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Fantastic Four: Fox Fails Miserably with Marvel Superhero Reboot
If Hollywood was to be defined by its trends, then the next few years belong to the world of comic book heroes. With the Marvel Cinematic Universe already established and welcoming more and more superheroes into the fold, DC is about to jump into the deep-end with its own universe and the X-Men franchise is arguably as strong as ever. Marvel's Fantastic Four – a franchise owned not by Marvel Studios, but by 20th Century Fox – haven't been so lucky.
After two forgettable attempts at bringing Mr Fantastic, the Invisible Woman, the Human Torch and the Thing to life on the big screen – and an exhilarating appearance by the Silver Surfer – the franchise has been rebooted with a production that seemed doomed from the very start.
The film re-explores how the Fantastic Four came to be, with its characters made considerably younger than we've seen them before; a motiveless scientific experiment opens a 'Quantum Gate' to a parallel universe named Planet Zero, which our heroes-to-be recklessly investigate and subsequently suffer severe consequences from. An ensuing botched return home leaves one of the scientific team stuck in Planet Zero, while an explosion in the Quantum Gate gives Reed Richards, Ben Grimm, Sue Storm and Johnny Storm their powers. The man left behind goes on to become a figure that is historically the Fantastic Four's deadliest foe, Doctor Doom.
Despite its solid cast of Miles Teller, Michael B. Jordan, Kate Mara, Jamie Bell and Toby Kebbell – a collection of some of the best young actors around – the film is so underwhelming, that it makes the previous Fantastic Four films look like works of art. There are glimmers of a solid, modernised adaptation of a loved comic, but the execution of that vision has been tainted from the start and there are basic elements in the film that demonstrate little understanding of what made the foursome one of Marvel's most popular characters.
Firstly, by making the main characters teenagers, the film eliminates much of the dynamic within the group – Reed, for example, has yet to become the brilliant scientist we know him as and because he and Sue are not yet an item, the familial set-up that gave the group heart isn't there – and it's a huge problem. A problem that is only further confounded by the fact that, as teenagers, there is no logical reasoning behind their motivations – no reason is given as to why these teens want to build a Quantum Gate.
Throw in some of the worst plotting and pacing to ever taint the silver screen and a strangely gloomy and sombre tone and you have, well, not very much. And we haven't even talked about the infighting, the re-shoots and the fact that this film was rushed and released as soon as possible in order for Fox to keep the franchise from returning to Marvel. Sigh.
What can you say about the seemingly unstoppable force that is Nicolas Cage that hasn’t been said before? A magnet for the most troubled, muddled and just generally exasperating films to hit cinemas in the last five years, his latest work in USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage does nothing to change his fortunes.
Despite being based on one a true story that has all the makings of a war epic, the Mario Van Peebles-directed USS Indianapolis bleeds all and any gravitas and emotion out of its incredibly dramatic source material.
The story goes as thus: the eponymous US Navy cruiser delivered the first parts of the atomic bomb that would go on to devastate Hiroshima, before being torpedoed by the Japanese navy, leaving some 300 of the 1000-plus crewmen dead and the rest stranded in shark-infested waters. Said sharks, along with dehydration and salt water poisoning, leave just over 300 survivors to be rescued.
At the centre of the ensuing hubbub is Cage’s Captain McVay, who many, very unreasonably, blame for the death of the 700 or so victims – so you see, it’s a very complex story, but one that very quickly descend into and exercise on how not to make a war film.
The occasional laughable CGI aside, Cage is oddly sedate, bordering on placid, in his role – yes, the central character is possibly the flattest element of the film, while seasoned actors, Tom Sizemore and Thomas Jane, are given little to chew on in their respective roles.
While starting exactly as one would expect a war film to, the wreckage part of the film turns into cheap disaster movie, before turning into a courtroom drama in the final act. It’s a muddle of a film that fails to really drum to the beat of McVay’s potentially brilliant arc as a firm commander that eventually buckles under the unjust pressure he receives back at home.
Bad CGI, a mammoth two hour-plus running time and Nic Cage can be forgiven, but what’s at the heart of this film’s mess is the script. Jumping from event to event, plotline to plotline, at a whim, with Cage’s soft murmured speech used to pave over the transitions, USS Indianapolis’s pacing is that of a film hurrying to stuff as many ideas and threads as possible – expect that’s not the case. Van Peebles tries so hard to build the layers of an epic, when, actually, all he needed to do was tell this simple but stirring story as it is.
Marking the fifth instalment in the Underworld franchise, Blood Wars rests in the hands of a first-time feature director, Anna Foerster who, although managing to create a few notable moments of action, fails to bring any ingenuity or freshness to its now exhausted vampires-versus-werewolves narrative.
The story begins with a brief recap of events from the last four films where we learn that everyone’s favourite vampire death dealer, Selena (once again fully embraced by the leather-clad, forever sulking Kate Beckinsale) has been betrayed and banished by her kind.
Still trying to cope with the pain of having given up her vampire-werewolf hybrid daughter Eve for everyone’s safety, Selena is surprised to be summoned back into the vampire community - now led by the scheming Semira (Pulver) - who wish to make use of her skills in order to train the new generation of fighters, while still escaping her own chasers and searching for her daughter.
Taking quite a bit of time to get going, Blood Wars – written by Cory Goodman – is filled with lots of politics and nonsensical dialogue between characters who seemingly have a hard time in conveying any emotion, thus, making it all that difficult for the viewer to get invested in what they have to say. Drenched in a seemingly cold, metallic-blue tint, Blood Wars – although certainly not heavy on the action front – does manage to offer a couple relatively exciting action set-pieces. However, considering that this is a vampires-verses-werewolves kind of a movie, there just isn’t enough of that that specific mythology to set it apart from any other action movies – no wooden stakes or silver bullets to see here folks, just plenty of swirling swords and guns that can’t hurt anyone.
Another problem here is that the mythology behind the franchise in general – something the keeps spinning around aimlessly with no real focus or ending in sight – is a little hard to take seriously.
All of the characters, including the PVC-wearing Kate Beckinsale, who thinks that scowling her way through the scenes will get her anywhere, are all without an ounce of charm or personality – which sadly, brings us to a conclusion that there is no fun to be had in this rather forgettable cinematic offering and generic continuation of a franchise which, perhaps, might be ready now to close its doors and call it a day.