Thursday, March 17, 2005

Pull her out from under, Wonder Auteur...

Buffy/Firefly savant Joss Whedon has officially been hired by Warner Brothers to write and direct a Wonder Woman movie. Hopefully it will be a period, WWII piece, that would kick ass. In any case, he'll presumably begin working on the film after he finishes up Serenity, the movie based on his aborted Firefly TV series.

It's interesting to see how Hollywood can half learn a lesson. By now it should be obvious that when you make a film based on a comic book, the director is the most important part. Pick a Tim Burton and you get Batman and Batman Returns. Sam Raimi gets you a Spider-Man, Bryan Singer an X-Men, Guillermo del Toro a Hellboy. On a related note, a Peter Jackson gets you a Lord of the Rings trilogy.

The important thing is to get talented directors who take the source material seriously, if not slavishly so. Too often they just go with a 'visual' director, as with music video director Francis "Constantine" Lawrence and "Pitof", who helmed Catwoman. Or else they just go with a 'hot' director, but one who doesn't respect the source material. Then you get Joel Schumacher's Batman and Robin and Batman Forever, or (again, on a related note), Emmerich's Godzilla. Of you can just hire hacks, as with Daredevil's Mark Steven Johnson.

That's why I have a lot more faith in Robert Rodriguez' Sin City and Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins instead of Tim Story's Fantastic Four. I grew up on Marvel comic books, and few things would make me happier (sadly) than a Fantastic Four movie as good as the Spider-Man films have been. OK, an Avengers film that good would make me slightly happier. But anyway. The fact that Story's last film was the Jimmy Fallon/Queen Latifah suckfest Taxi doesn't exactly put me at ease.

Further indication that the pivotal directorial decision was blown is that the parts have been miscast, other than Michael Chiklis as Ben Grimm/The Thing. My main problem with the casting is that the Fantastic Four have a well-established relationship dynamic. Reed Richards should be a good fifteen or twenty years older than his wife Sue, Ben is Reed's best friend, and his age, while Johnny is Sue's younger brother. If I had to guess, and this might be off somewhat, Reed and Ben should be somewhere between 35 and 40, Sue in her early twenties, and Johnny in his late teens.

This is not insignificant stuff, characterization-wise. However, the casting screws all this up. Chiklis is the right age, being about 42. However, Ian Gruffudd is ten years younger than Chiklis, which really screws that relationship up. The Alba is twenty-three, and thus about right, although on the face of it the vixenish actress seems a truly weird choice to play the shy, unprepossessing girl-next-door blonde Sue Storm. Meanwhile, the actor playing Johnny is the same age as Sue, and he should really be younger enough that she's evidentially his older sister.

Again, I would love to see this movie work. However, I can't shake the feeling that this will prove a major disappointment.


At 1:46 PM, Blogger Matt Lear said...

Strangely, a Fantastic Four movie has been made twice already.

The first one was of course, the not even direct to video Roger Corman debacle that apparently everyone but me has seen and laughed at heartily.

The second was recently made by Disney and Pixar, and they called it "The Incredibles". Great, great superhero movie, and obviously modeled on the FF (even if there isn't actually a big guy made entirely of orange rocks). If you haven't yet seen it, check it out. It's well worth the time.


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