Monday, December 05, 2005
Unsatisfied with the Mediocrity of His First Effort, Tim Story Aims to Out-Mediocre his Original Mediocrity in a Blow-out Cinematic Tour-de-Mediocrity
I have some bad news for fans of movies adapted from Marvel comic books. No, it's not that Brett Ratner's directing X-Men 3 -- that's old bad news. This is freshly announced.
Tim Story is returning for the sequel to Fantastic Four.
I don't know who among you actually saw Fantastic Four this summer, but I was one of those guys who braved it in the theaters and thought the end result wasn't a total disaster, just a partial one. A mediocrity, if you will. It had some moments in it where one could conceivably be reminded of how fun the comic books are, but these seemed almost accidental. I think the main problem with the movie was its director: Tim Story. He's sub-adequate as a big-budget, summer tent-pole movie helmer -- he's a journeyman director, and a franchise like The Fantastic Four needs someone with an artistic vision. A Raimi, a Nolan, a Singer, an Aronofsky, a Zack Snyder (Dawn of the Dead 2004) kind of director. I don't know how he did it, but Story managed to make a 100 million dollar movie look like a 30 million dollar movie and you really can't blame that low-end production value on anyone else.
The screenplay was goofy in a way that suggested the screenwriter and director didn't actually "get" the material, or even try to -- like they thought their job wasn't to do what they thought was impossible -- namely make a comic book about four white people who get irradiated in space, come back and decide to wear spandex with little 4's on their chests, and regularly save the entire world every few comic books from the likes of villains named Mole Man, Dr. Doom, and Galacticus -- but rather to "have some fun" with the source material. In some aspects, they seemed to think they had to sexy it up, modern it up, to have a chance at the box office. Look no further than the miscasting of Jessica Alba as Sue Storm, or making Dr. Doom into a suave New York billionaire instead of the crazed, castle-living King of Latveria. They needed look only as far as Pixar's brilliant The Incredibles to see how something thrilling and stunning can be done with essentially the same story. Brad Bird knew the Fantastic Four was good stuff -- he stole all the Four's powers and gave them to his Incredibles family and made a great movie.
Here's the point: If the script isn't working, it often falls to the director to either rewrite the thing himself, or guide the screewriter(s) into writing a good movie. My guess is the reason Tim Story left the script as is, is because he doesn't actually care about the Fantastic Four. Not to say this is a character flaw by any means -- maybe he's rightfully more concerned with world hunger or the Iraq war than he is in a silly comic book. But there are lots of people out there just as capable as Story, and moreso, who actually do love these stories, and would have made a much better movie. (I do concede I may be wrong on this -- Story may love the comic books, it's just that it didn't show up anywhere on-screen). I think a genuine affection and knowledge of the source material is absolutely REQUIRED these days when making big-budget adaptations, whether they be novels or comic books. Peter Jackson adapting The Lord of the Rings is a perfect example of bringing in someone who has a reverence for the source material and the end result is pitch perfect. Ang Lee's The Hulk is a perfect example of bringing in someone who's merely fascinated by the subject matter, but otherwise couldn't care less. We know how that one turned out. I'm sure there are some exceptions that prove the rule, but I think, by and large, adherence to the source material really helps make an adaptation work.
When I saw The Fantastic Four in theaters this summer, I walked out with the idea that, yeah, the movie mostly sucked, but the studio was officially finished with the obligatory origin story, enough people who actually liked the FF had seen the movie to justify another big-budget installment, and now they were free to make a really great sequel, provided, of course, they jettisoned Tim Story. Everything was set for something great to happen. The fact that Fox was swayed by Story's "awesome" vision for the sequel and decided to keep him on as the director means the FF movies are always going to be the weak sister Marvel Comics movie franchise, when they deserve to be one of the best. Oh well.