Fantastic Four: the Movie — graphic novel review

Written by Tom DeFalco. Fantastic Four: the Movie is a graphic novelisation of Michael France‘s and Mark Frost‘s Fantastic Four. And having already reviewed that, it’s really quite difficult to review this incarnation without mentioning things that don’t also apply to the film. If this comes across more a series of thoughts rather than a straight-up review, that’s because it was the only way to talk about this graphic novel. The first thing that comes to mind is the character art. It seems that Marvel Comics didn’t hold the likeness rights to the actors Ioan Gruffudd, Jessica Alba, Chris Evans and Michael Chiklis, so instead the Fantastic Four get a complete redesign, along with Julian McMahon’s Victor Doom. That’s a thing, actually; a lot of people can be confused as to why a villain calling himself Doctor Doom would have the real name Victor Doom, but it’s because his identity is public. His name is Doom and he’s a doctor, and this is the person known to be behind the mask. When people refer to him as “Doctor Doom”, they mean “Doctor [Victor] Doom” and not “[the villain known as Doctor Doom]”. The surname’s Latverian, so it’s just a coincidence. That’s just a little thing I wanted to point out.

I suppose I should really talk about the differences. Well, most of it’s the same. Fantastic Four might have crappy, expositional dialogue, which is written to inform the audience what’s happening and not because it’s of the character, but at least it’s more realistic than comic books. Early comic books, particularly Ant-Man, always had a way to describe what they were doing and what was happening in a way that makes Deadpool look real and grounded. For some reason, the graphic novelisation decides to reject the screenplay’s dialogue and instead go back to the corny style of the 1960s that may as well be prefixed with “this is what’s happening:”. But, it’s better than George Lucas‘ dialogue, so there’s that. And at least then it’s actually being said and not hammered into action description as italicised “thoughts” like Greg Cox novelisations.

Most of it is just slightly different versions of the original. Like on extra features, where they show a scene shot from a different angle, or edited in a different way. But it was all done to make reading the graphic novel shorter than watching the film. Which means that a lot of the time it feels forced and rushed. The film might only be one-hundred minutes, but that was a good length.

At the end, the graphic novelisation feels more like an extended promo for the real product, and not something that exists on its own. It’s really only at fault as much as novelisations of anything else.

Fantastic Four — review

I actually really liked Fantastic Four. In the run-up to the new Fant4stic, the general consensus seems to be that this version is mostly disliked. But that’s fine. Because unlike some idiots on the Internet, I know what subjectivity is.

Anyway, so Fantastic Four. Here’s what I liked about it more than anything – I didn’t have to worry about how this connected to a much larger universe. There were no easter eggs to spot, no tie-ins or continuity to think about. Basically, Fantastic Four wasn’t trying to fit into a story already in progress. It just exists as a standalone, so it actually had room to breath and to just be the thing that it wants to be without the existence of other releases getting in its way or influencing it. As much as I like recent releases based on comic books, I’d prefer that they weren’t part of some big, interconnected world, because that causes a lot of practical storytelling problems, as well as inserting an element of expectation or comparability into what you’re watching. With Fantastic Four, there are no connections to anything. The Spider-Man trilogy was already in progress at this point, but there are no references to anything from it made. Both they and he live in New York, and have super-powers, and defeat a supervillain, but Marvel decided to allow Fantastic Four to exist on its own, which was a much more logical choice, because it lets the characters prove themselves on their own. It’s simpler, and simpler is better. Especially when the new Fantastic Four team are (probably) going to be a part of the X-Men universe, which already has a very complicated continuity.

And so, given my preference for standalones, it makes sense to look at Fantastic Four by not thinking about other superhero films at all, and actually showing the kind of credibility its status as a standalone has.

So – despite there being a sequel, which I’m hoping to get to, we begin Fantastic Four in a brand new world that’s about to become much braver. And as it progresses and develops, it seems that it isn’t taking itself too seriously, which works better than it doesn’t. The characters are extremely likeable, and that’s what Fantastic Four has going for it – they’re like a family. Reed Richards is scientific, and skeptical, and approaches everything with logic in a way that does work, even if it’s at the detriment of his connection to the other characters. Susan Storm’s role in the story is… interesting. Johnny Storm was my favourite, however, because of his comedic apathy and for being semi-aware of questions I actually found myself asking, e.g.: where the Thing’s ears are? And also for pointing-out how gross Richards’ power is (which I’ll admit is created through effects since dated). I’d point out how fun it was to watch a serious hero like Steven Rogers suddenly being comic relief, and that it’s entirely due to Chris Evans, who gains legitimacy here because of his contrasting roles, but… standalone!

But though Storm’s my favourite (Johnny, though I can understand the affinity for Susan), it was Benjamin Grimm that affected me the most. The scene where his fiance runs away from him, despite him having set-up his reveal so carefully, worked because it’s accurate. Some people really are capable of being monster on the inside, when there are people considered monsters on the outside. And I especially liked his exchange with Storm, where he tells her that he wishes he had her ability, because he hates being seen.

Fantastic Four‘s the kind of thing where, the screenplay… kinda sucks. it has good moments, but it mostly sucks. But somehow, everything else worked. The Thing was really well-realised, I don’t get the hate for it. And it didn’t have the overbearing sense of dread that modern superhero releases have. Not that I don’t like dark themes, it’s just that they’re all looking as if they’re trying to have them, as opposed to just having them.

Really, I’m satisfied with what Fantastic Four provides. Again, I’d mention how, to me, it’s set the bar high in terms of Fant4stic, but…

…standalone!

Fantastic Four – goofy, but not overly so. 7/10