Sunday, January 01, 2006

DOUBLE FEATURE Movie Review of the Day: Fantastic Four and Sky High

You know, if I were to be totally honest, Fantastic Four was probably at least a good a movie as Sky High.

So why did I like Sky High so much better?

Some of it's got to be expectation. I didn't ever read Fantastic Four as kid. Not even when one of my favorite comic book writers, John Byrne, took over. I only had so much money for comics, and frankly, I saw that foursome as kind of oldy-moldy and stale. Of course, I was buying Justice League, which I guess was even older, but it was oldy-moldy for the Marvel universe.

Still, though, when they make a movie out of franchise characters, there's high expectations. After all, the makers of the movie have years and years of stories to draw from. There are thousands of Fantastic Four stories already sitting out there. There is a lot of potential for the filmmakers to be able to combine the best elements of the various stories to create a great movie.

I already explained how the Spider-Man people did exactly that. They dipped into the Spider-Man mythos and pulled out a bunch of the cool stuff, mixed it together (including mixing characters into one person) and came up with something great.

In the case of the Fantastic Four movie, it felt like the opposite. Like they thought, "These are such great, well-beloved characters, we'll just put their story on screen and it will be great."

Well, for me it wasn't great. I already knew everything in the movie. They made couple of changes to simplify the story--like having Doom get powers in the same storm where the Four got their powers--but overall, they brought nothing to the story.

With the exception of the guy that played Ben Grimm, who I thought was terrific, the actors all struck me wrong, too. It was more like they were at a Halloween party playing the Fantastic Four than that I was seeing the comic book characters come to life.

Sky High, on the other hand, was terrific. While there were unbelievable characters in this one, that was deliberate. You notice all those performances were given by the grown-ups. Keeping the grown-ups as stereotypes not only accurately portrayed a kid's view of the world, but it helped establish the fact that all the problems should be solved by the kids--the only way it should be in any kids movie.

This one didn't surprise me much either. The villains all turn out to be who you expect them to be. Naturally every kid's power, no matter how bizarre, ends up having its role to play in the climax.

But it was fun and witty and everybody did a great job doing what they were doing. You get to see Linda Carter again, too. So there's really no down side.

And there's a really, really rockin' soundtrack of covers of 80's songs by current bands that's worth checking out.

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