Fantastic Four reviewed on TV, big screen
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.
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.
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