The Merits & Flaws Of Past Fantastic Four Films

ff cast 2

The Fantastic Four, Marvel Comics’ first superhero team, always had a hard time with its live-action adaptations. The new reboot isn’t an exception. Filmmakers can’t seem to be able to properly translate what worked for this team in the pages of comic books into movies. Still, putting aside what went wrong with the three previous movies, they did get many parts right. It’s just that they missed the mark, sometimes by a mile.

The Fantastic Four (1995)

Bernd Eichinger and his Neue Constantin studio bought the film rights to the Fantastic Four back in the ’80s, but couldn’t raise the funds for the movie. By the next decade in order to prevent losing the rights the studio with Roger Corman’s help produced The Fantastic Four a quick, cheap adaptation.

old ff castOh boy, this movie was a mess, it’s on the level of those Godawful monstrosities made by The Asylum. The acting was hysterically bad, particularly Joseph Culp as Doctor Doom. Talk about hamming up the scenes! Then there were the zero-grade special effects. It’s hard to believe that a million dollars was spent on this fiasco when you see that they used animatics during the one scene that the Human Torch (Jay Underwood) used his full powers. Want a guaranteed laugh? Check out the film’s final scene when Mr. Fantastic (Alex Hyde-White) waves goodbye with an obvious fake arm from the sunroof of his wedding limo!

Yet, as terrible as the film was, it had a certain charm. The production nailed down the team’s look right down to the costumes, even The Thing (Michael Bailey Smith) was impressive. This is amazing considering how far off the mark more professional productions were with their versions of The Thing and Dr. Doom. Never mind the acting, at least they looked like their comic book counterparts!

bad ff

Despite their inexperience, you could tell that the actors and production team were trying their best. They honestly believed this was going to be a big deal, but tragically for them it wasn’t. The cast and crew didn’t know that the film was never intended to be released and it wasn’t. Nor did they expect the film to get its infamous reputation as bootleg copies of the film circulated. Still, while it’s a terrible movie, it warrants a viewing for either fans who want to see a more faithful adaptation or drunks needing a good laugh.

Fantastic Four (2005)

When the superhero movie boom started early last decade, it wasn’t long before the FF got their shot at the limelight. 20th Century Fox released Fantastic Four in 2005, which turned out to be a modest hit, but received mixed reactions.

ff cast

Even though Fantastic Four was a more polished and professional film with a $100 million budget (compared to the reboot’s $122 million) it seemed routine and bland at times. doomWhat was worse was that Fantastic Four was hobbled with a poor villain, a vital component of any superhero film. Dr. Doom (Julian McMahon) was completely wrong from the casting to his backstory. In this version, he was your typical evil CEO who was part metallic and had electric-based powers. Those kind of changes wouldn’t have bothered people so much if the actor was a good fit. But, McMahon just didn’t have the gravitas that Doom requires because he’s a larger-than-life villain.

Ben Grimm/The Thing (Michael Chiklis) was also altered, but with different results. His look didn’t match the comic books’ version because he was human sized and lacked that famous protruding brow line. Also, his story was altered in that he was married, but his wife (briefly played by Laurie Holden of The Walking Dead) left him after she saw how he was disfigured by the accident that gave him his powers. But these changes weren’t too jarring and more importantly, Chiklis and the production captured Ben Grimm’s essence. Like in the comics he was downtrodden and full of self pity. He quarreled with his teammates, especially Johnny Storm (Chris Evans), who loved pulling pranks on him.

real torch

The other highlight was Johnny himself. Evans channeled the nature of this young superhero brilliantly. He reveled in his powers, he was brash, brave and loved life, which is why he was a good foil for the moody Thing. Evans was so convincing as the happy-go-lucky Human Torch that when he was announced to play Captain America, some people doubted he could portray the more mature and grounded hero. He proved them wrong. Continue reading

Advertisements

The First Dozen Marvel (MCU) Films Ranked

With the release of Ant-Man, Phase Two of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) films has concluded. Before Phase Three begins with Captain America: Civil War, now would be a good time to rank the twelve MCU films released so far.

1. The Avengers (2012) – As the culmination of years of careful seeding by previous MCU films The Avengers was a bold, energetic triumph. Director Joss Whedon accomplished the impossible by bringing together completely different characters and molding them into a superhero team just like in the comic books.

??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

As the most successful superhero film of all time, The Avengers excited numerous viewers and changed the landscape of superhero films. Before this film, the usual superhero films operated in their own realities without any indication of a rich universe as seen in comic books. But The Avengers embraced the richness of its comic book lore and it paid off. Now, shared cinematic universes are the rage. However, The Avengers is the best of the MCU films because it was so energetic, witty, and snappy, and had the novelty of our favorite heroes meeting for the first time. It all led to one of the most exciting finales presented on film that still reverberates with viewers.

2. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) – Marvel Studios showed they were willing to take a chance with this quirky and exciting space adventure yarn. Who would’ve imagined that a sci-fi movie about a bumbling space pirate, violent green aliens, a foul-mouthed raccoon and a walking tree would strike a chord with audiences?

gotg

Technically, Guardians of the Galaxy isn’t a superhero film, but this demonstrates how this MCU entry is quite different from its standard superhero repertoire. What made it special wasn’t just the premise, beautiful visuals or production design, but a toe-tapping soundtrack that ingeniously used ’70s pop songs. It was a unique signature for this space opera tale about a group of space losers who banded together to save the galaxy. Chris Pratt became a star thanks to his silly, but good-hearted role as Star-Lord, the self-proclaimed legendary outlaw.

3. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014) – The best MCU solo superhero film and one of the greatest superhero films ever made. More importantly, this was arguably the most volatile entry in the MCU because by the time the film ended, the cinematic universe was forever changed by the film’s events.

?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

Chris Evans as Captain America/Steve Rogers has demonstrated how he has grown in stature in these films. As a man out of time, Steve Rogers faced his greatest threats from a former friend (one of the deadliest and most frightening supervillains on film) and a shocking global conspiracy that rocked the MCU to its roots. Adding to the film’s specialness were a tightly written script, well-executed and riveting fight scenes and terrific performances from the cast.

4. Ant-Man (2015) – The final Phase Two film is known for its numerous behind-the-scenes hurdles where the original director quit after having developed the film for years. Yet, in spite of that and the titular character’s obscurity, Ant-Man was an unexpectedly great superhero film that’s full of panache.

antman in your face

As one of the more humorous MCU films, Ant-Man quickly won over viewers with its outlandish premise: a man who can shrink and communicate with ants. Wrapped around that was a swift-paced heist story that deftly integrated itself into the larger MCU in a natural way that eluded other films that attempted this. Adding to the film’s enjoyment were many winning performances, fantastic special effects and unlike other MCU films, Ant-Man was able to deliver an astonishing final act that helped pave the future for the MCU.

5. Thor (2011) – What sets Marvel Studios apart with their MCU films is its willingness to remain faithful to the comic book source material. At the same time, Marvel Studios has the ability to make organic changes and updates to its characters and situations. Thor is a perfect example. The film wisely eschewed its magic-based comic book roots that Thor and his ilk were actual gods and cleverly used science fiction tropes instead.

THOR

Thor followed the winning formula of MCU films by having an egotistical, flawed character learn some humility and become a hero. Thanks to director Kenneth Branagh, Thor also had a sense of grandeur that evoked a Shakespearean family drama. In this case, that involved otherworldly aliens mistaken for gods. It was also noted for its humorous fish-out-of-water scenario and Tom Hiddleston’s star-making performance as Loki, the MCU’s best villain.

6. Iron Man (2008) – The one that started the MCU phenomenon still holds up as a well-made origin story. Robert Downey, Jr. shined as he made a personal and professional comeback in the role of a lifetime. His trend-setting Tony Stark/Iron Man was a self-centered narcissist who learned to become something more.

iron man flying

The first part of Iron Man was engrossing, particularly during the moments when Tony Stark first faced his mortality and was forced to construct a crude armored suit. However, the film faltered a bit in the second half. The pace dragged as we waited for him to construct a proper Iron Man suit. Things weren’t helped by the final battle that looked like something out of the Transformers and was just as cartoony. But Iron Man’s successful formula set the tone for the rest of the MCU. Continue reading

Captain America: The First Avenger Celebrates Marvel’s Premier Hero

Captain America: The First Avenger at its very best makes audiences emotionally invested in the core character of Steve Rogers a.k.a. Captain America. That’s largely in part to Director Joe Johnston, who shows a clear love and respect for the character and the Marvel-ous world of Cap and the casting of Chris Evans as the title character.

Not since Christopher Reeve was picked as Superman or Robert Downey, Jr. took on the reins of Iron Man or Chris Hemsworth picked up Thor’s hammer has a casting decision been so perfect. There were some doubts among fans as to the casting of Chris Evans for Steve Rogers , but he pulls it off in a big way. Forget about Ryan Reynolds as Hal Jordan/Green Lantern. Reynolds had the look but no personality. Evans, however, makes you care about his character, he just nails it and that is the biggest and most pleasant surprise about the film.

Regarding Johnston, Marvel Studios was very wise in giving him the director’s chair and his track record bears him out. Johnston provides plenty of action but heart as well. From what I’ve read, he took on the assignment under the condition that the film be set in World War II, which is faithful to the original stories. And also that he be given reign in casting, setting the look and other aspects. The f/x were top notch and successfully blends CGI with practical effects, you could tell a lot of care was placed in getting the film just right. Johnston creates a larger-than-life world of fantastic and bizarre Nazi super weapons, film montages that are reminiscent of Raiders of the Lost Ark that harkens back to that era and a rousing score by Alan Silvestri.

For those not familiar with the character, Captain America (created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby) was originally a World War II-era 4F reject from Brooklyn who desperately wanted to serve his country. Volunteering for an experimental U.S. Army program, Rogers is physically transformed into the ideal super soldier, becoming a bulked up, athletic fighter who dons the patriotic duds of his country in war. At first he is used by the army as a celebrity in USO shows in Europe because he is considered too valuable to risk in combat. Then his true calling comes when he meets his arch nemesis the Red Skull (Hugo Weaving), a disfigured uber Nazi who establishes his own evil organization called Hydra in order to conquer the world. Teaming up with Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) and Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell), Captain America sets out to find the Skull’s bases and defeat the Skull. Not to worry you don’t have to be a die-hard fan to enjoy and understand this movie.

As for Marvel fans, well they should take notice, to me this is the most Marvel Universe-centric film to date. It’s the fourth stake of movie tent pole that sets up audiences for next summer’s film The Avengers–arguably the most ambitious and grandest superhero film. You will get plenty of Easter eggs such as references to the original Human Torch, SHIELD, Iron Man and others (and as you’ve heard it’s vital to stick around after the credits to not just see Cap’s final fate but to get a teaser for next year’s Avengers movie). More importantly, this film combines four distinct aspects of the main character. We get the original 1940s version created by Simon and Kirby, complete with the triangular shield; then there’s the kinetic and iconic version done by Stan Lee (who has a very sweet cameo) and Kirby from the 1960s; then there are aspects of the brutal and gritty Ultimates Captain America imagined by Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch, and finally the recent version done by Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting. It was a tricky task but the filmmakers were able to reinvent Cap by picking the best parts of those four different interpretations. Some liberties were taken with altering Cap and his supporting cast but they were for the best. Examples of that include tying the Red Skull’s origin more closely to Cap’s and making his sidekick Bucky older and grittier, which is more in tuned with the current version of that character.

IMO, a superhero film like Captain America: The First Avenger only comes along about every 40 years and is easily on my top three list of superhero films. It’s the most profound and emotional portrait of a Marvel hero that I’ve seen. The enthusiastic audience reaction in the theater where I saw it is a testament to the joy and thrills anyone will get from watching this film. Needless to say it’s the best of the four superhero flicks released this summer.

GEO