Friday 14 August 2015

The missed potential of Kate Mara's Sue Storm

If there's one thing above all others that annoyed me in Fant4stic then it's the treatment of Sue Storm. Beyond the unconvincing monkey, the unconvincing tree, the unconvincing characters and the unconvincing attempts to make me believe actual effort went into making this film, Sue Storm annoys me.

You see, I can't deny that Fox had a whole list of great ideas for her. They just didn't actually do anything with that list. Here is allthe things that Kate Mara's Sue is according to the film as shown:

She is a Kosovan orphan.
She speaks with a US accent but can summon her native accent at will.
She is Doctor Franklin Storm's adopted daughter.
She has a talent for spotting patterns.
She views music in terms that are both mathematical and poetic.
She uses her “pattern-spotting” talents as a form of psycho-analysis.
Both she and Johnny have history with Doom.
She is more academically accomplished and closer to her father than Johnny.
She obviously loves her brother.
Neither her adopted brother or father place any qualifier before calling her their “sister” or “daughter” in spite of their obviously different relationships with her.

This is what is done with these ideas:

Her Kosovan origins and accent are referenced once in a scene that only exists to justify Doctor and Johnny Storm being black now. Ditto, the fact she is adopted.

The pattern thing, oddly, is never used in conjunction with her being a scientist. Her job on the teleportation project is making the environment suits. Even though two scenes involve her operating complex computer programs, one of which involves her using her pattern-recognition skills, she is not one of the computer programmers on the project.

The poetic speech about patterns in music is only to reinforce the idea that the hot woman is cooler than Reed, the speccy socially awkward nerd. Oh, Fox, you and your hilarious stereotypes...

Doom's feelings for her are never actually addressed in her direct presence. He just tries to use the force of sheer machismo to scare Reed off in one scene. Her view on Doom? Never addressed, never even referenced, not even in the one moment where Doom sort of brings it up to her when he says he wanted her to be Eve to his Adam on the nightmare hellhole warpstone planet that gave them their powers.

Sue and Johnny relate to each other in only two ways: mutual low key affection or Johnny being outright hostile. There is little middle ground and nothing that bridges the two emotions. The attitude of the film makers honestly seems to be “They're siblings, okay?” with no other explanation needed. The obvious view of Sue being the “good child” Doctor Storm favours over the less-accomplished Johnny is brought up once (by Johnny to Doctor Storm, again cutting Sue out of an emotional storyline that should involve her) but never explored. No connection is made between the fact that both she and Johnny are builders of things on the project: she the environment suits and he the welding on the teleporter itself. Nor is it ever addressed that she and Johnny are the only two of the five empowered characters who “switch off” their powers using the properties of their costumes.

Beyond that, of course, is the fact that she's cut out of the expedition that gets them their powers, gaining her own as a side effect of the group's return from the alien/alternate world. Yes, a Fantastic Four movie in which one of the Fantastic Four is not present for the actual incident in which they get their powers. What's she off doing while the others are doing their ill-advised thing? Chasing after daddy! Good grief. And then the boys get drunk before deciding to take the teleporter for an unauthorised test fight and, obviously, Sue couldn't be present for that because she is a good little daddy's girl.

Let that be the legacy of this film, folks: Fox has managed the impossible feat of plunging head first into the Madonna/Whore Complex in a film with only one female character. 

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