Monday, July 11, 2005

Things work out for Mr Fantastic

Well, went and let my brain down and saw the Fantastic Four movie the other day, and I loved it. I thought it was the best superhero film I'd ever seen.

This opinion may not make much sense to anyone else who sees the film, I don't think it made a lot of sense to my three fellow geeks who saw the film with me. They seemed underwhelmed, but then, they like different stuff - they speak highly of Batman Begins and so on, which I haven't got around to seeing. But I came out of the FF movie grinning from ear to ear, bounding along the pavement, feeling perfectly and absolutely happy.

Why is this so?

As absurd as it sounds, when I was growing up, the Fantastic Four were my best friends. I used to run home from school to be with them. I had posters on my wall that we got out of Weeties packects (I am probably protected from alcoholic brain damage for life - in two months in 1975 alone I ate enough Weeties to supply me with thiamine for the next two hundred years) of Spiderman battling the Human Torch, and the Silver Surfer destroying some castle in Eastern Europe, and I knew where the FF parked the Fantasticar and what their neighbours said about them.

The friendship (and I know how sad it sounds to be using that word for the relationship between a ten-year old boy and some lines on some yellowing paper), like all friendships, was due to a complex mix of similarities and differences.

The differences were easy to see: Reed Richards (Mr Fantastic) was powerful. I was acutely powerless. Mr Fantastic had one of the most beautiful women on the planet as his wife, I fantasised constantly, inaccurately and uselessly about sex, but only ever experienced a series of one-way crushes. Mr Fantastic lived in New York, the greatest city in the world, and made regular sojourns not only to distant planets but to distant realms of reality, to universes we didn't even know about yet.

But the similarities were there too. We were both bookish nerds. We found science extremely exciting - apparently I would stand up in show and tell, after everyone had talked about how they had started the harvesting, and say "Today I'm going to talk about the speed of light". Neither of us understood people. We were surrounded by people who had powers we couldn't ever match - beauty, popularity, strength. We were both horribly lonely.

Anyway, the crude mechanics as to why a story like that made such an impact on someone like me should be painfully clear.

Anyhow, why did the movie work so well for me?

First, it was a kid's movie, and the time when the FF meant the most to me was when I was a kid. Those ideas shaped the structure of my developing brain like a trellice shapes a vine or a vase shapes water. You watch the movie, you see the characters, and you can feel that unadulterated childish joy that you used to feel.

And then there was the wish fulfillment. There was Mr Fantastic getting the girl, there was him saving his friends and his friends saving him, him not being lonely. There was the four of them together.

I don't know, there's no way I can articulate this kind of stuff. I'll just pull on this tee-shirt that says "Desperate geek" - hmmm, fits perfectly - and shuffle off to work.

But I don't know. One last try: somehow I've come out of that film with a picture of my life, the progression from loneliness to having friends, lovelessness to having my wife. I felt the movie was about my life - in some way what happened to Mr Fantastic happened to me - as well as Reed's life.

That's the core of all good fiction, I suppose - you identify with the protagonists.

But there was also the joy at seeing something good finally happen to a deserving friend. Reed starts out lonely and powerless and loveless and ends up saved. I think I loved seeing that because I left with the eye-witness proof that not only can things work out for people like me, but that things can work out for Mr Fantastic as well.

Anyway, posts of actual substance and meaning will resume soon.


Blogger Benedict 16th said...

Yeah John,
I can see the resemblance...

especially this one

12:48 AM  
Blogger Chade said...

Whilst true I was left underwhelmed by the film it did not diminish it in any way. The unfortuante thing was I had seen Batman Begins two weeks prior and it still held sway over what a comic film could be. Prior to Batman, the Spider-man film was the most fun, whilst the X-men were the best adapted. FF has now taken position as the most fun. Batman the best adapted.
One thing that goes a long way for making the FF such a great film was the range of emotional experiences the charcters felt. Johnny had the exuberance that comes with fire, sue the shyness of invisibility, Ben the rage of deformity, and reed... shame for irrevocably altering his best friend, becoming himself the doctor frankenstein he so despised.
What would have made me love the film was if there was a scene where Reed just sat, seemingly ignoring what was around him. Then when it comes to crunch he springs into action: "I was thinking"

11:14 AM  
Blogger g_pi said...

Always interesting, diverting and intelligent - you are a pleasure to read, John.

6:27 AM  
Anonymous Camilla said...

We haven't seen the film yet, but now I'm really looking forward to it!

9:42 PM  

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