Jim Strouse (People, Places, Things) Talks Josh Trank’s Fantastic Four

What do an indie director and his eight- and 11-year-old kids think of the latest (and famously troubled) Marvel movie?

The following is a conversation I had with my 11-year-old daughter, Magnolia, and eight-year-old son, Grover, after seeing Fantastic Four on Friday. Like the rest of the movie-going public, we did not like it.

Jim: OK, so we just got back from Fantastic Four.

Magnolia: It was so bad. Sorry to the people that made it, but it was just so bad.

Jim: Why do you say, “Sorry to the people that made it”?

Magnolia: I don’t know. It was just so bad.

Jim: Do you think they were trying to make a bad movie? What do you think happened?

Grover: They just made a bad movie. I don’t think it was intentional.

Jim: Why do you say that?

Grover: Because no one tries to make a bad movie.

Jim: Maybe not. But there are plenty of filmmakers out there that have made bad movies that they thought were good.

Magnolia: I don’t think anyone thinks Fantastic Four is good.

Jim: You’re probably right. The reviews have been damning across the board. And I read that the director even sort of publicly disowned the film on Twitter. But what makes it bad?

Grover: I just thought the whole thing was kind of dumb.

Jim: The whole thing? Can you be a little more specific? It’s important to know why you don’t like something, especially if you’re critiquing it for an audience.

Grover: [embarrassed silence]

Magnolia: It was kind of like hell for an hour and a half.

Grover: Two hours.

Jim: Well, hell is feeling consistent agony, the worst agony imaginable for all eternity, according to my mother. Are you sure it was really like that?

Magnolia: It was awful. It was an hour and half of my life wasted on a crappy movie.

Grover: Two hours.

Jim: Well, to be fair, Magnolia, you asked to leave midway through the movie but I said we should finish watching it to have this conversation.

Fantastic_Four_Jim&Kids
Magnolia: Did you like it?

Jim: I’ll be honest, I knew going into this movie that it was a troubled production. I read that the director and studio were at odds. And I glanced at reviews and noticed they were all pretty negative. So I came in with very low expectations, and they were still not met. It was very, very dull. The science and ideas presented in the story were all preposterous and yet they were presented in such a solemn manner. It lacked a sense of humor. The whole thing was just sort of a joyless experience. But I find most superhero movies to be a little depressing.

Grover: Are you crazy?! What’s depressing about superhero movies?

Jim: The fact that Marvel is rebooting Spider-Man three years after an already needless reboot of Sam Raimi’s original tells me that studios don’t really care about presenting an audience with a daring and original story. It’s just so much safer to reboot something that’s already proven to sell tickets. And that is depressing.

Magnolia: I think poverty is depressing. This is just a stupid superhero movie we’re talking about.

Jim: Good point. Back to Fantastic Four. What did you guys like about it? Anything?

Magnolia: I liked the girl.

Jim: Kate Mara. What did you like about her? Just that she was a girl in a story full of boys?

Magnolia: I don’t know. She was the best actress.

Jim: You didn’t like the other actors?

Magnolia: No, I liked the fire person too.

Jim: Michael B. Jordan. Why did you like him?

Magnolia: He had fire coming out his butt.

[Grover laughs.]

Jim: It was coming out from all over his body, not just his butt.

Magnolia: Oh. If you think about it, it’s coming from some really weird places.

Grover: Oh! His penis!

[Both kids laugh.]

Jim: OK. Moving on. If you had a friend that wanted to see Fantastic Four, what would you tell him or her?

Magnolia: Beware.

Grover: I’d say bring a book.

Jim: Magnolia, you don’t like superhero movies.

Magnolia: I hate them.

Jim: Grover, you like them.

Grover: I’m the number one Marvel fan.

Jim: Yeah. You’re an easy audience.

Grover: So it’s crazy I don’t like Fantastic Four.

Jim: Magnolia, why don’t you like them?

Magnolia: Because they are so stupid and they are all the same. Someone wants to destroy the world. The hero stops him, but the bad guys always escape so they can come back in the sequel.

Jim: Imagine the head honcho at Marvel was in our kitchen right now. What would you want to tell that person?

Magnolia: I would probably say make better movies. They’re all too predictable.

Jim: And what about girls? Do you think there are enough girls in these movies?

Magnolia: All the girls are just asking to be saved. They don’t have any power.

Grover: I would tell them not to make any superhero movies rated R.

Jim: You’re saying this because they played a Deadpool trailer before Fantastic Four.

Grover: It looks so awesome.

Jim: You’re not seeing that movie, Grover.

Grover: It’s a superhero movie. Why would you make a superhero movie that kids can’t see? All kids want to see superhero movies.

Magnolia: No, they don’t.

Jim: Do you think Fantastic Four was appropriate for you guys to watch?

Magnolia: I don’t know. You’re the parent.

Jim: I think there was too much violence. There was a lot of death in it. It made me unhappy. I wished we’d gone to Shaun the Sheep or just watched Singin’ in the Rain at home.

Jim Strouse is from Goshen, Indiana. Howard Hawks was also from Goshen, Indiana. Jim Strouse does not think he’s as good as Howard Hawks nor ever will be. He just thought it was an interesting coincidence. He sometimes draws superheroes on the toilet, and his new film, People, Places, Things, comes out August 14.