Spending My Allowance

The small allowance that I received every week when I was a kid was typically spent playing violent video games at the arcade and buying superhero comics at my local used bookstore. An uncompromising Marvel snob (I felt like pissing on anyone who even touched DC), I championed the Fantastic Four during its John Byrne years, impressed by its stellar writing and affected by the story of four freaks who form an unlikely family. In the real world, ostracized communities continually redefine the idea of family as a matter of necessity and survival, and, in the fantastic world of the Four, the thematic parallels may not have been apparent to a teenager such as myself but definitely had some intuitive significance.

My memories of the Fantastic Four are so fond that, when the movie adaptation was released in 2005, I didn't go see itthis coming from someone who goes to the midnight screening of Spider-Man 3 the day before it opens. I had heard bad things about Four, and I didn't want the film to ruin my memories forever.

Eventually, I caught the movie on DVD and was pleasantly surprised. It is by no means a masterpiece, and I wouldn't feel confident in recommending it to anyone, but it does have its charms. The superhero quartet's struggle with celebrity and the media is an interesting angle, the effects are cheesy but in a cool sort of way, the script has a good sense of humor, and no one can deny that the Human Torch is one of the most awesome superheroes ever. (As a side note: Chris Evans, why must you be so so beautiful? Why must you taunt we with that come-hither...everything?) The film's biggest asset is its sense of camp. It's a comic book movie that feels like a comic book and never takes itself too seriously. Batman can brood, Superman has father issues, and Spider-Man is plagued by guilt, but the Fantastic Four just want to have tongue-in-cheek, old-fashioned funin the same spirit of the old comics that rot in boxes at my mother's house. After all, the cover of every Fantastic Four that I have boasts: "The World's Greatest Comic Magazine!" And you feel like they mean itbut with a knowing wink.

The makers of Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer take all the best elements of the original movie and amp them up for this totally fun sequel. Again, not a masterpiece, but a solid piece of escapism. And as if the Human Torch weren't cool enough, we get the Silver Surfer! And if you can't geek out to him, you have no soul.

The haters are already railing against the movie online, but I must defend the cheese factor, more than anything else. When I think back to the comic book movies of my childhood, like Flash Gordon or Swamp Thing, I think about their ragtag spirit of good-natured fun. What they lacked in craft and sophistication, they more than made up for in their sheer love of the genre and their desire to make everyone feel like a kid again.

I sat next to two children no more than six years old in the movie theater tonight, and they both were completely engaged and in awe in a way that many adults have forgotten how to be. The folks in my audience, however, did manage to laugh lots, seemed to be in good spirits, and applauded when the movie was over.

You can try to intellectualize big summer comic book movies all you want. But big summer comic book movies never aim to appeal to the intellect. They have higher aspirationsreaching for that kid inside us all.

—Reporting From Glendale, California


  1. Anonymous6/19/2007

    i want to see the fire-dude's flaming dick.

  2. Good lord, just by the phrasing of that sentence, I can tell you're a straight guy trying to be funny? Don't you know straight guys AREN'T funny?