If Fantastic Four is supposed the be the story of a superhero family, the 2015 adaptation makes them seem as unsupportive as you can be before civil action becomes your only option. Not only do they see no beauty or meaning in their heroic endowments, but they are so quick to give up their integrity after the accident that you think, as you never should, that these people don’t deserve their gifts.
The film blasts an affectionate symphony of action spy movie set pieces, which Bird composes with such a self-believing style that he reminds me less of a director than of a virtuoso performer. And even they become a back-drop to what is essentially a mid-life crisis film, about a man who misses himself so much that he doesn’t even notice he has a family. Bird offers a genre fattened on mythic pretension a trimming alternative of joyous energy and dazzling characters.
This is a film made with the intention of proving that black actors should not be typecast as thugs, yet part of its comedic scheme is the counter-marginalization that all white people are colonizers. Black Panther admirably opposes prejudice when it’s directed at certain groups, but I would have preferred it, especially if its goal was “elevation,” to oppose all prejudice equally.
Mangold and John Mathieson let framing do the talking in Logan, leaving out the poster-worthy photo shoots the Avengers love so much in favor of bone-crushing close frames. Prejudice has always been a theme of X-Men and Bryan Singer was praised for evoking it through speeches. Mangold doesn’t need words, crafting oppression from an expressionist’s harshly lit, intimate frame.
Batman is the man Bruce Wayne wishes he was, an empowerment trip mythologized into a performance. Batman is Bruce’s mania, his love, his coming-into-being. Batman Returns is as perfect at portraying him as live-action has been, though there were many angry mothers whose frightened children screamed to recall its atrocities.