Fan­tas­tic Four re­viewed on TV, big screen

The Republican Herald - This Weekend - - NEWS - BY PA­TRICK COOLEY AD­VANCE OHIO ME­DIA, CLEVE­LAND

CLEVE­LAND, Ohio— The Fan­tas­tic Four is one of Mar­vel’s most pop­u­lar su­perteams. The first is­sue of their long- run­ning comic book ti­tle rev­o­lu­tion­ized the su­per­hero genre by por­tray­ing heroes with flawed, hu­man qual­i­ties, ap­peal­ing to read­ers who saw a lit­tle bit of them­selves in the con­stantly bick­er­ing char­ac­ters who dis­played real world con­cerns when they weren’t bat­tling su­pervil­lains.

Their in­tro­duc­tion ush­ered in a new era of char­ac­ter­driven su­per­hero comics that in­cluded wildly suc­cess­ful ti­tles like “The Amaz­ing Spi­derMan” and “Un­canny X- Men,” which were noted for adult themes and com­pelling sto­ries. The comic book land­scape would be quite dif­fer­ent if Stan Lee and Jack Kirby hadn’t cre­ated the heroic quar­tet in the early 1960s.

But while their im­pact on comic books is with­out ques­tion, their ap­pear­ances on tele­vi­sion and the sil­ver screen have been un­der­whelm­ing at best. While movie stu­dios have fa­mously botched many a su­per­hero fran­chise, the re­peated fail­ures of “Fan­tas­tic Four” movies hit par­tic­u­larly hard, as they’re one of the most in­flu­en­tial su­per groups ever to grace the pages of a comic book.

Nev­er­the­less, an­other “Fan­tas­tic Four” re­boot is re­port­edly on the hori­zon, and ru­mor has it this one will be aimed at chil­dren.

The bar for the film is al­ready low, as the team’s pre­vi­ous movie ap­pear­ances range from merely pass­able to down­right un­watch­able. The four car­toon shows that have fea­tured the Fan­tas­tic Four are lit­tle bet­ter.

Con­sid­er­ing that the X- Men and Avengers su­per­hero teams have tran­si­tioned to the big screen to re­sound­ing ap­plause from fans, it’s sort of amys­tery why the Fan­tas­tic Four can’t seem to get it right.

Here’s a look at their past tele­vi­sion and­movie ap­pear­ances:

1967 TV se­ries

The first time the cos­mic pow­ered heroes graced the small screen it was in the for­mof a Han­naBar­bera pro­duced se­ries. And the re­sult­ing show— which lasted 20 episodes— was just as campy and, well, car­toon­ish as one imag­ines a Han­naBar­bera pro­duced “Fan­tas­tic Four” se­ries would be.

1978 TV se­ries

The sec­ond at­tempt to bring an an­i­mated ver­sion of the Fan­tas­tic Four to tele­vi­sion fared lit­tle bet­ter than the first. The writ­ers made the baf­fling de­ci­sion to re­place the Hu­man Torch with a ro­bot, but it was the gen­er­ally bad writ­ing and com­par­a­tively poor an­i­ma­tion that ul­ti­mately sank this show. It aired just 13 episodes.

1994 TV se­ries

“X- Men: The An­i­mated Se­ries” and “Bat­man: The An­i­mated Se­ries” struck a chord with comic book fans upon their re­spec­tive de­buts in 1992 by faith­fully adapt­ing the char­ac­ters to the small screen and boast­ing sto­ries and di­a­logue that were un­com­monly in­tel­li­gent and ma­ture for car­toon shows aimed at chil­dren. The suc­cess of those two shows helped launch a slew of car­toons based on comic books in the mid-’ 90s.

Un­for­tu­nately, al­most all were in­fe­rior to the shows that in­spired them. That in­cludes this se­ries, which pre­miered in 1994 and­met with a luke­warm­re­sponse from crit­ics, who said it was overly campy and lacked ex­cite­ment. It im­proved in the sec­ond sea­son with bet­ter writ­ing and smarter sto­ries taken di­rectly fromthe comics, but the up­grade couldn’t save it from a rat­ings slide that re­sulted in can­cel­la­tion.

1994 movie

Those of youwho re­mem­ber themid-’ 90smight be think­ing “wait, there­was a ‘ Fan­tas­tic Four’ movie in 1994?” Your con­fu­sion is un­der­stand­able be­cause it was never pub­licly re­leased ( al­though boot­leg copies made the rounds in the late’ 90s and you can watch it on Youtube today).

Movie posters pro­moted the adap­ta­tion and trail­ers ran in the­aters, but it was mys­te­ri­ously pulled from cin­e­mas be­fore its in­tended LaborDay re­lease. Spec­u­la­tion abounded that pro­ducer Bernd Eichinger, who at the time lacked the bud­get and spe­cial ef­fects to bring the­heroic four­some to the big screen, only green- lit the project so he could re­tain the­movie rights to the char­ac­ters. But the film’s qual­ity is an­other po­ten­tial cul­prit.

This big screen ver­sion is em­bar­rass­ingly bad, with ex­ces­sive lev­els of camp and over- the- top per­for­mances. The­movie had a shoe­string bud­get of $ 1 mil­lion, and as a re­sult it looks lit­tle bet­ter than an ex­tended episode of a 1970s TV show. The ef­fects are so bad that it some­times seems the spe­cial ef­fects team didn’t even try. But it’s gar­nered a strong cult fol­low­ing of fans who say that its en­dur­ing in­ep­ti­tude is part of its charm. You are, of course, free to watch the movie and de­cide for your­self.

2005 movie

This movie, star­ring Jes­sica Alba, Chris Evans, Ioan Gruf­fudd, Michael Chik­lis and Ju­lian McMa­hon, is by far the best movie based on the “Fan­tas­tic Four,” but that isn’t say­ing much. The mid- 2000s fi­nally saw the ad­vent of spe­cial ef­fects tech­niques ca­pa­ble of con­vinc­ingly re- cre­at­ing the pow­ers of the Hu­man Torch and Mr. Fan­tas­tic. Sadly for fans, the script was poorly writ­ten and the di­a­logue was hope­lessly lame. But it is, at the very least, fun, which is­more than you can say for any other movie on this list.

2006 TV se­ries

The 2005 “Fan­tas­tic Four” movie was rea­son­ably suc­cess­ful in the­aters, which is prob­a­bly why Car­toon Net­work pro­duced this an­i­mated se­ries in 2006. Like­many su­per­hero car­toon shows of its era, it lacked the ma­tu­rity and faith­ful­ness to the source ma­te­rial that made the “X- Men” and “Bat­man” shows of the early ’ 90s so mem­o­rable. While it fea­tured a sleek and mod­ern an­i­ma­tion style, the flashy vi­su­als couldn’t over­come the bad writ­ing, and the show only lasted one sea­son.

2007 “Rise of the Sil­ver Surfer” movie

The se­quel to the 2005 movie— ti­tled “Fan­tas­tic four: Rise of the Sil­ver Surfer”— suf­fered fromthe­same flaws that plagued its pre­de­ces­sor. It re­counts the com­ing of the god­like vil­lain Galac­tus, one of the most leg­endaryFan­tas­ticFour sto­ries ev­er­writ­ten.

The tale also in­tro­duced Galac­tus’ cos­mic - pow­ered herald, the Sil­ver Surfer, an­other pop­u­lar character. While the­movie adap­ta­tion was just as poorly writ­ten as the last “Fan­tas­ticFour” movie, the writ­ers al­so­made the in­ex­pli­ca­blemis­take of over­haul­ing the pri­mary

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