Superheroes Represent At The Oscars

Last night, the Academy Awards were surprisingly kind to superhero films. Sure, there were some disappointments, big and small; seriously, First Man had better special effects than Avengers: Infinity War? Please. But on the whole the superhero film genre was well represented in the Academy Awards for films that came out in 2018.

Recognizing the MCU

Comic book fans had reasons to celebrate last month when Black Panther was nominated for best film. As we all know, this is the first time a superhero film earned that prestigious nomination. Whether or not the film deserved it is open for debate. But nevertheless it was a great and historic moment for fans as at last the superhero film was recognized as a genuine piece of cinematic art. OK, this is a bit hyperbolic, but the fact is that for too long superhero films were considered juvenile fare though that has been far from the truth.

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In the past, these films were often nominated for best visual effects or some other technical category and sometimes won. That has changed slowly over recent years. The Dark Knight picked up an award for Best Supporting Actor in addition to getting numerous technical nominations. However, many rightly felt that The Dark Knight should have been nominated for Best Picture, and this snub caused a changed in the amount of films that can get the Best Picture nomination. Others also believed that Logan should have received a Best Picture nomination, but it did get one for Best Adapted Screenplay. This was the first time a superhero film got such a distinguished nomination. With this, it was only a matter of time before a superhero film was nominated for Best Picture and that happened only a year later.

Of course, cynics will credit Black Panther’s numerous nominations to a strong marketing campaign from Disney, and they would not be wrong. But in the end the film studio was largely successful with Black Panther nabbing the coveted Best Picture nomination. Honestly, it winning was always a long shot, especially since it didn’t garner nominations for directing, writing or acting. Traditionally, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has a huge bias against genre films. No science fiction film has ever won, and only a couple of fantasy films have won including The Shape of Water. Also, that film just won for Best Picture the year before. There wasn’t any way the Academy would allow a genre film to win for Best Picture two years in a row. In fact, this doesn’t happen with other genres. Besides, the Academy likes to pick “important” biographies or historical dramas with timely messages.

Put all that aside for now. It was great that not only was Black Panther nominated, but that it actually won three well-deserved awards. The most for any superhero film. Frankly, it would have been a shock if the film didn’t win for Best Costume Design or Best Production Design. In these categories, Black Panther excelled with its unique and eye-popping visual look and costumes. The award for Best Original Music Score was a pleasant surprise since the score was so enchanting. These wins signal the Academy’s recognition of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s (MCU) quality and caliber. This will be the first of many awards that the MCU will win. It may be a long time before an MCU film or any superhero film will win for Best Picture, but it will happen.

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The New So-Called Fantastic Four

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Ruining the good vibe from the recently released Guardians Of The Galaxy trailer, 2oth Century Fox had to go ahead and throw this turd sandwich at genre fans. The cast for their reboot of the Fantastic Four will include Miles Teller as Mr. Fantastic (gee Josh Trank, thanks a lot for lying to us since this past summer by denying Teller was in the running for the role), Michael B. Jordan as the Human Torch (the PC casting of the year), Kate Mara as the Invisible Woman (the character should go back to being called Invisible Girl given how young this actress looks) and Jamie Bell as the Thing (ooh, this guy sure looks tough!). Forget about Jesse Eisenberg playing Lex Luthor. These are the worst casting choices for a superhero film since Halle Berry played Catwoman and Jennifer Garner paraded as Elektra.

Just seeing these people together makes me physically ill. This does not look like the Fantastic Four to me, but like a bunch of kids playing superheroes in a school play. Honestly, we were better off with the Tim Story version of the Fantastic Four, hell, even the cast from Roger Corman stillborn version looked better than this bunch.

It’s pretty clear that Fox and Trank fail to grasp the essence of the Fantastic Four. They are a dysfunctional real FFfamily unit, Mr. Fantastic is the father figure, the Thing is the grumpy uncle, Invisible Woman has the big sister/mother hen role, and the Human Torch was the brash young kid of the group. This cast looks like they’re just now able to legally buy alcohol. At least with the Tim Story Fantastic Four films, the cast filled out those roles to different degrees of success. Yeah, I’ll admit Julian McMahon and Jessica Alba were the most miscast actors in the bunch, but the rest captured the essence of their roles well. Say what you want about Ioan Gruffudd, but he did a fine job as Mr. Fantastic. OK, so he wasn’t the most dynamic character, but Mr. Fantastic is supposed to be a stoic, intellectual type and Gruffudd showed that. Miles Teller doesn’t look like the brainy type, but as the kind of kid who plays pranks on others. And Mr. Fantastic is supposed to be approaching middle age, that’s why he’s the father figure. You’re not going to get that from this whippersnapper!

What is more troubling are the rumors that Dr. Doom will probably be played by a woman (Lady Doom?!), and worse the leaked premise which goes against the traditional version of the team. Supposedly, Mr. Fantastic and the Thing got their powers as kids and were used by the government as living weapons! Then later on they meet the brother and sister team of the Human Torch and Invisible Woman. I’m just groaning right now thinking about this. I can understand wanting to update origins by making changes. But the core of the character and his or her situation must remain the same.

Look at Iron Man, Spider-Man and Superman. Their films had major changes done with the characters, but they were basically the same people that fans loved. Iron Man wasn’t born in the jungles of Vietnam as in the comic books but rather in Afghanistan. He was still a pompous a-hole who had to learn some humility because of his heart problem. The two film versions of Spider-Man were different with their origin stories; his Uncle Ben’s death was more tied in with Spider-Man’s callous behavior. The people he went to school with have changed from the comic books. Liz Allen is absent while Gwen Stacy and Mary Jane Watson in both film versions have filled in that high school sweetheart role. But the core of Spider-Man is the same: a geeky loner kid who gets super powers and doesn’t become a hero right away. With last year’s Man Of Steel there were changes done to Superman’s origin: his father dies in a tornado, Zod killed his biological father, but the main gist of Superman was intact. He was still an alien infant sent to Earth from a dying world and he grows up to become a superhero. Does it look like we’ll get a version of the Fantastic Four that is true to their nature with this reboot. Not likely!

I don’t like the idea of rooting for a superhero film to fail. But this just feels all wrong and at this point I refuse to reward Fox by spending my hard-to-get money on this upcoming movie. Why couldn’t the ffSuperman/Batman film come out next summer as originally planned? At least the hoopla for that would’ve drowned out this reboot. So after The Avengers: Age Of Ultron, the next superhero film on my radar will be Ant-Man, because I’m bypassing this stinkfest altogether. The worst thing about this pending fiasco is that Marvel Studios won’t be getting back the rights for the Fantastic Four. Let’s all pray this reboot bombs at the box office so that Marvel can regain the rights quicker and eventually produce a more genuine version of the team that sticks to its roots.

So thanks a lot Fox for spoiling my morning. “Sigh,” I just hope Stan Lee doesn’t do a cameo in this DOA production.

T. Rod Jones