Hey-o cinemaphiles. Most of the Doomers were asleep at the wheel (or in detox) and missed out on the latest comic book to film. Not I. With a trusty free pass (to another movie) in hand, I grinned and beared Fantastic Four 2, or FFRSS. My apologies for the double colon in the title above. And speaking of double colons, let me introduce this week’s special guest star:: Stan “The Man” Lee!
STAN LEE: I think I’ve had a very conservative life. Someone wants to do a movie of my life now and he’s writing a script, and I said to him, “What the hell could you do? I’ve never been arrested, I haven’t taken drugs, I’ve had the same wife for 54 years — where’s anything of interest to people?”
JCVD: Uhhh… Yeah, Stan. We’re here to talk about Fantastic Four numero dos, you know, the movie based on the comic book you created and wrote back in the day. Yeah, the one with the stretchy guy and the invisible lady and the rock creature. Okay, while you’re getting situated I’ll bring us up to speed. I haven’t seen the first Fantastic Four and I had pretty much nil expectations of this puppy. I was pretty surprised though that it was marginally decent, and definitely worth the $0 I spent. The story goes as such: Sue and Reed are trying to get hitched, but disasters keep coming up. On that note, here comes the mysterious Silver Surfer, who’s digging some mega holes in the ground and turning water to ice. So he’s like Jesus, except shiny and useless. They all fight, Dr. Doom shows up and does evil stuff, Galactus comes along, mega battle, roll credits. A pretty simple little popcorn flick, in my opinion. What’s your take?
LEE: Well, I had to wait for somebody to ask me. Tell me… I haven’t had any comments about it… What did you think? And be honest…
JCVD: Hey, Stan, don’t you remember the part where I just told you what I thought? It was all of five seconds ago. Seriously, did you like the movie?
LEE: Did you hear about my biography?
JCVD: (shakes head) Okay, I see this is getting me nowhere, so I’m going to ratchet things up with a pretty serious assessment. I liked FFRSS better than Spider-Man 3.
LEE: Wow. Maybe it’s because you’re a fan… How do you think the world will feel about it?
JCVD: Well, FFRSS made like $30 million less than Spidey 3 on the opening weekend, so I’d say the world disagrees with me. But I really think that…
LEE: You’re a glutton for punishment! Here you are, back again…
JCVD: Dude, don’t interrupt me! I know I’m supposed to have blind respect for you since you were alive before comic books existed, but that doesn’t mean you can be rude. So, if you’ll let me continue, I was saying that the big difference between FFRSS and Spidey 3 was the intent of the filmmakers. Both were big, dumb superhero flicks, but FFRSS was just supposed to be a big, dumb superhero flick. Spidey 3 had all these pretenses of high-mindedness, but it totally failed in achieving that level. I was able to enjoy FFRSS for what it was, while Spidey just left me wishing for what it could have been. And, even more, FFRSS relied much less on stupid coincidences for the plot to move along. Sure, there were unbelievable moments, but the plot wasn’t nonsensical.
LEE: So don’t you ever send anybody a check or something in appreciation? You just get half your vocabulary and accept it, you insensitive clod?!?!?
JCVD: What? Nonsensical? That’s not that big of a word. Besides, it’s not like you invented it. I mean, maybe if I said, “Me smash,” or used some ridiculously forced alliteration…
LEE: Simon & Schuster asked me to write an autobiography about a year ago, and I told them I didn’t have the time. I said, “I don’t have time.” We finally compromised, and they got a writer named George Mair — who had written Oprah Winfrey’s bio and some others. So we did it that way, and when I read what he had written, I realized I really wasn’t happy — even though he had done a good job. When you answer somebody’s questions, it’s not the same as if you yourself were writing it — it doesn’t have that flavor. So I rewrote just about everything he had quoted me as saying, so it’s almost an autobiography, actually. I call it a “Bioautography.” It goes on sale in a few days.
JCVD: Hey, here’s a thought. Maybe we talk about the freaking Fantastic Four for like five minutes, then you can shill your freaking bioautography, whatever the freak that means. So, let me tell you a few things I really liked about the movie. I liked the characterization, I liked the playful overtones, I liked the whole “over-the-top media spotlight,” and I really enjoyed the Silver Surfer. Casting Lawrence Fishburne for the voice was a perfect move, and the special effects and makeup made him just completely convincing. I didn’t ever feel distracted by the inherent silliness of a shiny dude on a surfboard, which is saying something.
LEE: I’m really so delighted to hear you say that.
JCVD: Oh, well I was actually kind of making fun of you for creating such a ridiculous character, but at least we’re on the same page now…
LEE: Actually, he’s a guy I knew when I was in the Army. After the war, he said to me, “Hey Stan… Come to the Philippines with me.”
JCVD: And nevermind. The Phillipines? … Okay, moving on, I also thought the movie’s crew did a good job on making Galactus into something much more frightening and believable than a big dude in purple with a bucket on his head. NO, that was not a compliment. Let me finish. I thought the movie was at its best every time the Surfer or Galactus had the stage. (And how sweet was it when Galactus’ shadow made the obvious outline of the comic book version’s helmet on Saturn?) My only gripe is that the final fight seemed a bit anti-climactic. But I’m actually really excited about the prospect of a Silver Surfer movie.
So, changing gears, was it fun doing your little cameo?
LEE: To me, acting is the easiest way to make money without working — if you can stand the boredom of waiting between scenes. So any chance I get to do a DVD or do a lecture — or even talking to you now… it’s better than writing… It’s like I’m acting, having a conversation with someone — and I’m hoping that I’m not making a fool of myself.
JCVD: Oh, you aren’t making a fool of yourself at all… I’m kind of amazed that Marvel now gives you more screen time in the movies than in the early ones. All I’m saying is, it’s kind of distracting. That aside, how do you spend the 362 days a year when you’re not on the set of an upcoming Marvel movie?
LEE: Well, she asked me if I could come up with some idea for a cartoon series, and we ended up with a series that’s going to be called Stripperella. Stripperella is a topless dancer, in a kind of place where they have topless dancers, by night — by evening later at night, she’s also a secret superheroine who goes out and punishes evildoers. I have a feeling that the superheroine part will be of great interest to people who like superhero comics and so forth — I have a feeling that the topless dancer part will be of great interest to anybody who happens to be of the male persuasion. She’s going to do the voiceover, and I think we’re going to do live-action wraparounds with her on each episode. I think it’s going to be the biggest thing since The Simpsons.
JCVD: Got a crystal ball there at the Lazy Cypress Convalescent Home?
LEE: That’s right… And you don’t know who it is…
JCVD: I’m actually a little disturbed by that. Let’s just change the topic for the thousandth time…
One thing I didn’t really like about the movie was the use of the Thing. All the characters had their moments except for him. He didn’t really have a chance to say anything except throwaway one-liners, which doesn’t really fit the comics portrayal of a really intelligent guy who always manages to provide a serious laugh or three.
LEE: I thought that his life would make a great movie by someone like Oliver Stone.
JCVD: Don’t we all… How about the scene where Jessica Alba is lying naked on the ground. Personally, I’m going to say it wasn’t revealing enough. Man, she’s smoking!
LEE: No, but I saw the rough cut, which was pretty close, and I loved it. I thought it was just great.
JCVD: Dude, you and me both! High five!
LEE: Yeah, it’s easier to do it that way so I won’t have to pay tax on it…
JCVD: I think we set a record there with like seven seconds of lucidity. Awesome. Anything you’d care to jabber about?
LEE: I guess that’s what he’s taking. I’m heartbroken, because I liked the guy. We had been friends for years, and, frankly, I still can’t even believe it. I keep thinking there’s maybe another explanation, but I’m afraid there isn’t.
I have no idea… if it’s true, I don’t know about it. He certainly didn’t call me and say, “I’m trying to keep you away.”
JCVD: Uhhh… is this about the guy in the Phillipines again? Then again, don’t answer that. So, I guess it’s about time we wrap this fun fest with a bow and ribbon and ship it off to the world wide web. Last thoughts? Any other Marvel movies you’re looking forward to using as a paycheck?
LEE: Believe it or not, every one of them. I mean, I can’t wait to see The Hulk… I can’t wait to see Daredevil… The Fantastic Four — it’ll be amazing to see how they do that… I think The Silver Surfer is in the works… The Sub-Mariner is… Iron Man… It’s like, every one of them!
JCVD: Stan, I hate to break it to you, but like half of those are already made. Well, thanks for stopping by. I know you’ve got some, uh, stuff to do, and I really need to get going. No, seriously. You can’t stay.
Many thanks to IGN for actually interviewing Stan Lee.