tone which was more serious and far darker than the source material.

This idea is then contrasted with the success of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy. I wish I could say that the author went on to MAKE some sort of inference based on this contrast, but none is offered. I shall have to infer for that author.

Nolan’s Batman V Fantastic Four:

  1. The dark tone of Nolan’s Batman inspired the dark tone of Fantastic Four.
  2. The production team in charge of Fantastic Four felt the success of Batman was a good indicator of success for their similarly dark toned super hero film.
  3. Fantastic Four failed and Nolan’s Batman succeeded.

 

The Screen Rant article writer now needs an inference based on those three premises which would lead him to some sort of useful conclusion about dark toned super hero films.

Possible Conclusions:

4. Audiences liked dark toned super hero films between 2005 and 2012, but now dislike them.

4A. The Production Team for Nolan was superior to the Production Team that worked on Fantastic Four.

4B. The Writer/Director/Actor Team for Nolan was better than the Writer/Director/Actor Team for Fantastic Four.

4 would be impossible to prove. 4A and 4B are probably true, but don’t seem possible [by themselves] of causing one film to succeed while another fails. [Transformers is irrefutable proof of this.]

Something else is CAUSING certain super hero films to fail while others succeed. Since there have been a wide range of tones that have spawned successful super hero films, I deny that tone by itself is the cause.

First, let’s dissect this new theory which keeps getting referenced as the reason super hero movies began to adopt a dark tone:

Christopher Nolan’s massive success with his Batman Trilogy.

I think this idea is illuminating for our culture. It means, we no longer think of Art in a context. We believe a successful film is unshaped by anything that came before it. A tentpole blockbuster has no history in its genre, it merely has a successful or unsuccessful box office run. I point this out because it seems obvious to me that Nolan did not invent dark toned films. It seems even more obvious that he didn’t invent film-making either. Let’s digress for a moment and list the elements of a completed film, so that we can assure ourselves that [no matter how great we think he is] Nolan didn’t invent film-making:

  1. A script
  2. A director
  3. Actors
  4. Production Team
  5. Marketing Team

All of these elements were around long before Nolan began his trilogy. The Screen Rant article writer [and the legions of critics who have adopted The Nolan Hypothesis] also want us to believe that:

6. Tone

is equally important to a film’s success. The current example movie that gets offered as counterpoint to The Nolan Hypothesis is Deadpool.

Popular Wisdom tells us that Deadpool’s enormous success derives from all those people whose jobs put them into categories 1-5, adhering to the tone laid out in the comic book version of Deadpool– this is the reason the film was so successful. Because they were faithful to the irreverent spirit of the source material, they were rewarded with Box Office Gold. Had they bowed to the pressure to make Deadpool feel more like other Super Hero stories, Deadpool would have been a disaster.

It is true that Deadpool adhered to the tone of the source material. It is also true that Deadpool was a massive success.  I don’t, however, think it is accurate to claim that the first sentence caused the second. In other words, it is a mistake to conclude that Deadpool succeeded because it adhered to the tone of the source material.

Isn’t it likely that the number one principle we all assume applies to scriptwriting in general also applies to scripts written for the Super Hero genre. Namely, people want to see the same things done different ways. The lesson to learn from the success of Deadpool, and Nolan’s Batman, is to find what is unique in the story you are writing and make that the focus of your material. There is no need for The Nolan Hypothesis in the same way there is no need for The Deadpool Hypothesis.

Audiences respond to originality no matter the genre packaging.

As writers, we should remember this so that we do not emulate in our writing what is beginning to happen to the rest of the Super Hero film-making world. Now everyone talks about mimicking the irreverent tone of Deadpool. From what I hear, the upcoming Suicide Squad was partially rewritten and reshot after Deadpool’s success… to make it more like Deadpool.

This is a dangerous road for the Suicide Squad film-maker’s to travel. It is more likely than not that the audience will recognize the Deadpool influence, and end up comparing the two unfavorably.

Whatever is first, is always deemed better.

We are going to end up with a parade of Super Hero movies that imitate Deadpool until four years from now someone will remake Fantastic Four again, this time with that irreverent tone that matches the source material, and it will do just as poorly in that “Deadpool” iteration as it did this time in its “Batman” iteration. It will be sweet justice if some other Super Hero movie gets made that year with a dark tone… and lights up the box office.

Imitation in any form is always a vicious circle. If you board the imitation train soon after it leaves the station, it can feel like you are going somewhere. The longer you ride it, however, the more you realize it’s the same old trip you’ve taken a dozen times before. It might fill your time, but it will not reward you.

The secret to success is [and always will be], understanding what sets your story apart from all the other stories all those other people want to tell. The secret to success is [and always will be] having a unique perspective.

Audiences want to see all of life represented. They will channel their Inner Nolanesque Batman if the “Batman” story being told interests them, to the same degree they will channel their inner Deadpool if the “Deadpool” story being told interests them. You can make it real easy to see the truth of this if you ask yourself one question:

If audiences knew what Art they wanted to see, would the world need Artists?

Of course not.


 

I feel this would be a misleading post topic if I do not include a few words about the actual Fantastic Four movie that is supposedly being reviewed. I did watch it yesterday after reading the Screen Rant article.

In my opinion, the problem with the movie is not its tone. I found four major issues:

  1. The Miles Teller character’s superpower is… silly.
  2. The year Miles Teller spends away from  the other three is also… silly. Why does he do this? If you drop a superimpose of “ONE YEAR LATER” the audience expects something meaningful to have happened in the intervening months.
  3. Miles Teller abandons his one friend in the other “dimension”, abandons his other three friends, for a year, for no discernible reason, in our dimension, and then, somehow, learns the message of his movie after the father character gets killed– Work together as a team?
  4. In other words, the movie makes no effort to support its theme. It just tacks it on to give the impression it has an ending.

 

Earlier this week I excoriated Civil War for basically not satisfying 4 as well. That movie is about friendship versus principles. Civil War does twice the job of establishing its theme that Fantastic Four does… and Civil War is an awful movie.

The reason Fantastic Four was a Fantastic Failure is because it found nothing unique in the source material to dramatize and it has no real theme.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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