Fantastic Four

 

Sorry, but Fantastic Four is hokey and actually a bit boring. It’s an origin story, telling the world how the Fantastic Four came to be.

Some of the scenes and even some of the effects reminded me of low-budget mid-century sci-fi, the kind often lampooned by Mystery Science Theater 3000. The script is workmanlike, advancing the thin story, but gives the cast few chances to shine.

The beginning of the film shows promise. The setup is good, beginning with grade school and high school versions of Reed (Miles Teller) and Ben (Jamie Bell) leading to their being recruited by Dr. Franklin Storm (Reg E. Cathey) to work with his kids Johnny (Michael B. Jordan) and Sue (Kate Mara) at Baxter on teleportation projects.

Convincing Victor Von Doom (Toby Kebbell) to cross over from his dark side and join the team is a dicey move.

By teleporting themselves to an alternate universe, the team members undergo the physical changes that make them the superheroes they become. Teleportation issues and confrontations with Doom form much of the (yawn) latter part of the film.

Hardcore fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe will feel an obligation to see Fantastic Four, out of a sense of loyalty and duty. And to see if it is, indeed, as disappointing as was predicted and is now revealed to be.

Those of us who are not Marvel fanboys but enjoy a good Marvel film may want to stick with Ant-Man and Avengers: Age of Ultron for 2015 viewing pleasure.

(Sidebar note: Reg E. Cathey has an incredible deep voice. He might want to shoot for some of the voiceover work that currently goes to Morgan Freeman by default.)

 

 

 

Big Hero 6

 

What a cool movie! If I were a 12-year-old kid, the new animated film Big Hero 6 could easily become an all-time favorite!

Big Hero 6 has robots, action, sadness and joy. And it sets the table for more adventures for this sextet (who don’t really refer to themselves Big Hero 6 until the end of the movie).

Big Hero 6 presents a clever blend of America and Japan. It’s set in San Fransokyo, a city with cable cars and steep hills and also has cherry blossom trees. The lead character is Hiro Hamada (voiced by Ryan Potter), a teenager with a Japanese name but no discernable Japanese features. An African-American character has the nickname Wasabi (voiced by Damon Wayans, Jr.).

The movie shows influences from films of the anime genre, but it doesn’t have the look of typical Japanese anime. And, in this first year without an official Pixar release in 2 decades, Big Hero 6 fills the gap nicely. (Like 2012’s Wreck-It Ralph, Big Hero 6 is made under the Disney Animation nameplate, but has that Pixar look and feel.)

Hiro is a boy genius. Already done with high school, he spends his time building robots. Big Hero 6 opens with robots doing battle, a la Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Ems. When Hiro’s brother shows him around the “nerd school” he attends, Hiro applies. To gain admission, he builds microbots which, when performing together, can do amazing things.

When tragedy strikes his family and the “nerd school” and Hiro’s bots disappear, he engages 4 of his brother’s friends and an amazing inflatable robot named Baymax (voiced by Scott Adsit). Baymax provides many funny moments along with his heroics. Baymax is designed to diagnose medical issues in humans, but is quickly shown to have greater abilities.

An evil villain gains control of the microbots and, with his commands, is able to move them in ways that call to mind certain scenes in various Japanese animes. The pursuit of the villain and the resolution of the adventure are not quite as entertaining as the film’s beginning—especially that first visit to “nerd school.” But, overall, Big Hero 6 provides great fun and cool robots.

In case you’re unaware, Big Hero 6 is adapted from a Marvel comic book series, so stick around for a special coda after the credits.

 

 

“The Avengers”

Marvel’s “The Avengers” is too much and too many.

Not that you shouldn’t see it. You should. Just prepare yourself to be stuffed. Like a huge holiday meal, “The Avengers” will leave you totally sated.

It’s also analogous to a sports All-Star game. Sure, it’s great to see all the Marvel heroes together. But as an All-Star game is not always an entertaining game, so does “The Avengers” fail to deliver a truly great movie.

The interaction—including verbal and physical battles—among the characters is fun and often funny to watch. It’s amusing as Captain America (Chris Evans) tries to assimilate into the 21st century world, after awakening from a 70-year nap.

Thankfully, the film’s writers and director give the biggest chunk of screen time to Robert Downey, Jr. as Iron Man/Tony Stark. This is good because Downey is a much better actor than the rest of the cast. Mark Ruffalo as The Hulk/Bruce Banner is also excellent in his Marvel debut.

The other main players: Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow, Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye and Tom Hiddleston as the villain Loki.

The movie’s pacing brings to mind the latter Star Wars movies with long periods of exposition between the action scenes. The film’s final battle is spectacularly good, but overlong—not unlike having three pieces of pumpkin pie at the end of a holiday feast.

Clocking in at 2:20 or so, it’s a long movie. But with so many characters to feature and so much action to fit in, it has to be.

“The Avengers,” like a Transformers film, is critic-proof. Even if every reviewer in America from Ebert on down said the film sucked, it would still gross $100 million plus this weekend.

It doesn’t suck. But it’s not as good a movie as one might have hoped for.