Fantastic Four and the Slow Death of Mainstream Cinema

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Mainstream cinema is dying and superheroes and remakes are to blame.

Just when you thought it was safe to go back into a cinema. Just when you thought it was safe, Fantastic Four hits the big screen and confirms the death of mainstream cinema. Sadly, it’s slow and excruciatingly painful. Or am I just talking about the film?

Shock, horror, it’s another superhero flick. Actually, make that yet another superhero flick. O’ and just for good measure, it’s a remake, too. Just when you thought things couldn’t get more depressing.

Just what cinema needs.

Just what cinema needs.

Seriously, what is it today’s filmmakers love about superheroes and doing things again? Is this really what cinema has come to? Remaking a film that was released in 2005?

So, that’s the shelf life of films today, 10 years?! 10 yeeaaaarrsss!!!! So there’s really no original ideas knocking around the celluloid landscape, just trying to be different?

When did the people who make films and the audiences who watch them become so lazy? Unbelievably lazy.

Granted, remakes can be welcomed when needed. John Huston’s 1941 version of The Maltese Falcon is one of the greatest films of all time, a true noir masterpiece.

It gave the original Dashiell Hammett novel the big-screen treatment it deserved. The 1931 version didn’t and certainly left a void for an upgrade.

By the same token, there’s no law prohibiting a remake of the Fantastic Four movie released 10 years ago. It was no cinematic classic, Jessica Alba aside.

But did it really need remaking? Is the new version really about to take its place alongside Citizen Kane, Casablanca and The Godfather? Of course not.

But the deeper issue isn’t one of remakes, as troubling as that problem is. Instead, it’s this obsession with superheroes and comic book adaptations.

Again, there’s nothing inherently wrong with the genre, but is that it? Is that all today’s cinema has to offer?

Finding the appeal of these films is easy. They are loud, fast and brash. A bit of popcorn frivolity is one of cinema’s lowest yet endlessly appealing charms. No film watcher is above it’s sticky lure.

There’s also the appeal of living a dual identity, where the hidden one is more appealing than your own. Where you can simply change clothes and become stronger, braver, smarter and suaver than you ever are in everyday life.

Speaking for myself, that would have to be some wardrobe change.

But the irony is that all of these films based on what’s possible with a vivid imagination, actually kill that quality.

Whatever happened to finding the extraordinary hidden in everyday existence? Mainstream cinema has often hits its peak when bringing this dichotomy to life.

Think Kevin Spacey’s henpecked husband experiencing sexual and spiritual reawakening in 1999’s work of genius, American Beauty. Lester Burnham’s journey from downtrodden to born again is every bit as thrilling and intriguing a metamorphosis as Bruce Wayne becoming Batman.

Or what about insanely gifted and guilt-ridden writer Briony Tallis trying to gain a cheap form of catharsis reimagining the lives she ruined in the magnificent Atonement?

Hers is a secret life of angst and inner conflict richer and far more memorable than this year’s version of Clark Kent reconciling his everyday persona with being the “Man of Steel.”

When did it happen that the only way to make anything worth watching was to slap a cape on it and apply sound editing designed to cause premature deafness?

Among the most annoying aspects of today’s superhero-led cinema are the modern takes on the original stories. These so-called “contemporary” riffs are usually designed for one thing: adding realism to a comic-strip story.

Let me type that again: Adding realism to a comic-strip story. See the problem yet?

Is there anything more pointless than trying to add realism to films about caped crusaders, heroes that breath fire and villains dressed as clowns?

It’s that kind of thinking that led to the distorted, garbled voice of Batman in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight trilogy. If you ever wondered why you could understand Christian Bale’s Bruce Wayne, but needed a team of crack lip readers to tell you what Batman said, thank the guy who wanted realism.

You just know some supposed bright spark, at least in their own mind, pointed out that people will be able to recognise his voice as Bruce Wayne’s! It’s unrealistic nobody guesses his identity!

I think I just had a bowel movement.

Here’s a tip: It’s a film about a man dressed as a Bat. Probably safe to assume the audience is willing to suspend reality for a few hours.

Thing is today’s filmmakers and studios are trying to get the best of both worlds. It’s reality meets fantasy, so yes, you can relate to the man able to lift a bus above his head or the man who turns his car into an airborne machine at the flick of a switch.

Of course you can. Honest.

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I’m just like him. No really, I am!

Please, for the love of God, stop making superhero films. Stop remaking every half-cool thing of the past and giving it a modern spin (yawn).

It’s time for the cinema of the mainstream to make a few films that actually appeal to the portion of the mainstream concerned with something other than masks and the ability to fly.

Until then though, every time you go to the cinema be careful not to step on the cape of the man in front. Probably a good idea to wear some ear plugs as well.

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