What do you call a franchise that is hated for no legitimate reason, and everybody wants Disney and Marvel to take back? Marvel’s First Family, otherwise known as the Fantastic Four (or Fant-Four-Stic *sideways-glances Fox*), were the iconic superhero team written, illustrated and published by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in November 1961. What made them so iconic, aside from their incredible powers given to them through a cloud of cosmic radiation, was the prominent family dynamic. It was this family dynamic that comic readers had not seen in a superhero team before, which would make the Fantastic Four one of the most popular Marvel teams of all time.
Meet the Family. For those of you who may not know, this rather unique family consists of three males and one female. Reed Richards, is a scientific prodigy and extremely intelligent, with the powers of elasticity across his whole body. Ben Grimm, is the hard-head with a big heart and the best friend of Reed, whose entire body was transformed into rock and gave him indestructibility and super-strength. Johnny Storm, your almost classic representation of a playboy and daredevil racer, can transform himself into a human on fire (hence the alias of the Human Torch) and launch fire-based attacks at his enemies. Last but certainly not least, Susan Storm, is either represented as the lover of Reed as well as the elder sister of Johnny, the mother figure of the Four or – as I’m sure most of us prefer – her own independent character with a ‘no-nonsense’ attitude. She has the power of invisibility, and can create visible or invisible force fields.
The origins of the Fantastic Four have always had a habit of‘ going under change. Why does this happen, you may ask yourself? Well, dear reader, this happens due to comic book writers having different perspectives on the matter. For example, in the original comics released by Lee and Kirby, the Fantastic Four go into space with their friend Victor Von Doom and are hit by unexpected rays of cosmic radiation. In the Ultimate Fantastic Four comics, the Fantastic Four’s lives’ are permanently changed after a teleportation device Reed had been working on goes awry, giving them and another the same powers. This ‘another’ is Victor van Damme, the Ultimate’s version of Victor Von Doom.
The “Rise of Marvel.” So, when did the hate really start springing up for the Fantastic Four? After the very first Fantastic Four film in 1994 – of which was never theatrically released and shelved away for good reason, I’m sure you will see when you look it up – Marvel was becoming threatened by bankruptcy. This was the time before what some may call the Rise of Marvel. Marvel was forced into selling the X-Men and Fantastic Four franchises for a great deal of cash to 20th Century Fox. The cash would help to ensure that bankruptcy would not hit them.
In 2005, 20th Century Fox geared up and released Fantastic Four, directed by Tim Story and starring Ioan Gruffudd as Reed, Jessica Alba as Sue, Chris Evans as Johnny and Michael Chiklis as Ben. Playing Victor was Julian McMahon. Despite all but positive reviews from the critics, it made a very good amount of money in the box office, enough to spawn its sequel Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. Critics did not respond well to this either, and the majority of fans found it too cheesy or comedic; to put it simply for you, they were both bad films.
Fans could only dream as the Marvel Cinematic Universe became a massive box office hit that Fox would hand over the Fantastic Four to its original owner. This was not to be. In August 2009, the development of a rebooted film was announced. Information was kept very little and very limited for a long time. The only things the public were really aware of was the reboot’s director Josh Trank and the many rumors surrounding him and the production of the film.
Rumors aside, we knew practically nothing and did not expect much from a very early-announced Fantastic Four film. Some damned it from the start and some believed in it, but no real opinions could be properly formed until the almost shocking release of the teaser trailer on January 27th, 2015. There have been many controversies surrounding the film, its production, its cast and its crew – as well as, in my opinion, a lot of undeserved hate towards it all – but as the release date of August 7th draws ever closer, it will be the money in the box office that really shows whether the reboot was worth it or not.
And what is my opinion, you may wonder? Will this be the rise or the fall of Marvel’s First Family? Well, dear readers, I will let you know that I have a lot of faith in this rebooted film, but I won’t be giving a proper opinion until I have seen the film myself. I would additionally like to state “don’t hate the franchise, hate what or who has made the franchise this way”.