…Of a surfboard.
Well, I saw it. And it’s got a dumb title, too.
Of course I had the advantage of coming to it in full knowledge that it would suck, so I wasn’t expecting much. I can’t gripe about it in the way the first-rounders did. But a little bit of clean-up, that I can do.
Fantastic Four 2, like its predecessor, is a terribly misguided movie. The special effects are (mostly) okay. But there’s a problem with the writing.
There isn’t enough of it.
Eerily recapitulating the problem with the score in the first FF movie, dialogue and plot in F42 (and how really, really tiresome these shorthands are becoming — I found myself preferring the French title display on my DVD box, because it seemed somehow less laboured than the English: “Les 4 Fantastiques et le surfeur argent”, ya gotta admit it’s at least not trying to pass itself off as cool)…what was I saying, oh yes, the dialogue and plot seem to’ve been bought straight out of the big discount bin of remaindered screenwriter’s tics at Costco, in bulk, some time ago, possibly for another movie or series of movies…and it just so happened there was enough left over to cover this one too, so somebody did. Oddly, there’s nothing really wrong with the story: as mean an old man as I am, I can’t deny that F42 (gah!) proceeds from place to place and idea to idea reasonably effectively, and is furthermore populated with characters I like well enough…sometimes when I was watching it I was actually able to forget that it sucked, because occasionally somebody was actually doing something that it was possible for me to…well, not care about, exactly, but at least something that was possible for me to observe, track, and follow without needing to buy into a tedious “deeper” meaning whose only purpose was to be integrated with other tedious “deeper” meanings. Not that I have anything against deeper meanings, or their integrations! But in order for the integration to be anything more than a pest, the deeper meaning has to actually be deeper, and also it has to be meaning…
And not that that was even the worst of it. I could go on at some length about how much I despise the little “coolness winks” that our current-day fantasy entertainments are so pointlessly festooned with, like so many really lousy modern-dress Shakespeare plays…”you’ll have to toss me”…”is that a Hemi?”…bah. But everybody already knows enough to despise that stuff, right? Surely no one ever leaves a movie saying “I liked how they had the elf invent skateboarding…that sort of sly nod to the concerns of young people really gives me hope that some grown-ups might not be so bad after all…” I mean if it’s all right with you, I’ll just assume that there’s nobody like that. Even if, when I saw The Two Towers, there were these two guys behind me calling out things like “Dude, that dinosaur’s huge! WHOA!” Yes…yes, it is big, isn’t it lads? So big. That rocks.
Mind you, these guys were in their thirties…
“Holy shit, bro, check out the number of steps on that staircase! That thing is wicked long…!”
Words fail me, honestly.
But I guess I expect that sort of thing now. I guess I consider it unavoidable, like no one will give anybody any money to even make a movie unless they spray at least a thin coat of that crap on it. However there are other things that can be avoided, like the constant intrusion of bad “deeper” meaning into what ought to be fairly straightforward bits of business, right? Like I said somewhere else, sometime recently, writing’s really mostly kind of like light carpentry. You just have to make the thing stand up. You don’t have to get too fussy with it. Well, that’s what you have readers for, to do the heavy lifting! As well as the superfine detail work.
Scriptwriting’s even easier. You’ve got actors, directors, set designers, musicians. Etc. You’ve got lots of help.
So why not use it? You shouldn’t let the actors (for example) just stand around holding their hammers, looking for nails. I’ll go so far as to say that there was nothing wrong with this movie, that couldn’t have been fixed by giving the actors some slightly more interesting things to do. But even the greatest actors in the world will have trouble hammering through boilerplate. “I didn’t get your name.” “I didn’t give it.” I defy even a Brando to make much out of that. I think the boilerplate might’ve actually even been better in the old days: “My darling, I…!” “Hush, now, little one.” I mean that’s junk, obviously, but it’s junk a person could conceivably work with. It’s crap. But at least it’s direct crap. Crap that actually calls for someone to get in there and do the job of making it function, or it’ll obviously simply, spectacularly flop.
And F42 (aaargggh!) meanders, but that’s not really any big deal. I could stand a little meandering. Not too much, maybe; but a little wouldn’t hurt. And in a way, the FF were made for meandering. But F42 doesn’t just meander, it meanders while shouting out stuff at the top of its lungs that I just don’t care about, and then contrives silly dramatic poses to strike at random intervals, just to remind me that it can get serious, too. There is the odd moment of tension that isn’t blatantly cooked up to serve somebody’s idea of an emotional metronome. There’s the odd bit of attention paid wholeheartedly to what’s going on, which is always a comic-book strength. But mostly the script, mostly the damned brain-dead plot, is a tyrant to the story…and so we’re not given any space to care about the story.
Which is a shame, because I wanted to care. And honestly, there was a lot there that I could have cared about. But I just couldn’t get to it.
It was all covered up.