14 July 2005

Batman Begins vs. Fantastic Four: Different Paths to Success

The friendly rivalry between Marvel and DC knows no boundaries. What started decades ago in print has now spilled over onto celluloid. About a month apart in their release dates, the iconic figures of Batman in DC's Batman Begins, and Marvel's Fantastic Four battle it out for comic book supremacy on film. Two different paths, two different beginnings, but ultimately, both will win.

bbfBatman Begins got off on the right foot from the start by signing its director, Chris Nolan. The film was the beneficiary of a lot of buzz before its release, followed by positive reviews from critics and fanboys alike. Warner Bros. has had everything fall into place to make this film the critical and box office success that it is. I have no hesitation in saying that Nolan and the studio have succeeded in making the greatest super hero film of all time. The latest figures show that Batman Begins has earned $174 million domestically since its release 28 days ago.

Remarkably, the best part of the movie-going experience for Batman Begins is when you leave the theater. You don't feel like you just watched a "super hero" movie; it feels like you've just seen a damn good film, period. No need for any qualifying statements about it being a comic book / super hero film. Even though Ebert & Roeper, among countless other critics, may have liked Batman Begins, only a fanboy can truly understand the sense of awe I felt when the movie was over. It earned 5 out of 5 Batarangs.

ffintlposterFantastic Four, however, is the polar opposite. This movie was DOOMED (I couldn't resist) to fail. Tim Story...who the &*#@ is Tim Story?!? Don't get me wrong, Barber Shop was good, but name another movie he directed...

...

Are those crickets I hear? Fox and Marvel took a big chance with him as director.

The buzz for FF was overwhelming. Overwhelmingly bad, that is. Statements like, "It's gonna suck," and, "It's gonna really suck," were all over the internet. This was even before the first trailer came out! Days before its release, reviews started hitting the internet. At that point it seemed like a lost cause, FF was going to be a bomb.

To say Fantastic Four received "mixed" reviews would be putting it very kindly. A mixed review is like kissing your sister; yeah its a kiss, but it's your sister. Besides that, many of the so called "mixed" reviews read like bad ones. They must have been fans at one point in their lives. Movies.com cited 10 major publications, ranging from the Chicago Sun-Times to TV Guide: 4 negative reviews, 6 mixed. I would say excluding comic book-related sites, FF garnered similar, if not worse reviews.

[On a quick side note, how did this movie get a PG-13 rating? Mr. & Mrs. Smith is PG-13, and there is more violence and sexual content in their trailers than in the whole Fantastic Four movie. Maybe the MPAA thought the stretching ability of Mr. Fantastic was too suggestive? It just seems odd.]

Now after its opening weekend, where it made $56.1 million, people are scratching their heads. Fox expected the film to earn "somewhere in the high 30's range". Talk about exceeding expectations! To top it off, Fantastic Four led the way to the first up weekend in 19 weeks as compared to last year's box office figures.

ffnew3Now lets apply standard box office math. With a customary 50% 2nd week box office drop-off ($28 million), FF will have have earned back roughly 80% of its budget domestically. I don’t think this is going to happen, though. My guess is FF will struggle to earn $20 million this coming week. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was less. All the mixed reviews will finally catch up with it and pinch sales.

Leaving the theater I wondered if this would be a one and done film. To be honest the movie wasn’t all that great, but it showed promise. It proved to me that a live-action Fantastic Four can work. The film just needed more refinement to capture the spirit of who the Fantastic Four are.

The best way to sum up the film would be to say, every specific complaint and endorsement you’ve heard about the film is true. Yet somehow, Fantastic Four is just good enough not to suck completely. Oh my, I just gave FF a mixed review! It earned 2.5 outta 5 Genetically Altered DNA Molecules.

[My question about if this film was a one and done deal had been answered by Monday. It was reported by the The Los Angeles Times that Avi Arad, chairman of Marvel Studios said, "Of course there will be sequel."]

batmanbegins2

In a few weeks we’ll be able to see if the Fantastic Four was an overall success for Marvel. Early indications show that it will be a financially solid film, but you never know. Creatively though, its a huge step below the Spider-Man and X-Men films, but slightly above Daredevil and The Hulk. Hopefully Marvel will improve the product if any FF sequels do come about. I truly believe the film showed promise, but Fox / Marvel need to have the vision to realize that there’s a lot of work to be done.

As for Batman, the future is looking really bright. Unless something tragic happens, I don’t see this franchise going south anytime soon.

5 comments:

Rick Gebhardt said...

You know, I can't even bring myself to see FF. I'll probably go with the GF this weekend, but if it was up to me, I'd let it pass. It just doesn't appeal to me AT ALL. Batman, on the other hand was an amazing movie and I chalk it up to having a quality crew onboard. Nolan proved he knew his shit. Bale is one heck of an actor. The supporting cast also was no slouch (Niesen and Oldman rock). Yeah, yay for Batman.

Guy LeCharles Gonzalez said...

I'm still vaguely curious, but nowhere near as amped about seeing FF as I was with Batman. Probably take Isaac to catch it at a matinee next weekend.

Now, let's see if my two predictions were correct, with Batman coming in at just under $200m, and FF not breaking $125m. FF's opening weekend really surprised me, but they promoted the hell out of it on Nickelodeon, so I'm thinking The Incredibles may have actually helped it with the under-12 set.

Dan Diaz said...

rmgebhardt: I don't blame you for not wanting to see FF. You'll probably be super disappointed. Personally I've always questioned whether a good, live action FF movie could be made. This film is definitely not it, but I'm confident it can be done. It would help it they could get better performances out of Ioan Gruffudd and Jessica Alba. They were flat out lame.

guy: When I saw FF it was packed with kids Isaacs age. I can recall only one questionable scene that might shock a child. A person was blasted in the chest and you could see right through the hole. It wasn't gory, just surreal. I agree with your $125m estimate. In fact $115m domestically may be were the movie peaks out. There is no doubt in my mind that The Incredibles helped this movie out in a big way. That movie puts FF to shame.

Jeff D said...

I fully expected the FF film to suck, but I actually enjoyed it. It is pure Stan & Jack really. It speaks to the eleven year old in us all.

As for the PG-13 rating. 2 words "human torch" don't try this at home kids.

Guy LeCharles Gonzalez said...

Ha! Funny you should say that. I was telling my wife how it was ironic that, back in the 70s, they replaced him in the cartoon with H.E.R.B.I.E. for exactly that reason, and yet now, he's been the focus of 80% of the commericals they've run on Nickelodeon!

Times change, I guess.