Back in the mid-1980s, the Marvel Comics universe had revisions as a result of the best-selling series Secret Wars. As a result of that series, Spider-Man went home with the alien costume or symbiote (read: Venom), Colossus’ feelings for Kitty Pryde weakened and the Thing decided not to go home yet with the Fantastic Four.
This resulted a temporary change in the lineup of the Fantastic Four. To make up for the loss (and strength) of the Thing, She-Hulk came in as the replacement. Reflecting this particular change, here is my retro review of Fantastic Four #275.
Released in 1985 with a story written and drawn by the legendary John Byrne, Fantastic Four #275 begins when a sun-bathing She-Hulk got photographed by a man riding a helicopter flying at the top of the Baxter Building in New York. The sheer force of air from the helicopter’s blades temporarily causes She-Hulk’s cover to loosen which exposes her body to the photographer.
“Here I was all braced for a super-baddie, and I end up getting photographed deshabillee by an airborne peeping-tom,” She-Hulk said during the encounter.
The green-skinned lady then decides to take a huge risk by leaping off the building and grab on to the helicopter.
While this is indeed a Fantastic Four comic book, it is very focused on She-Hulk. There is a short scene about Johnny Storm as well as an epilogue at the end of the comic book showing Reed and Sue Richards however.
In terms of storytelling, John Byrne did not tell the usual good-versus-evil story rather he focused more on how being a superhero can be challenging when it comes to personal privacy. This was emphasized through She-Hulk who became the object of a magazine whose editor-in-chief views her as a public figure and that puts her in the public domain along with other famous public figures whose faces and even their private lives got exposed to the masses.
If you are looking for superhero action, you won’t find much. There are some incidental forms of action in the form of collateral damage as She-Hulk crashes through walls.
Overall, Fantastic Four #275 is a fun read and its focus on how the print media treats superheroes viewed as public figures is a nice break from the typical good-versus-evil type of story. No clear villain here. Just the She-Hulk dealing with a magazine that violated her privacy.
I’ll get straight to the point here. X-Men: Dark Phoenix (or Dark Phoenix in North America) is a better superhero film than I expected (and at the same time I never expected a faithful adaptation of the classic comic book storyline the Dark Phoenix Saga by Chris Claremont and John Byrne) and Simon Kinberg‘s feature film directorial debut turned out to be a surprisingly solid effort. I really enjoyed this.
X-Men: Dark Phoenix is the 2nd attempt by 20th Century Fox to adapt the Dark Phoenix saga for the big screen and I can say it is a brave effort. While it never attempted to fully and faithfully adapt all the elements of the classic storyline (note: that would require hundreds of millions of dollars more budget, more production time and at least two whole films to produce), the new movie is absolutely a better adaptation than X-Men: The Last Stand (which is an even worse movie by today’s standards).
As far as the current X-Men Cinematic Universe (starting with 2011’s X-Men: First Class), Dark Phoenix is very character-driven even though it has a huge cast. There was tremendous pressure behind the scenes on the part of Sophie Turner to portray Jean Grey struggling with her added powers and the good news is that she delivered very nicely! This new movie is clearly focused on Jean Grey whose emotions, struggles and acts of power are magnificently pulled off by Turner each time the screenplay requires her to act.
Turner is clearly more comfortable with playing as Jean Grey and it seems she paid close attention to the Dark Phoenix comics. Unlike Famke Jansen’s Jean Grey/Dark Phoenix in X-Men: The Last Stand, Turner cinematic act is more believable, more emotional and even more terrifying. There were moments to feel sorry for Jean Grey as her life turns upside-down plus there were times that she would be better off going far away into the deep void of the galaxy so that nobody else would get harmed by her. If you pay very close attention to Turner’s act, you will feel varied emotions along the way.
Turner is not the only standout. Nicholas Hoult, James McAvoy and Tye Sheridan each played their respective roles (Beast, Charles Xavier and Cyclops) with more heart, more drama and more intensity. Through Hoult and McAvoy, you will relate more with them as the film makes gentle connections back to X-Men: First Class (why the time was formed, who was supposed to remain or go away, etc.). The conflict between Beast and Xavier that happened later (combined with the revelations from the past) dramatically blurs away the boundary that separates good and evil. As for Tye Sheridan, I see a lot more of the literary Cyclops in him this time and thanks to the script, he exceeds James Marsden’s Cyclops by a hundred a miles. Sheridan and Turner also have better on-screen chemistry as Cyclops and Jean Grey.
James McAvoy’s Xavier deserves everyone’s attention. He not only looks and feels like his comic book counterpart, he also clearly displayed how much the character has matured. McAvoy also successfully captured the on-screen aura of authority Patrick Stewart had in the first X-Men movies.
Michael Fassbender’s Magneto appears rather late into the film but that does not make him any less significant. As before, Fassbender is intense with playing his character and, more importantly, he contributed nicely into the story. Jennifer Lawrence portrayal of Mystique is the shortest one yet but before leaving the film, she delivered some nice lines (with some reconnecting to X-Men: First Class) and acted nicely. Fans of Nightcrawler and Storm will be happy to know that their roles become more significant in the late stage of the film. Lastly, Jessica Chastain‘s addition as Vuk was a nice addition. While others put her down as one-dimensional, which is true, it does not detract from the film at all. Even with lacking variety of character, Vuk still makes a strong villainess and she really acts alien. Vuk would stop at nothing to achieve her goals.
When it comes to storytelling, this movie did not try to make an in-depth adaptation of all the elements of the Dark Phoenix Saga of comics. Instead, the filmmakers adapted a few elements of the literary classic (and even a few selected elements from X-Men: The Last Stand), focused on the present day X-Men (story is set in 1992), looked back occasionally at X-Men: First Class and made the most with what they have.
The result is a cinematic story about the X-Men now publicly recognized as legitimate mutants (and youths) with Charles Xavier having fully established a direct link with the President of the United States. After the rescue mission in space involving the solar flare, a race of shape-shifting aliens arrive on Earth with a secret agenda of their own. As mentioned earlier, Simon Kinberg surprised me with his directing. The storytelling, even with the slowest moments played, never felt dragging to me at all. The pace, in my experience, was between medium to fast. As this movie was written by Kinberg, Dark Phoenix is clearly his vision for the X-Men Cinematic Universe and he stamped his mark on it despite the fact that reshoots and story revising had to be done. If you are looking for humor, you really won’t find much as the story’s tone is intensely dramatic.
You want fun? X-Men: Dark Phoenix delivered solidly! This movie has more than enough spectacular content (action scenes, stunts, visual effects, etc.) that any moviegoer can enjoy! Very clearly the filmmakers consciously worked hard to deliver entertaining stuff to bounce back from the heavy drama. There was a lot of physical damage caused by Phoenix in her conflict with her teammates which is a solid start of her causing trouble to others. Cyclops, Storm, Nightcrawler, Xavier, Beast and Magneto used their respective abilities VERY EXTENSIVELY combined with high-octane stunt coordination which results several minutes of on-screen fun leading into the finale! The spectacle of X-Men: Dark Phoenix, which was extensively done with a blistering pace, easily exceeds what was showcased in First Class, Apocalypse and even that of Days of Future Past!
As for those blink-and-you-will-miss-it visual moments, there were times that images shown on the big screen reminded me of Jim Lee’s X-Men. I won’t point out where they are or when they will come out but anyone who extensively read the X-Men comic books drawn by Jim Lee (who co-founded Image Comics and now works as DC Comics’ co-Publisher) will spot the technical fan service.
Last but not least is the music provided by the great Hans Zimmer and this film marks his return to the superhero movie genre. While the music he and his team provided here is nowhere as energetic nor as intense as that of Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, the music is still steps above that of X-Men: Apocalypse, X-Men: The Last Stand and even the popular X2: X-Men United. The highlight of Zimmer’s music is the tune played during the moments when Jean Grey’s tremendous power as Dark Phoenix was realized in that day-time encounter with the X-Men. That particular music really emphasized the danger she poses to others.
There were some issues about the movie that might be problematic or annoying to moviegoers, particularly superhero movie fans. For one thing, Simon Kinberg re-used certain elements from X-Men: The Last Stand for this new movie and that includes Jean Grey having a childhood problem and Charles Xavier getting involved to solve it only to be blamed for it many years later. There were even a few lines from the 2006 movie repeated.
Also questionable was the lack of an explanation regarding Jean Grey’s Phoenix Power in this film and the one we saw in X-Men: Apocalypse. If what she unleashed in the final battle with Apocalypse was not the Phoenix force, then that’s a major blunder by the creators in relation to this movie. Perhaps an extended cut of X-Men: Dark Phoenix will solve that.
Lastly there was the use of shaky camera photography during some moments with the action sequences. While they were temporary, they prevented the film’s strong spectacle from achieving perfection.
Overall, X-Men: Dark Phoenix is a thrilling, heavily dramatic and very solid superhero movie worthy of being the conclusion of the X-Men Cinematic Universe that 20th Century Fox first launched in 2000. From this point on, there is no guarantee we will see McAvoy and the gang return as the cinematic X-Men now that 20th Century Fox is fully controlled by the Walt Disney Company through Marvel Studios. X-Men: Dark Phoenix is not perfect but it strongly resonates with me as I am a long-time X-Men comic book reader. While others out there would bash this movie for not having the common elements of Marvel Cinematic Universe films, X-Men: DP has its own flavor and the filmmakers utilized what they had established in the X-Men Cinematic Universe since 2011. The reported reshoots may have prevented Kinberg and team from fully realizing their original vision of the Dark Phoenix story but still they succeeded in making a better Dark Phoenix adaptation captured on film.
If Marvel Studios would launch the X-Men through the Marvel Cinematic Universe and attempt a new and more ambitious Dark Phoenix adaptation of their own, it will take much longer and will cost them more time and money to do so. That’s something we may not see in the next decade. All the more reason to enjoy X-Men: Dark Phoenix now.
The early social media buzz of the film is lower than that of X-Men: Apocalypse at the same point of release.
The early revelation showing the death of one of the major characters “muddied” buzz as of late.
There is “franchise fatigue” for the X-Men Cinematic Universe and as Disney completed at last its acquisition of Fox, it is expected by many fans that the X-Men in film will be rebooted although that will not be happening anytime soon.
If Box Office Pro’s predictions will turn out correct, it means that Dark Phoenix will do worse North American theater business than its 2016 predecessor.
Going back to Dark Phoenix, I believe that it is likely that online buzz for the film will get stronger as its scheduled release date nears and it is likely that in North America, superhero movie enthusiasts, X-Men fans and other moviegoers will literally get their next “serving” of superhero cinematic fun with the movie. In relation to this, the demand for the expected sure hit Avengers: Endgame will have faded by the time Dark Phoenix opens.
What Fox has to worry about in terms of movie competition is Warner Bros.’ Godzilla: King of the Monsters. Still, I believe that there are more than enough moviegoers out there who will crave for more superhero fun after they had their fun with Avengers: Endgame.
If Simon Kinberg proves to be a very miraculous first-time director and deliver a very engaging story, then there is the possibility that Dark Phoenix could outgross X-Men: Apocalypse even if it had a smaller opening than that film.
When it comes to cinema, Marvel’s Fantastic Four has yet to achieve greatness commercially and critically. Already four movies were made and the last one released in 2015 was so terrible, I felt that the Fantastic Four brand suffered.
Truly the best way to enjoy the stories of Fantastic Four is in the comic books with a long bridge connecting to its past. Through the decades no doubt. Like any other comic book series, Fantastic Four had its high points, low points as well the unusual or intriguing stuff.
Today we take a close look at Fantastic Four #375.
Released in 1993 by Marvel Comics at a prize of $2.95, Fantastic Four #375 came with a foil cover which shines under direct light. The gimmick cover, which was part of the trend of the 1990s, had that “Bling!” visual effect when the brightest light is used on it.
Written by Tom DeFalco and drawn by Paul Ryan, the comic book follows the Fantastic Four with Lyja and Sharon who find themselves suddenly transported into space inside a facility with Uatu, the Watcher. They learned from Uata that their mortal enemy Doctor Doom usurped the power of a renegade Watcher called Aron. Uatu expressed that Doom has grown into a greater threat.
The Fantastic Four and their companions split up in an attempt to find Doom before it is too late.
Storywise, the splitting of the protagonists allowed some notable character development moments to happen. I liked the scene wherein Sharon tries to comfort Ben (The Thing) whose solid face got damaged by Wolverine during a very recent encounter (told in Fantastic Four #374) which makes him vulnerable to excruciating pain when he gets hit on the soft spots. Johnny Storm meanwhile deals with the Skrull woman Lyja whom he has a conflict with. And then there is Reed Richards with wife Sue struggling with some issues as they work together.
Sue said to Richard: I can’t believe that you allowed the Watcher to buffalo you into fighting his battle especially since Johnny is still wanted by the police back on Earth!
When they finally confront Doom, there was this division between them.
Richard: Susan! We must protect the optimizer at all costs!
Sue: Then you guard it! If he’s hurt my brother, Doom is mine!
When it comes to quality, the story can be hard to grasp if you missed out on the previous issues. This was because the conflicts between the characters clearly started from some time back. Also it was interesting to see the Inhumans in the mix.
On spectacle, there is a lot of action to satisfy readers. As this was released in 1993, the 1990s superhero trends were unsurprisingly present such as those large futuristic guns and excess pouches/pockets. While they do make sense in the context of the story, the use of guns by key members of the Fantastic Four (which is reflective of the decade of the comic book’s release) can be alienating to any Fantastic Four fan who has gotten used to seeing the team NOT using such weapons.
Artist Paul Ryan, for the most part, delivered serviceable visuals and clearly tried his best to add impact on the action scenes.
Overall, Fantastic Four #375 delivers some temporary fun. Is it a very memorable Fantastic Four story? Absolutely not. Is it a must-read or a must-buy for new comic book collectors? Not really. In my opinion, the most engaging feature of the comic book is just its shiny cover. Once readers get past the cover and immerse themselves into the story, they won’t got much value in return other than temporary fun.
If you find Fantastic Four #375 at a bargain bin for less than $1, then it would be a good purchase. Don’t pay any higher than $1 for it.