It’s a sad week. I want a great cinematic Dr. Doom more than anything. Below I will lay out my Fantastic 4 Framework that I would use to make a movie I would be proud to put into my DVD collection. This review is rated SPF as it contains spoilers, profanity and fanboying. Skip to the bottom for a tl;dr as I’m long winded.
In regards to the current Fantastic 4 iteration, I don’t know what is Trank’s and what is the studios. I will leave that for others to speculate. But, I know what I enjoy and it did have parts I enjoyed. Many of the critiques, not one of mine personally, of Superman: Man of Steel was that it was too dark. I’ve seen similar toward the new F4, but I think there is ample room for it to be dark and moody when shot from Dr. Doom’s perspective. Did Nolan cast such a long shadow that everyone must stay in it to make money? My first pillar of a good F4 movie is that Marvel’s first family should be lit like morning talk shows and have the overall tone of a Disney movie. At all times. Only when battling Dr. Doom, from Dooms perspective, when captured by Mole Men, exploring deep space, or venturing to the depths of the ocean to talk with Namor should they be in darkness. Their goal in each of these situations is to figuratively and literally, with Johnny, bring light to the situation. Dark and moody worked for Trank’s Chronicle and it was obvious they informed and worked for the early scenes with Victor. Guardians of the Galaxy excelled at dark and moody juxtaposed with comic book levels of color saturation even in the more dimly lit prison and spaceship hull scenes. Fantastic Four is less Alien and more Wall-E. This actually seemed to be handled fairly well for the first half of this new F4 movie.
One may argue that, like with Man of Steel, we are being introduced to these characters early on and they haven’t found their way into the light yet. In fact by the end of the movie they have been given a facility with much more funding dedicated to fluorescent lighting and sun roofs. But this gets to my second point. Origin Fatigue. Maybe it’s because I love this shit so much that I have subjected myself to two Hulk, two Spider-Man and now two F4 origin stories. A smattering of other useless villain origins (remember Spider-Man 3? *shudders). The three stands for 3 useless villain origin stories. Why? Do we need a Gandalf origin story to understand his motivation? (Don’t get any bright ideas studio execs I will never watch a Gandalf origin story.) We didn’t ask for or enjoy a Darth Vader origin. Origins can be explained in mere sentences in a non forced organic manner. Mary Jane exclaims, “Please don’t go back out there you might die!” Peter, “If I don’t go back out there they will all surely die, like my Uncle Ben did, back when I was a do nothing bitch.” Boom. You can forgo the casting of a third Uncle Ben. Now that we have origins out of the way the beginning of the a new Fantastic 4 movie could start with a giant monster in down town New York several blocks from the Baxter building. The first 15 minutes consists of Johnny and Ben distracting the beast while Sue saves people and Reed discovers a scientific way to defeat it. The giant doesn’t need a back story. Obscure secondary characters don’t need a back story. It’s cool Doof Warrior was given a back story for the actor to get into character but unless you flesh it out with the same care as the rest of the movie, don’t tell it, I don’t want to hear it. This hypothetical early giant battle doesn’t even need to connect with any other part of the plot of the movie. I would bookend my F4 movie with the epic battles that help sell popcorn. They do it in Comics all the time. Dr. Doom could be fiddling with some weird sorcerer’s tablet while this all plays out on a background monitor. Maybe Dr. Doom never once intervenes during the movie just slightly crosses paths in the background. Dots for the viewer to connect. Maybe he does this across two movies and it all makes sense by the third. This seemingly disjointed principle can apply to every Superhero movie, because they aren’t regular movies. The first 10 minutes of the first solo Batfleck movie should consist of him thwarting a low level guy like the Riddler with no origin and no attempt to awkwardly team him up and put him into the plot by the end of the movie. It could feel like its own mini movie or just put his Batmobile or whatever needed to aid the plot out of commission for the rest of the story. Maybe when drops of the Riddler at Arkahm it sets into motion the main plot. This principle has been working just fine with the Marvel post credit stinger. In the best Spider-Man thus far, the second of the Toby McGuire Spider-Man movies, they did this with a pizza delivery vignette, it could have just as well been a battle with Shocker or Stilt Man. It’s like an appetizer. Are you worried people are going to say, I wish there was more Dr. Doom? More Shocker? Aren’t you in the business of making sequels? Do you even know your audience yet?
My third ingredient for a Phenomenal F4 movie is giant villains. Seriously Marvel, why haven’t you put anything bigger than the Ice Giant’s pet in a movie yet? Your comics are filled with Kaiju sized beasts and other than the brief shot of a celestial and a dead celestial’s head, nothing. BOTH in Guardian’s of the Galaxy mind you. You are beginning to disappoint me. Even the Ice Giants in Thor and the Sentinels in Days of Future past felt 1/3rd scale. Wolverine battling the sentinels should look like a scene out of the game Shadow of the Colossus or the anime Attack on Titan. The Juggernaut looked lame as hell, he should be Hulk’s size. Hopefully with Dr. Strange and phase 3 I will finally get something bigger than the Stay Puff Man. Think about it this way, of the handful of large things in Marvel Movies, one of them is Thomas the Tank Engine. You need the F4 to battle a giant goo monster half the size of Manhattan because it is a stepping stone to Galactus. Hell, the test chimp sent to the negative zone, other planet or whatever, was a perfect opportunity for this. Huge missed set up for a King Kong moment vs the F4. If you don’t put large creatures in your movie, Galactus wont fit and you will resort to the idiocy of making him a cloud. If your tiny executive brain says a giant man is silly and you want your movie ‘grounded’ but then you have a man sustained for a year solely by the green ooze of a planet you need to admit your self for psychological evaluation. Is the lack of giants in Marvel movies lingering elements of influence from the first Spider-Man suggesting certain things just wouldn’t work on the big screen? Are organic web shooters, lack of yellow spandex and lack of giants all linked to this notion it wont work for movies? Have you all not seen Watchmen yet? You need Galactus, I will get into this later. Mini giant boss villains leading to the main giant boss villain, Galactus, who will require much more team work than we have currently seen.
Origin stories kill the teamwork aspect that make Fantastic 4 and X-Men cool in the comics. Make the conflict the conflict, not a rift in the team or a power struggle as to who should lead or someone being reluctant to lead. If you couldn’t tell, the fourth pillar of my F4 movie is teamwork. Avengers and GotG have thankfully scratched this itch quite well. Unlike in F4 and X-Men, Captain America and Starlord are and always will be a leader as Reed and Cyclops should have been. Avengers has amazing moments of synergy in abilities that would occur in a cohesive non origin story team. Thankfully they all had their own origins that Avengers didn’t become bogged down by back logging all 4 of them. Thankful again that their inner team drama becomes an actual physical battle among them and not just lame door slamming. But X-Men is seriously dropping the ball. The FAST Ball Special. The fuck man? Marvel are you edging me? Colossus looks so dope in that Deadpool trailer. Is it that Hugh Jackman is just too tall to have been cast as Wolverine in the first place? Does it look ridiculous if you try to throw a large man with a slightly larger man? It does, In X-Men 3 it looks like a Wedgie Special. Why did you merge Cyclops characteristics into Wolverine and Jubilee characteristics into Rogue? No tandem jumps from the Blackbird? They land off scene?
Budget constraints? It took five movies for Iceman to ride on ice? Why is Singer making Apocolypse look so lame? If Apocalypse looked as cool as Colossus does in the Deadpool trailer or as cool as Thanos does in the post credit scenes he would need a cohesive group of X-Men to defeat him. I will throw my slushy at the screen if Wolverine goes toe to toe with Apocolypse alone. I’m not a betting man but the conflict in the new X-Men will unfortunately be inner team door slamming drama again. Oh shit, I better not go into an extended X-Men speculative rant in my F4 rant. At least Apocalypse doesn’t look as lame as this current Dr. Doom. One can only hope that this iteration of Doom was as the roomers say, simply a Doombot, but that would imply the real Doom looks just as lame if we are staying consistent within Doom’s character of making his bots look like near replicas of himself.
Design. Design is a huge fucking pillar. The fifth in my list. My F4 is not Nolan lit. Not an origin story. A team. Lets go with Bright Future Foundation white outfits. The F4 facilities aren’t dockside warehouse chic. Dr. Doom is not a latex job. Get a real armor smith you dolts. Don’t latex Doom or Ben Grim up so much they can’t furrow their brow or stare with condescension, determination or intent. Dr. Doom needs a Darth Vader treatment. A body builder frame, operatic movements with a commanding voice. Shot from an upward angle. I need to see iconic Doom poses, even from his Doombots. Again the Avengers and much of the MCU has this down to an art form. You can freeze frame at several moments throughout Avengers to get these iconic poses from your favorite characters. With the exception of Wolverine and Spider-Man the same can’t be said about outside the MCU. Why was Doom’s mouth static? It might as well have been sewn shut like Deadpool’s. Where did he get his green cape? It seemed so forced in context.
Why did he whip it around like a brooding teen and not a confident super villain, oh yeah origin story. Origin stories make for lame costume choices and played out plot points of costume discovery. If they were older and wearing battle tested gear it would aid in a more non-verbal origin. We really didn’t need an origin for Indiana Jone’s whip and hat although it was one of the rare occasions I have a fond memory of an origin story.
During the writing of this article D-Piddy posted this meme. Spot on dude!
Six. Cast adults. This is expanding further on the no more origins dead horse I’ve been drumming on a bit. But, the last thing I want to do is say what not to do and not provide a viable solution for what to do. A real life Mom for Sue and a real life dad for Reed. Modern Family has a better Reed and Sue in Ty Burell and Julie Bowen than I have seen cinematically yet. Jump right into having the whole Richards brood and school. They need that Leave it to Beaver feel. Take notes from the first Captain America movie. People have suggested a period piece. They are on the right track with the tone, but I know they imply a period piece origin story. NO MORE FUCKING ORIGINS. We need Richards to be a dad because as Fight Club put it “Our fathers were our models for God. If our fathers bailed, what does that tell you about God?”
Point Seven, like six, is expanding a bit on a previous point. Don’t drive the plot with personal or inner team drama. Mission Impossible doesn’t. They work together against all odds. Don’t mistake banter with bickering. So what drives the plot? Teamwork overcoming a god. Specifically, Galactus. F4 is essentially an extended allegory of man vs. god. Dr. Doom and Reed Richards are competing when their methods collide on how to defeat gods of the Marvel Universe. Reed is very much a ‘shoot when fired upon’ kind of guy and Dr. Doom is a ‘shock and awe preemptive strike dictator’ George Bush like guy. Reed is pure in his science only approach. Doom will use whatever he can get his hands on to his advantage. Reed will abdicate or hide away god like power. Doom will seek out and use god like powers to their fullest.
To recap. Fantastic Four should be bright and saturated in its pallet. They should be well established and we join them in their already ongoing journey. They tackle threats of varying sizes but specifically of the kaiju size and greater variety. Family and teamwork overcomes conflicts. The Fantastic Four should take design elements from modern space travel and Dr. Doom from medieval knights, not hodgepodge junk and microwaved junk. Cast Adults. Pit those adults against gods and giants with god like powers to protect their family. Finally, and this should be obvious although clearly it’s not, please avoid any and all romance comedy tropes for the love of Odin. Suitors will approach Sue like Namor and Doom but don’t put them in a restaurant setting, leave that fair to J-Lo.
Other random F4 related thoughts:
The first half of Trank’s and Fox’s was great. The writing felt on target, as did the tone, lighting and cinematography. Would love to see his unfettered vision.
Dr. Doom would never destroy Earth, unless in a weird way it was to save it to then rule over it.
Dr. Doom isn’t evil nor is he wicked. He is utilitarianism incarnate. He will indiscriminately crack eggs for his utopian omelet.
The Human Torch would never work for the Government let alone the military.
Why was Trank’s found footage fetish relegated to government monitors? It would have worked so simpatico with Dr. Doom’s personality.
Other than some oddly separated eye’s on the Thing, Trank’s Ben and Johnny’s CGI were on point.
If you make an F4 movie without a Latverian Castle complete with a throne and chalice you have failed utterly.
Don’t make the Fantasticar a punch line. Or their names. Or their outfits. If you don’t like it just don’t include it. Leave the 4th wall breaking for Deadpool.
An F4 movie without more than 2 inventions is like a Batman movie without more than 2 gadgets. Ahem, Nolan, ahem.
Similarly, Reed must save the day with science as Batman saves the day with detective work.
I don’t mind seeing several interpretations of a franchise. This movie just felt like a ship with many captains and as such it was never able to come to shore.
Maybe Trank wasn’t given the penultimate control that enabled Nolan and Burton’s unique versions of Batman to work. But again, I will leave that speculation to others.
If my passion for Dr. Doom sparks an interest check out my favorite Doom comics What if Dr. Doom kept the Beyonder’s Powers and The Apprentice of Doom. Expect future posts about Dr. Doom as he is at the end of a path of good intentions and he intrigues me to no end.
tl;dr : Elements I want in an F4 movie. Brighten things up. Avoid Origin Fatigue. Kaiju. Family. More Teamwork. Real Armor Doom. Adults. Gods. No J-Lo.