Next month will see the big screen premiere of the Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer. After the lukewarm reception of the first film, and with rumours coming out of a major disappointment for those expecting to see the planet eating Galactus in all his purple glory, fans and critics alike are seemingly not expecting much from Tim Story and co this time round either.
So why does it seem to me that all of Marvel’s new films amount to nothing more than a huge two hour advertising campaign for toys?
I can understand the market demand for merchandise and the need to hit a certain demographic (kids… and not 32 year old comic fans like me), but really, after what seemed to be a good setup for comic adaptations from the publisher with releases like Blade back in the late 1990s, the business now that Avi Arid, Joe Quesada and the rest of Marvel’s management seem to be doing is to haul all their characters onto film aiming always for the ‘big bucks’ no matter what the quality of the product is. Which for hardcore comic fans who have been avid Marvel Zombies for many years comes really just a big kick in the comic collecting teeth as they see their icons and much loved classic stories pitifully played out on film.
I understand that films cost a lot of money to make and therefore managers and the people involved always want their money back plus profit, but it seems that in the past few years the need to make cash has been the only driving force behind some releases. Marvel movies only seem to have a hit rate of one good film in every few and this is even more apparent recently with their recent movie releases which have generally been disappointing (Spider-man 3 and Ghost Rider). For every Blade on screen, there has been an Elektra, Punisher and Hulk to ruin Marvel’s canon of characters.
Totting up all the cinematic releases over the past decade, the number of good Marvel films seems to be outweighed by the bad.
Good :Spiderman 1 and 2.X-Men 1 and 2DaredevilBlade 1 and 2
Bad: HulkElektraGhost RiderBlade 3Spider-man 3PunisherMan-ThingFantastic 4X-Men 3
It really doesn’t take a lot to make a good film. Essentially you need to start with a good script to hand things off. While X-Men had some fantastic ideas and was a little deeper than the average superhero slugfest, the majority of Marvel’s scripts are vapid and hollow. Ghost Rider for instance had a great premise but was so weak storywise and executed in such a ‘made for TV’ way that it was almost an embarrassment to watch.
The same goes for the original Fantastic 4 film. You have Jack Kirby and Stan Lee’s 100-issue epic run to look at, over 40 years of comic continuity to research and even the excellent Ultimate Fantastic 4 to look at for ideas, all of which were ignored to get them up into space, powered up and then clobbered by a bloke who is in Nip Tuck and used to be in Home and Away. Set pieces do not a blockbuster make.
If Marvel and the companies behind the films were not so interested in short term financial goals then maybe they would put a bit more effort and quality into the products they produce. Can you see anyone re-watching Elektra or X-Men 3 in 15 years time as they do with the original Batman film…? Nope, thought not…
So then to FF2 (I can’t be bothered to write the entire title out again). It seems that this film will also be put into this category and will, after its huge opening weekend, have millions of disappointed kids with toys they bought for the film and never play with. It’ll follow Hulk and Daredevil into the DVD bargain bins of HMV, Virgin and Blockbuster in double quick time.
Even with WETA supplying the effects for the Silver Surfer, which really we have all seen before way back in 1991 when ILM did T2 and some impressive ‘trailer’ bits, the whole thing just seems a bit ‘meh’ and done by the numbers.
I know that this all seems harsh as the film hasn’t been released yet, but take a look back at this article around the end of June and again around Christmas time to see if I was right.
Come on Marvel, you can do better. Iron Man looks cool please don’t mess it up – and you know you could potentially have another Lord of the Rings if you do Thor right. Just please get somebody to write a good script and let the films do justice to your great characters.