Trying to recapture my youth I saw three films yesterday. I planned to pay to see Fantastic Four (2015) and then sneak in to Mr Holmes which, if I timed things out correctly, would start 15 minutes after FF got out. Amazingly after Mr. Holmes finished M.I.5, which I saw last week, was just starting up (maybe I missed the first trailer) and I snuck in to that as well. I saw a lot of trailers and while the film looks good, I’m pretty sure I never want to see that Steve Jobs trailer ever again.
Fantastic Four (2015)
So the FF are one of my favorite superhero teams. I didn’t think the previous iterations (with Jessica Alba and Chris Evans) were horrible but they weren’t great either. This newest version is hovering around 10% on Rotten Tomatoes. Now much like the Lego Movie, which I didn’t think was worth 99%, the reason it achieved that high rating was while it wasn’t the best film ever it really didn’t do anything wrong for people to give it a bad review. Fantastic Four isn’t completely terrible but did so little right it’s hard to give it a good review. The movie feels very incomplete.
Fantastic Four starts with a young Reed and Ben (and my favorite cameo Dan Castellana (Homer Simpson!) as their teacher) working on matter transportation and ending up as highschoolers still doing the same thing. Or so they think. What Reed (Miles Teller) and Ben (Jamie Bell) have actually been doing is dimensional transport. Dr. Franklin Storm (Reg E. Cathey) has been doing the same thing and he sees Reed’s research as a breakthrough. He gives Reed a scholarship to the Baxter Institute where he works with previous boy genius, Victor Von Doom (Toby Kebbell) who had departed the program due to philosophical issues and Franklin’s children, Sue (Kate Mara) and Johnny Storm (Michael B. Jordan.) Reed’s time at Baxter is done mostly in montage form.
The group successfully breaches the dimensional barrier but the corporation backing the Baxter Institute decides to get the government involved. Instead of letting others take the glory of being first, Victor, Reed, Johnny and for some reason, Ben (there’s a reason, it’s just ridiculous) preemptively take the trip. That other dimensional planet has energy literally coursing through the ground. Things go wrong and Victor gets left behind. Sue is the only technician present on the group’s return and she gets hit with the same energy which is how the FF get their powers.
Here’s where the film falls apart. The rest feels very rushed. The first 60 (of 100 total) minutes is spent on getting powers and the rest gets compressed into 40 minutes. This involves Reed escaping the military base and spending a year on the run, Ben being sent on military missions, Johnny and Sue learning to control their powers, capturing Reed, fixing the dimensional ship and retrieving Doom, the big, climactic battle and then the epilogue where they get a base and name themselves. (Cutman!) This is one of those times where the film needed to be either much longer or just stop somewhere around where they got their powers because the current version is just unsatisfying.
Mr. Holmes is about an aged Sherlock Holmes (Ian McKellan) who is on his last legs and losing his memory. He has retired to the seaside but cannot remember the details of the case which drove him to retire those many years ago. He only knows it was his greatest failure. He is trying to do his best to restore his failing memory resorting to consuming Royal Jelly from the bees he’s raised and is becoming desperate and attempting more radical treatments.
As the movie starts Holmes has just returned from Japan where he has retrieved a concoction derived from the Prickly Ash tree as well as a sapling. He is met by his housekeeper (Laura Linney) and her son, Roger (Milo Parker doing his best young Thomas Sangster impersonation.) Roger is a big Sherlock Holmes fan and Holmes deduces the boy broke into his study to read the only story penned by Holmes himself — though the story is incomplete. Roger’s curiosity inspires Holmes to try and recall the tale. He sees the story’s completion tied to his failing memory. If he can conquer one, perhaps he can conquer the other.
There are three time periods presented. A flashback to just after the WWI where this mystery started. Current times (which occur shortly after WWII) and just prior (a month, two? still post WWII) when he visited Japan. In Japan he is hosted by Mr. Umezake (Hiroyuki Sanada) who is a Holmes fan and expert on the Prickly Ash. Or so we are led to believe. His father, an Ambassdor in England, abandoned his wife and son citing the advice of Mr. Sherlock Holmes. Umezake wants closure and only Holmes can provide it. In the past the mystery concerns a grieving woman who cannot bear children which sends her into deep depression. Her husband is trying to keep his secretive wife from being swindled and hires the detective. Roger, whose father died in WWII, sees Holmes as a father figure. Holmes takes an interest in the precocious lad teaching him about the bees he raises.
At the center of all these issues is an emotional response but Holmes only has his logic which has served him so well. The course of this movie was unexpected in that it sought to show emotional growth in Sherlock Holmes. The story isn’t perfect but the acting, particularly by McKellan and Linney, is just wonderful.
It should be noted I was the youngest of the 20+ people in the theater. I am 47 but often pass for early to mid 30s but if there was anyone like me they had to be in their 90s!
Mission Impossible-Rogue Nation
I’ve just amended my previous review — nothing really new. It was surprising to see Jingchu Zhang get opening credits billing for a very small roll but then recalled the film has Alibaba and China Films as investors.