Having seen two out of the three abysmally bad Fantastic Four movies already, I figured that by now I was probably jaded enough to tackle the original 1994 version without risking my sanity. After all, the 2015 version was absolute rock bottom: so bad that it derailed before looping back around to “hilariously bad” and ended up in a fiery heap somewhere between terrifying and boring. Much to my relief, while the 1994 version is indisputably terrible, it’s the sort of terrible you can watch in relative comfort and have a giggle at. Some charming aspects are that it’s mercifully short, comically overblown, and features (genuinely) the best movie version of Dr. Doom we have. Some terrible aspects are that it feels like a high school kid did the final editing, it treats women like garbage, and while it’s technically fairly accurate to the comics, it chose specifically the worst faults of the comics to stay faithful to.
Over the course of the last three weeks, I heard no shortage of wary, hesitant, lukewarm predictions about the newest Fantastic Four movie. It seemed like somewhere underneath all that flinching, everyone really wanted to get excited, but ten years had not been long enough to recover from the pain of the 2005 version of the same film. My reassurance, in every case, was “Well, I’m not worried. No matter how bad it is, it can’t be worse than the first one, right?”
Maker’s breath, but I was wrong. I was so very, very wrong.
I’ve seen this trailer so many times in movie theaters at this point that I was shocked to realize that we hadn’t covered it here—especially given that we’ve discussed the ramifications of its casting choices in detail.
Given that the first trailer looked more like it was advertising a more boring Interstellar knockoff than a superhero flick, I am at least relieved that this one shows us characters with powers up close and personal. I’m still not sure if I want to see it, though.
This post comes from a thought-storm that’s been brewing since I re-watched The Princess and the Frog a few months ago. Such a fun film! After re-watching it, I found some commentaries and criticisms that stuck out to me, namely this one—a quote from a British critic: “Disney may wish to reach out to people of colour—but the colour green wasn’t what we had in mind.” The fact that Tiana spends more time in frog form than human form is a little unsettling if compared to other Disney Princesses who, well, get to retain their natural skin color for the duration of their films. The next catalyst for this post was the casting of Michael B. Jordan as Johnny Storm/the Human Torch in the upcoming Fantastic Four reboot, a character who, no matter his racial background, will frequently appear shrouded completely in flames, a state which renders his human features practically negligible. Why does it seem so difficult to find genre media creators/producers willing to create media with Black characters who get to show they are Black?
As you likely already know, Michael B. Jordan will play the Human Torch in the new Fantastic Four film, slated for release on June 19, 2015. This casting decision was met with its fair share of outcry, because Johnny Storm is understood to be a White character, and Michael B. Jordan is clearly African-American. I think it would be easy to write it off as just another instance of fans of a very White and very male industry being a very White and male kind of racist. But there are deeper questions about misunderstanding of the role of diversity in artistic representation. During my tenure at this blog, I’ve written a fair amount about race and representation in the geek world, not just in comics, but also in video games, and theatre. I’ll be honest, I’ve found a dearth of good arguments against increasing the level of racial diversity in geek culture. Once more, with feeling: brown kids deserve more brown superheroes. Most counter-arguments to that notion are vapid, disingenuous, or just plain racist, like “most people won’t be able to relate to that character if his race is changed/is nonwhite”. There’s a comic over at Critical Miss that sums it up perfectly:
People can identify with Fox McCloud and he’s a bipedal fox. But a dude with darker skin is somehow too alien? What is that if not [racism]?
Arguments like this one are easily, and hilariously, dismissed (seriously, go read that comic). But every once in a while, a more seductive argument against diversity of representation pops up. It usually goes something like: “Why is it okay to change the race of [x], who is White, but not okay to change [y], who is a POC, to a White character?” The argument relies on a rather misguided sense of absolute equality, among myriad other problems. It’s probably easier to get traction on such an issue if we phrase it in terms of concrete examples.
I’m new to the world of Avengers fandom, and I have only a very interested amateur’s knowledge of the comicverse; but even with all of this, I have this very instinctual understanding that “The Avengers all live together in a house provided by Tony Stark” is an Avengers fanfic plot trope as old and honored as sex pollen or accidental bonding are in Kirk/Spock fiction. And within those tropes, there are always going to be not-so-good ones, and there are always going to be super-amazing ones.
Ready, Fire, Aim is one of the latter. Full disclosure, it’s Steve/Tony (with background Pepper/Natasha), and there’s not much of a connecting thread to the story except for the gradual romantic growth between the two. But the episodic flow of the story is really organic and comfortable; in once scene Clint’s trying to teach Thor how to use the Wii, and in the next the team is helping (or being helped by) the X-Men and the Fantastic Four to subdue evil parade floats. (Oh yeah, there are a million neat little tie-ins with the Marvel ‘verse outside of the movie, which I appreciated even if I am not a comic buff.) The funny parts are funny, the sexy parts are hot like burning, and although I’m not super qualified to talk about characterization, the characters seem to be and act and talk exactly how they ought to in my head. Thor especially is amazing.
This story has two amazing sequels as well (well, one is an actual sequel and one is the story of Ready, Fire, Aim from Steve’s POV, written for a charity fic auction), but they’re easily around 50k words put together, so if you’re recently graduated like me and have a hell of a lot of time on your hands, this is the perfect fic to spend an hour or two (or however long it takes other people to read 50,000 words) with. Enjoy!
There have been many issues around race and comic book movies over the years. Marvel I feel has been the most notable with casting black actors in typically white roles. Alicia in Fantastic Four was black instead of the usual blonde-haired, blue-eyed character she is in the comics. Nick Fury, now played by Samuel L. Jackson is black, and perhaps the most controversial, Idris Elba played the Norse god Heimdall in Thor.