THINGS I WATCHED & DID, PART ONE: FRIDAY.
On Friday, I wanted to see Fantastic Four
, feeling that this is one of those occasions when I should just ignore the vast majority of critics
and watch a superhero movie that is great, unpretentious, straightforward, old-fashioned, honest-to-goodness fun.
Late in the afternoon, I locked-up the house, as my parents were visiting the library. I got on either the 86 or 111 bus (not sure which one, but, going west, they both go to the same place, the Lincolnfields Transitway station), and there was a very, very loud group of ten to fifteen... ahem... "urban", if you catch my drift, teenagers at the back of the bus, talking very crude and raunchy with their vocal volume knobs stuck at "11" oblivious to the fact that absolutely no one else wanted to hear what they were discussing.1
About half of them got off at the Baseline station near the Centrepoint complex, but the bus driver walked to the back and then used his mad "Super Intimidation Stare" powers to force the rest of the party off the bus, and, as he was walking back to the front, he called them "fuckers". I then switched to the 96 (Kanata) bus and took it to Bayshore Shopping Centre.
I had been to Bayshore once before, about four weeks prior in a shopping trip (well, "window shopping" trip) I never quite got around to writing about. I know that I describe Bayshore as the Fairview Pointe-Claire of Ottawa, but it's not a perfect analogy. In some ways, it is similar, especially with the floor-tiling and overall decor (probably fairly standard "destination" shopping centre decor), but, while Fairview is two storeys and sprawling, Bayshore is three storeys and remarkably compact. It actually reminds me more, in some ways, of Plaza Alexis-Nihon, on the border between downtown Montreal and Westmount, though, unlike Alexis-Nihon, it has a big-ass Hudson's Bay Company department store and not just a Zellers (though it has a Zellers too).
I went to the HMV to browse the DVDs, but... eh... this particular HMV has particularly "engaging" salespeople. I mean, I understand they feel the need to make verbal contact with browsers as a way to monitor what the browsers are doing and as a deterrent against shoplifting as, if someone talks to you, you know you're being watched, but, geez, I don't feel like I need to be talked to every time I turn a fricking corner. If I get talked to too much, it just gets intimidating, and I'm saying that as a potential customer, not a potential shoplifter (something I've never been in my life). It's good to keep an eye on your customers, but if you're making me feel like you suspect me of being a shoplifter a priori
, I can't help but feel like some line has been crossed. I also went to the Coles bookstore, but the only manga they had was really "teeny bopper" stuff like Negima
, with no seinen
titles, like Planetes
, for older readers who want to read manga that isn't just all boobies or bishounen
Since I was going to see a movie at 7:30-ish, I decided that I might have an "early" dinner (early by my standards). There was a KFC right there in Bayshore, but it was just a touch too early for even an early dinner, so I walked up Bayshore Avenue to Carling to see if there were any fast-food eateries in the general vicinity of the cinema, but I didn't find any, so I decided to have a look in the cinema itself. One stupid mistake I made was that I thought the Famous Players cinema I was going to was the Silver City but it was, in fact, a Colisseum, so the time I had in my head from reading the movie listings as to when I was going to see the film was inaccurate and I still had at least an hour to kill. Somehow not noticing that there was a KFC right in the fricking cinema, I decided to walk a bit further afield to hunt for fast food, specifically one of the three franchises I prefer (McDonald's, Wendy's, or KFC), so I walked east along Carling almost a whole fricking mile until I found a McDonald's, just after Richmond
. Despite having memories of that guy puking special sauce-coloured vomit right in front of me on Canada Day
, I decided to have another Big Mac meal, and it was just as yummydelicious as always. Another reason I had a Big Mac was that, in the Rotten Tomatoes forum, someone described the Fantastic Four
film as being so formulaic that it was the cinematic equivalent of a "greasy Big Mac", which made me want to see it even more, because sometimes, when consuming film or fast food, you only want something where you know more or less exactly what to expect. Especially in summer.
Anyway, I walked the mile back to the Coliseum, which is, by the way, virtually identical to the Colisée Kirkland, at least in terms of the layout of the theatre rooms (though there were some differences with the concessions, like how Kirkland doesn't have a KFC but does have a kid's party room where the KFC is in the Ottawa Coliseum).
Ah, it's one of those movies that is easy to summarize in just a paragraph. Five rich science guys, or four guys and a gal, go up in space and get zapped by cosmic rays of some sort, which alters their DNA somehow and gives them super abilities. Four of them become heroes: the brilliant scientist Reed Richards (Ioan Gruffudd) becomes "Mr. Fantastic", who has the ability to stretch any body part, or stretch his neck so that his head is facing any given body part (though certain implications of that ability are never fully explored... maybe in the DVD extras?); the brilliant eye candy woman, Sue Storm (Jessica Alba), becomes the
"Invisible Woman", meaning Fox only has to pay Jessica Alba half as much since she's only on screen half the time she would normally be on the screen; the brilliant young hotshot pilot guy Johnny Storm (Chris Evans) becomes the "Human Torch", a guy who can inspire kids to set themselves on fire and to jump off roofs; and the brilliant big and gruff guy with a heart of gold, Ben Grimm (Michael Chiklis), becomes the "Thing", a bigger, gruffer version of himself made out of solid orange rock that looks a bit less styrofoam-ish than the costume in the *other* Fantastic Four movie from the early 1990s
. Unable to, or not caring about, hiding their identities, the four get dubbed by the media, mainly Fox News, as the "Fantastic Four" and they become overnight celebrity sensations, even getting their own merchandising (and, unlike the logistical problem I had with the Sailor V-branded merchandising in Sailor Moon that I discussed in the footnote of my Madagascar review
, they actually show Ben dealing with the merchandising people, meaning that the merchandise doesn't just magically appear somehow). Meanwhile, Victor Von Doom, who was the CEO of the research-oriented corporation that funded the ill-fated mission into space, is voted out by the board of directors as the expensive adventure produced no tangible marketable discoveries (well, maybe they should ask for a cut from the merchandising), and, enraged that Reed Richards cost him his job and is getting all the fame, he begins to turn into a megalomanaical metal man with vaguely magnetic powers, like Destro mixed with Magneto, and soon has to wear his Doctor Doom mask he was bestowed as a child in the vaguely defined Eastern European kingdom of Latveria, where he's a prince or something. While Reed is working on a machine to counteract the effects of the cosmic radiation to turn them all back to normal, Johnny is enjoying showing off his newfound abilities at a motorcross show, and Ben, whose rocky appearance scares off his previous girlfriend, finds solace in the arms of the blind Alicia Masters (Kerry Washington). Reed's machine fails to work properly, but Von Doom thinks he knows how to fix it properly and tries to break up the Fantastic Four by using the promise of turning Ben back to normal to tempt Ben into turning against Reed. Or something like that.
Anyway, though certain aspects of the plot don't make too much sense when I think about it, like how I'm not exactly sure how Victor was planning on using Ben other than as a guinea pig for the machine to turn him back to normal, but the plot seemed no sillier than most other superhero movies, and the pacing was great, making the film exciting but not exhausting to watch, and the dialogue was snappy and witty. There were some scens that verged on camp, like when Ben turns the Porsche into a giant ball of twisted metal and chrome (whose car alarm somehow still works), but I don't mind "camp" and it's keeping in line with the tone of the original comic. And, while the disfigured or fearsome character with the heart of gold aspect of the story is hardly original, dating back to at least the Hunchback of Notre Dame
, but the way that Michael Chiklis fleshed out the character made him feel more human, tender, and sympathetic than most other characters of the type. Very sweet. And, despite my sarcasm earlier, I thought the Thing costume looked great, and very much in line with the way that Jack Kirby drew the character originally. And the special effects looked fine, especially the Human Torch, who really does look like a man on fire, which, up to a few years ago, would have been very difficult to animate convincingly in CGI.
I can't say for certain why so many critics dumped on Fantastic Four
but my theory is that, after the mass critical orgasm over Batman Begins
, which, and I haven't seen it yet so I don't really have an opinion but which, from what I read, tries to work on more of a psychological level than it does on a simple action level, and which is, at times, quite a downer, that they feel that they can't give a simple superhero movie that doesn't have any deep, lofty aspirations and which doesn't try to reinvent the wheel but instead just tries to follow the traditional formula as best as it can, a good review without looking like a fanboy.
Am I a geek if I didn't just recognize Stan Lee in his cameo
, but also recognized that the name of the character he was playing was mailman Willie Lumpkin?
So far, Fantastic Four
is the best thrill ride I've taken this summer, and I am very much hoping for a sequel (one that's hinted at by an obvious inconclusive ending). Perhaps one where Reed and Sue get married and have a son, Franklin Richards, because, once you got Franklin, you can introduce Power Pack, Marvel's youngest superhero team (which was my favourite comic book as a 'tween
), as supporting characters (and, perhaps, they can get their own spin-off movie, though I believe Artisan/Lion's Gate Films currently holds the live-action rights and not 20th Century Fox).****/*****
That's about it. The ride home was uneventful. I will write about my experiences on Saturday and Sunday within the next day or so, but it's July and I'm feeling very lethargic. (It took me several hours just to write that crappy review.) 1Though, I should point out that there were several other people of an "urban" skin tone on the bus who were equally annoyed at these kids. I don't object to skin tone, I merely object to obnoxious behaviour on public transit, and I was annoyed in the exact same way by the white pot-smokers on the bus on Canada Day.