Friday, August 7, 2015

Not So Fantastic Four

If it is August, then it must be time for the third film release of a Marvel Comics-based blockbuster movie to cap the summer season. 

The first two movies have done well:  "The Avengers: Age of Ultron" has grossed $1.4 billion since May 1; and the quirkier, smaller production, "Ant-Man," has taken in $300 million since its opening in mid June.

The new film, "Fantastic Four", is different.  You might say it is cursed.  Here is a preview:

LIke the two earlier blockbusters, FF is based on Marvel comic characters, in this case four astronauts who gain incredible powers after being zapped in space.  Their challenge, of course, is to use the new powers to save the world.  (Where would we be without superheroes?)

What is different about "Fantastic Four" is its film studio -- 20th Century Fox. "Avengers" and "Ant-Man" came from Marvel Studios, which seems to have refined and perfected the comic-based superhero film genre.  

Fox acquired access to the Fabulous Four from the fellow who bought the film rights in 1986, before Marvel had begun making superhero movies. 

In fact, this is the fourth Fantastic Four movie:  The first, a low-budget Roger Corman project, was thrown together in 1992 and seems to have disappeared entirely. Then, in 2005 and 2007, Fox released two FF films that were modest -- very modest -- successes.

The current picture was intended to "reboot" the Fantastic Four brand, re-introducing its characters and setting the stage for a second, bigger release in 2017.

According to Forbes, "the production has been plagued by bad buzz almost from the start, with rumors of wild diversions from the source material along with gossip about (director Josh) Trank’s alleged behavior on and off the set that presumably got him bounced from a Walt Disney Star Wars spin-off movie earlier this year. The film has gone through massive reshoots and comes to audiences as something of a wild card."

The money quote from Variety's review:  "Ultimately, Fox’s stab at reviving one of its inherited Marvel properties feels less like a blockbuster for this age of comics-oriented tentpoles than it does another also-ran — not an embarrassment, but an experiment that didn’t gel." 

A Washington Post critic observes that, "Much of 'Fantastic Four' consists of sullen teenagers bickering and staring at computer screens. I thought that’s what people went to the movies to get away from."

Rotten Tomatoes critics gave the thing a nine percent rating.  (Yes, nine out of 100 possible points.)  

Fortunately, another movie opening today looks like a more entertaining alternative.

Shaun the Sheep 

In contrast to the above movie, this modest claymation film got a 99 percent rating from Rotten Tomatoes critics.

If you recognize the style, then you probably enjoyed the Wallace and Gromit shows that had a great run and zillions of fans between 1990 and 2005.  

At our house, the younger person had a full CD set of Wallace and Gromit titles.  The whole family enjoyed them many times.  

Here is a famous Wallace and Gromit scene from "The Wrong Trousers". In it, hapless inventor Wallace requires the aid of his resourceful dog, Gromit, to catch a criminal penguin known as Feathers McGraw.

Wallace and Gromit projects won three Oscars for its British creator, Aardman Animations. 

"Shaun the Sheep" looks like another winner.  Check it out.

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