Before Pixar was founded, before The Incredibles was a glimmer in Brad Bird’s eyes, before Disney purchased Marvel, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby introduced the world to the Fantastic Four. Debuting in 1961, Marvel comics brought us the first family of Superheroes. After an accident in space during an experiment, four astronauts underwent physical transformations that made them truly super. Dr. Reed Richards or Mr. Fantastic developed the ability to stretch and contort his body into multiple shapes, like Mrs. Incredible. Susan Storm or Invisible Girl developed the ability to become invisible and project force fields, like Violet. Richards’ best friend Ben Grimm’s body transformed into rock and became super strong taking the name The Thing, strength being shared with Mr. Incredible. And Johnny Storm or the Human Torch could turn himself into fire and fly, kind of like an anti-Frozone. Yes, there are a ton of similarities between the superhero families. Luckily now that Pixar and Marvel are all part of the same family there is no fear of any legal entanglements!
In 2005, Marvel and 20th Century Fox brought the Fantastic Four to the big screen, in the movie Fantastic Four, providing both the origin of the team and showcasing their struggle against Doctor Doom. I was really hopeful for this film. The cast had my attention. I had become a fan of Ioan Gruffudd in the Hortio Hornblower movies, movies that led me to read the entire book series. And I had really enjoyed Julian McMahon (Doctor Doom) on Charmed, yeah I had watched Charmed! And it was a superhero movie during a time when I pretty much went to any superhero movie. And The Incredibles had just come out the year before making me open to the original family. These things helped me overcome my lack of love for the Fantastic Four, Reed Richards has always been a character I was meh about. Financially it fared well at the box office which led to the green light of a sequel.
But for most fans the Fantastic Four was a miss. I think there are a number of reasons for this result. First, the Fantastic Four just did not have the fan base of other teams like the X-Men. And though people came out to see the movie the performances were at times underwhelming. There is a least one character (who’s indemnity I will protect) to me who seems to be sleep walking through the story.
Yet, despite the fact that Marvel and Disney were not linked yet, there are still plenty of ties that make this a Mousey Movie:
· Cap: Johnny Storm is pretty much a jerk and Ben Grimm is often a target of his pranks. At one point he walks into a locker room and startles Grimm into attention by yelling, “Captain on the Deck.” The irony of this line is that Johnny Storm is played by Chris Evans who would later play another Marvel superhero as the lead in Captain America: The First Avenger. My guess, and I really mean certainty, is that with Evans ruling the box office in his Captain America projects and The Avengers that the future of this cast in any future Fantastic Four projects is non-existent.
· EXTREME: Johnny along with being a jerk, also enjoys action sports. He skies areas that have clearly not been cleared for tourists. After Johnny’s powers manifest he decides to go out and blow off some steam. Just like any other guy he grabs a motocross bike and performs some jumps at the X Games sponsored by Disney’s ESPN.
· Ordinary Hero: Actor Michael Chiklis has had a long relationship with Disney’s ABC. His breakout roll was as the lead in ABC’s 1991 The Commish. The Commish ended it’s run in 1996 the same year Disney purchased Capital Cities/ABC. The show starring Chiklis allowed him to show his range delivering both comedy and drama. He would later reach greater acclaim leading another police drama The Shield, for FX. In 2010 having played Ben Grimm in two Fantastic Four movies, Chiklis returned to ABC and the concept of a superhero family in No Ordinary Family. Chiklis instead of portraying the Frozone character as the buddy took his turn as the Mr. Incredible head of the family, matching super strength. Sadly, the show failed to find an audience and was cancelled during its first season. I say sadly, but I have to admit that the show failed to catch on in the Between Household.
· Lieutenant: As noted early it was Gruffudd’s work in the Hortio Hornblower franchise that made me think I might really enjoy Fantastic Four. He brought Hornblower alive from me playing the young British Royal Navy officer both smart and likeable. Much of Gruffudd’s work, like Hornblower, is British film and television work with him not catching on in the United States as much as I would like. He does have some Disney connections. First, he is Harold Godfrey Lowe, the Fifth Officer, in James Cameron’s blockbuster Titanic, an officer lucky enough to survive and pull Rose out of the water. Okay, the ties between Gruffudd and Avatarland are pretty tenuous. His true Disney connection is 102 Dalmatians, where he plays Kevin Shepherd, the owner of an animal shelter setup by Cruella de Vil, played by Glenn Close, for the theft of Dalmatian puppies in another attempt to make a spotted coat. Honestly, as much as I enjoy Gruffudd, I cannot remember if I have ever seen this movie!
· The Architect: I have said it several times about the DC movie franchises, they need a Kevin Fiege. As the President of Production for Marvel Studios he oversees the film projects and with the Avengers Initiative ensures the films weave a cohesive story. As Christopher Nolan ends his stint on Batman and a new Superman movie releases summer 2013 some fans ask if the DC universe will mesh together in the same way the Marvel Cinematic Universe does, due to Fiege. The answer for DC could easily be no as they consider rebooting Batman. Though not part of the Avengers Initiative, Fiege executive produces this offering.
With everything going for it, and against it, the Between Family enjoyed Fantastic Four, despite compared to The Avengers it is fairly bland and nowhere as funny. The Between Wife is not a comic book fan, yet she has been known to ask to watch Fantastic Four on family movie nights. So those saying they did not see Fantastic Four in the theater are likely lying. In the end, who can resist a movie that has a Stan Lee cameo and mirrors in live action The Incredibles, even if the cast at times appears to be phoning it in. If you enjoy this Mousey Movie, please feel no shame in consuming this mindless flick!