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Fantastic Four (2005)

Prepare for the fantastic

Critics universaly hated this movie, often a good sign. It isn't relentlessly dark and brooding like the Batman movies, it doesn't have a script to keep a Mensa member entertained, and none of the actors are big movie stars

Based on the Marvel comic book written by Stan Lee in 1961 (currently up to issue #529 and still going), this version has both the success of Spider-Man and the failure of Hulk to thank.
"We learned from Hulk not to make Thing fifteen-feet tall," said the president & CEO of Marvel Studios. Michael Chiklis of "The Shield" tv-series is astronaut Ben Grimm, who changes into rock-like Thing due to a cosmic ray storm. But his makeup/suit was kept to a minimum and built around his own facial features like the ape makeup in Planet Of The Apes. Like the original comic book story, four people are in a space ship when a cosmic storm hits. Unlike the original, in this version industrialist financier Victor Von Doom is on a private space station they're all visiting when it hits, turning his body into metal. He decides to use his new power to rule the world; they use theirs' to stop him.

Reed Richards is played by Ioan Gruffudd of A&E's Horatio Hornblower movies (the original Horatio Hornblower novels were Gene Roddenberry's inspiration for Captain Kirk in Star Trek). After the cosmic storm, he can contort his body like rubber, and stretch an arm to hit someone across the room as Mr. Fantastic. Jessica Alba of Dark Angel is Susan Storm, who can become invisible at will (no relation to "Storm" of The X-Men, another Stan Lee creation), but not her clothes - which she has to remove while invisible like Hollow Man); and she can project force-fields. Her son Johnny Storm (Chris Evans of Not Another Teen Movie) becomes The Human Torch and can fly.

Ben Grimm is an unrelated friend of Reed Richards and in this movie version both Dr. Doom and Reed Richards were old boyfriends/rivals for Susan. Reed wants to use the cosmic storm in his DNA research to benefit mankind. Doom agrees to finance the experiments in return for 75% of the profits. After they all start mutating and return to Earth, they rescue some New York firefighters and the media dubs them "The Fantastic 4." The script was co-written by Mark Frost of Twin Peaks and the rating is PG-13 for cartoon-type violence because when Thing / Ben Grimm says "It's clobberin' time!" he means it. Cameo by Stan Lee.

Boring sequel "Fantastic Four 2" will be filmed in British Columbia in Aug-December 2006, just after "Wrong Turn 2" finished filming June 30, 2006.

There was a 1994-95 cartoon series with guest voices including Kathy Ireland & Mark Hamill, 26 episodes available on a DVD set (see link below). The version baby-boomers remember is Hanna-Barbera's 1967-70 ABC cartoon series that continued running for years in reruns. In 1978 NBC came out with a lame politically-correct series with cute robot HERBIE added (think Scrappy-Doo), replacing the Human Torch. Turner's Cartoon Network has the 1994-95 version.

The Fantastic Four (1994/unreleased)

Roger Corman made this version in 1994 on a budget of $1,200,000 for German producer Bernd Eichinger, who bought the rights in 1990 but hadn't found a studio willing to take a chance on comic book characters. "It would be great if our movie could be released on DVD before or after the new movie opens," said Corman. Even after the movie was finished, FOX decided that it wasn't promotable and put it on a shelf in their film vault, which still bothers Corman and the film's four stars - Jay Underwood, Rebecca Staab, Alex Hyde-White and Michael Bailey Smith. Corman had a reunion of the four actors at an informal press conference in his office to get word out about the film's existance and plead for FOX to release it in some form - even direct-to-DVD or video (bad illegal copies can be found on Ebay).

An urban legend around Hollywood claims that the movie was cranked out by Corman and director Olay Sassone (Bloodfist 3, Future Shock, Relentless 4) to satisfy a contract with no intention to release it, but everyone involved says this is a lie. And as you can see, they even had an ad campaign ready. Hyde-White has a full-page ad from The Hollywood Reporter for the movie. "This movie was good enough to release in a kitschy, Rocky Horror Picture kind of way," he says. Smith played Ben Grimm but not the Thing. "They had to make the suit before I was hired. So it was Carl Ciarfalio, a stunt man, who ended up in the costume." Hyde-White has remained a fan of the unreleased film, with a carload of props and other Fantastic Four items. His more recent credits include "Catch Me If You Can", "Gods & Generals", and A&E's "See Arnold Run." Smith is a semi-regular on the TV-series Charmed but you may not know it - appearing in makeup as various aliens, demons and other assorted creatures. Underwood has since left acting and joined the seminary.

There was also a Fantastic Four radio series (1970) starring voice actors Stan Lee (who also created the comic book) and Bill Murray (Ghostbusters) as the Human Torch

The Fantastic Four are available from

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