No Revoltin’ Developments Here!

No Revoltin’ Developments Here!

Well, we saw The Fantastic Four yesterday. I thought it was well-cast (of course Chiklis steals the film–didn’t Ben steal the comic too? but the others–including Alba, whom I hated in Sin City, and whom I feared–based upon the publicity stills–would again be forced to serve as lightning rod for fanboy lust–filled their roles admirably) and I reveled in the sheer plotlessness of it all! No “he’s going to destroy the world” summer blockbuster plot. Not much action at all, which suited me to a tee! The FF is–and always has been–a sitcom that gets religion during sweeps week. These folks go on jaunts to the Negative Zone or Ancient Egypt a little more frequently than Alf and the Tanners head to the country, but, in each case, the real “work” of the series takes place within the friendly confines of the family home. The film is very much consistent with my favourite interpretation of the strip (Moench-Sienkiewicz’s wonderful run on the title from the early eighties, cut short when John Byrne began throwing his weight around in the aftermath of his monstrous success on The Uncanny X-Men):

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 This isn’t spider-man, carrying his existential shell with him wherever he goes, nor are these the X-Men, battening down the hatches against a world that hates them–Reed, Sue, Johnny, and even Ben may not always be sure what the hell’s going on with their bodies, but they are not trapped in their own heads. They’re pure Jack Kirby characters–untroubled by epistemological concerns; confident that the world is actually there, ready to be acted upon. Ditko’s characters, by contrast (and despite the artist’s Randian credentials!), never demonstrate that kind of Johnsonian certainty. As a scholar, I’m much more interested in the Ditkoesque end of the Marvel spectrum, but that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate Kirby at his best (i.e. his work with Stan Lee) These characters are made of real flesh and blood (and rubber and fire and rock, it seems), and, unlike Spider-Man or Dr. Strange, what they say to each other is a lot more important than what they think. You can say a lotta things about the King, but writing snappy banter just wasn’t in his line. Fortunately, Stan was up the task–and France and Frost did a nice job of this in the film.

I expected to be annoyed by the integration of Dr. Doom (well-portrayed by Julian McMahon–although I wish they hadn’t buried the Richards/Von Doom enmity under a love-triangle, forcing ol’ Victor to take on the role that the Submariner played in the early issues of the series)  into the FF origin story–but it wasn’t so bad (and we may even see Latveria sometime soon!)… I wasn’t sure how the hell they were gonna exlplain the “cosmic ray” mishap (nor account for the presence of this particular quartet on the ship) in a post-manned spaceflight world–but the update satisfied me completely… In short–I liked it and, as with any good superhero comic, I’m looking forward to the next installment!

Good Night Friends!
Dave

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3 comments

  1. For two weeks running, my six-year-old son Theo started each day by announcing how many days were left until the FF movie. We went and had a great time. I’m glad to see (and the kid will be happy) that the movie has done well enough right out of the gate to justify a second installment, because it’s in serialization that FF (and all of Marvel) really shines. The critics complained that it was like a sitcom, which is one of the reasons I liked the movie. Batman Begins, which I liked well enough, seems sillier in comparison for its overwrought insistence on being taken “seriously”–just like a self-involved 14-year-old might. And as far as FF being over-calculated and crassly marketed product, I think those critics are missing something essential about the source material and Stan Lee. No, there wasn’t much Jack Kirby visual style, but I’m not sure that would be possible without deadening the film through archness (as with Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow.)

    Overall, the film’s mix of comedy and cheap melodrama captured the essence of what still makes the Lee/Kirby FF so much fun to read. The first year or two of Marvel superhero comics was pretty slapdash, and that was 3/4 of the charm; a low-rent publisher playing fast and loose with the iconography established and formerly dictated by staid DC.

    Theo and I are in the midst of reading all of the Marvel superhero comics chronologically (via the Essentials); we’re up to March of 1963 and FF is clearly the Cadillac of the line. Theo flat-out loves it. (That and Ant Man.) The other day when he was sad and felt that he had messed something up he said “I feel like the Thing.” That this stuff can still speak so directly to a little kid–even through all of the 1960s Red Scare trappings and other dated elements–is amazing to me, and a reason why those first 100 issues definitely belong on that Comics Journal Top 100 Comics list. Now just bring on the Skrulls for F4:2!

    Cole Odell

  2. Never thought I’d be defending him, but the Byrne run was the only I liked outside of Lee and Kirby. Not that I’d actually consider reading his run again, though.

    Charles

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