Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Internal and External Conflict Among the Mutant Set

I saw THE FANTASTIC FOUR last weekend and got into one of those sugar-fueled parking lot discussions about a curiosity at its center (the movie, not the parking lot).

For superheroes, they don't really do much that's superheroic.

Apart from the big action set piece at the beginning where they all become aware of their powers, their struggles are oddly interior.

I kept waiting for the heroism to kick in, for the Four to realize that they can use their powers to help society. Wouldn't matter much if they did, however, because society never came under threat.

Their nemesis doesn't seem interested in doing much besides revenging himself on his colleagues, small potatoes for a guy set up to be a rich, megalomaniac scion of a sketchy foreign nation. Who's part metal and can shoot electricity out of his hands. I mean, what happened to taking over the world?

If their final fight didn't take place in the middle of the street, a friend noted, it's unlikely anyone would even know something was going on with these people.

BATMAN BEGINS is about a guy facing his lifelong fears-- and saving the city. SPIDERMAN is about another guy's accepting the responsibility that comes with power-- and saving the city. And in both cases, the city-saving ties into the internal theme.

THE FANTASTIC FOUR is about people forced to adapt to dramatic personal changes-- and that's it. What with all the intense late-night discussions and petulant spats in their Tesla-chic penthouse, the movie feels like The Real World: Baxter Building.

I liked the humor, and some of the performances, but if you're a superhero who goes through your origin story without high-stakes, public danger and an equally ingenious rescue, you don't deserve a boat party. Just sayin'.

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