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Fantastic Four (film series)

The Fantastic Four film series consists of three superhero films based on the fictional Marvel Comics team Fantastic Four. Following an independent-studio film produced in the early 1990s but unreleased, the series continued with Fantastic Four in 2005, and continued with Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer in 2007.

The films are based around four main characters, known formally as Reed Richards, Susan Storm, Ben Grimm and Johnny Storm, and how they adapt to the superpowers they attain. Each vary, as Reed feels responsible for their powers, Susan's dislike for the public attention the powers have given, Johnny's acceptance of the powers and the want to exploit this opportunity, and Ben's hatred of what he's become as he's the most visually affected and how has to deal with the changes. In addition to these four, Dr. Victor von Doom, who is also affected, shows the dark route that the misuse of the powers can do, and how he feels more powerful because of these "gifts".

Development

In 1994, an adaption of the characters, titled The Fantastic Four, was created by then licensed distributor, New Horizons. The film never officially surfaced for release, and it was accused of being an ashcan copy, meaning that by having attempted to make the comic book adaptation New Horizons would have been able to keep the license for longer. It has been reported that the actors had no idea of the situation, instead believing they were creating a serious release.

In 1997, Peter Segal was attached to a script which had been written by Chris Columbus and Michael France. Segal left the project but changed his mind that same year. Phillip Morton (Fire Down Below) worked on the script, and Sam Hamm was rewriting it in 1998. The following year Raja Gosnell signed on as director. "I really wanted to do a big action comedy thrill ride like Men in Black", he said, describing it as more comic than X-Men (2000). Producer Avi Arad called the script "the biggest sitcom of all time".

Columbus, who was producing, explained the delays were in getting the budget down. "One estimate was as high as $280 million because every time the four characters walk into a scene, it will cost upwards of $100,000", he said. 20th Century Fox felt that production would depend on whether X-Men would be successful at the box office. X-Men producer Ralph Winter joined the project in April 2000, and the project was announced in August 2000 as being aimed for a July 4, 2001 release date. Gosnell decided to leave the project to film Scooby-Doo. Peyton Reed was announced as his replacement in April 2001.

Film series

The Fantastic Four

The Fantastic Four is an origin movie, showing Reed Richards, Ben Grimm and Dr. Victor von Doom in college together, with Reed renting a room in Susan Storm's Mom's house. Years later when Susan and her brother Johnny are grown up, they along with Reed and Ben take a rocket flight which results in their getting superpowers. The Four must face the villianry of both Doctor Doom and The Jeweler, who are both trying to obtain a giant diamond which will grant remarkable powers. The film ends with Reed and Sue marrying.

Fantastic Four

Fantastic Four starts as Reed Richards is forced as a last resort to go to Dr. Victor von Doom in order to get financed for an experiment, involving evolution and cloud storms in outer space. Upon making a deal, Reed and Victor go to Doom's space station, accompanied by Ben Grimm, Susan Storm, and her brother Johnny Storm. When aboard, due to a miscalculation they are unexpectedly hit by the space storm, and eventually learn to be affected in very different ways. The story follows them as they deal with these new 'powers' in their own ways, and how at one point Reed, Ben, Susan and Johnny become heroes by saving many people in a public predicament.

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer introduces the Silver Surfer, whose cosmic energy has been affecting the planet and leaving mysterious craters around the planet. Set against an impending wedding between Reed and Susan, the US Army recruits the Fantastic Four to help stop the Surfer, and separately gain help from Doctor Doom, who returns, to the surprise of the Fantastic Four. Later, Susan learns that the Surfer is in fact the slave of an intergalactic 'world eating' entity known as Galactus, and has no choice but to abide by Galactus' commands. Doom double-crosses the army in an attempt to steal and master the Surfer's powers, only to be defeated by the Fantastic Four, who in turn restore the Surfer in time for him to face down his master and save Earth.

Cast and characters

Character Film
The Fantastic Four Fantastic Four Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer
Reed Richards / Mr. Fantastic Alex Hyde-White Ioan Gruffudd
Sue Storm / Invisible Woman Rebecca Staab Jessica Alba
Ben Grimm / The Thing Michael Bailey Smith
Carl Ciarfalio
Michael Chiklis
Johnny Storm / Human Torch Jay Underwood Chris Evans
Victor von Doom / Doctor Doom Joseph Culp Julian McMahon
Alicia Masters Kat Green Kerry Washington
Leonard   Hamish Linklater  
Debbie   Laurie Holden  
Willie Lumpkin   Stan Lee  
Norrin Radd / Silver Surfer     Doug Jones
Laurence Fishburne (voice)
General Hager     Andre Braugher
Frankie Raye     Beau Garrett

Reception

Box office performance

Film Release date Box office revenue Box office ranking Reference
[Worldwide' United States United States Outside U.S. Worldwide All time U.S. All time worldwide
Fantastic Four July 8, 2005 July 8, 2005 $154,696,080 $175,424,795 $330,120,875 #151 #147
Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer* June 15, 2007 June 15, 2007 $131,921,738 $156,118,175 $288,039,913 #211 #191
Fantastic Four film series $286,617,818 $331,542,970 $618,160,788
*Note: Updated November 3, 2007. Please update if necessary.

Critical reaction

Film Rotten Tomatoes Metacritic Yahoo! Movies
Overall Cream of the Crop
Fantastic Four 26% (187 reviews) 27% (7 reviews) 40% (35 reviews) C (13 reviews)
Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer 35% (148 reviews) 32% (11 reviews) 45% (33 reviews) C+ (14 reviews)

Future

The main four cast originally signed three-picture deals, and Julian McMahon has also signed for a third film. Michael Chiklis was told his character's relationship with Alicia Masters would have a greater focus in a third film. Jessica Alba has expressed interest in introducing Franklin Richards, while Beau Garrett has expressed interest in returning as Nova. Tim Story said he would like to direct a third and fourth film. Don Payne stated he has not discussed a sequel with the studio, but "I’ve always loved the Inhumans, the Skrulls, the Puppet Master, and Annihilus and the Negative Zone. As Rise of the Silver Surfer grossed less than the first film, 20th Century Fox is unsure of the series' future, and no script is in development. In March 2008, Chris Evans revealed, "I'm pretty sure we won’t do [another] one. I’m assuming that one is a closed book.

Silver Surfer spin-off

Early stages

Bernd Eichinger of Constantin Film purchased the film rights of the Fantastic Four and Silver Surfer from Marvel Comics in 1986, while 20th Century Fox quickly signed on as the distributor. Eichinger and Marvel Studios approached George Lucas and Industrial Light & Magic, who found the project to be too technically challenging. Various filmmakers attempted different methods of making the Silver Surfer realistic through visual effects experiments. This included a reverse photographic process by which an actor was painted with black oil, on to which was mapped silvery light. This method was used for the Lightsabers in the Star Wars film series. Sometime in 1992 Quentin Tarantino, fresh from critical success with Reservoir Dogs, came to Constantin with a script but was turned down.

Erik Fleming and Steven Robiner recruited a crew of friends from the USC School of Cinematic Arts and convinced Stan Lee, Marvel Studios and Eichinger to let them try their hand at a short film as a means to prove that computer-generated imagery (which was then in its infancy) could be used to create a photo-realistic silver man. Marvel agreed to let the project go forward. After filming began, Terminator 2: Judgment Day was released, featuring the chrome-like figure of T-1000. This proved that Fleming & Robiner's theories about the possibility of rendering lifelike humanoid figures with quicksilver-like bodies were correct. The Silver Surfer short film was finished in 1992, and major film studios invited the crew into their offices, simply amazed as to how they completed the film with virtually no budget. When the studios found out they didn't own the rights to the comic book, the studio's interest turned to Marvel Fleming stated, "It's suddenly an A-list project, and they have to bring in an A-list writer, an A-list director. That's really just how Hollywood works. We should have signed a deal ahead of time, but we were just too young and naive. A studio's word is no good in Hollywood. All that matters is a signed piece of paper." Upon viewing the short film Oliver Stone became interested in directing.The film however was a fundamentally important breakthrough film for all involved, including USC Film School which previously had no CGI or Visual Effects Courses. The year following the outrageous success of Fleming & Robiner's short film, the USC Computer Animation and Digital Effects Courses were officially inaugurated, and the school now has a complete degree program in the area of Computer Graphic Imagery, which still showcases the Silver Surfer film to garner alumni donations. Fleming, Robiner, and many of their team had their filmmaking career launched through the success of this short film.

20th Century Fox

The success of the short film prompted Fox and Eichinger to hire John Turman to write the script, and eventually Richard Jefferies to rewrite Turman's script. Geoffrey Wright became attached to direct Jefferies' script that included the Silver Surfer in the company of a twelve-year-old street prostitute, similar to Jodie Foster's character in Taxi Driver. Rudy Gaines and John Rice were hired to write a completely new script, which showcased the Silver Surfer crash-landing on Earth and being romantically involved with a Brooklyn waitress. He's accidentally transformed into a human being by a secret scientific government project, while pursued by a psychotic United States Army General. Gaines and Rice wrote three drafts, which Fox liked the script but found too expensive to film, and Wright eventually left.

The project moved to Fox's children's division of 20th Century Fox Animation, which started the Silver Surfer television series. By July 1999, Andrew Kevin Walker was hired to write a completely new script. In May 2000, Marvel Studios brought Artisan Entertainment to co-finance the film. Vin Diesel expressed interest in portraying the lead role, while Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson was approached to star. Baz Luhrmann was interested in directing, while Joshua Jackson was interested in portraying the lead role. Turman expressed interest in writing a new script in June 2003. By March 2005, an unnamed "Zen Buddhist with experience in special effects" was set to direct. However, the unnamed director was committed to another film, and also left because of the technical challenges of creating the Surfer on screen. Marvel and Fox opted for the character to be used in Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, portrayed by Doug Jones with a voiceover by Laurence Fishburne. Don Payne, co-writer of Rise of the Silver Surfer, expressed interest in writing a new screenplay for Silver Surfer.

Silver Surfer was then put a higher priority than Fantastic Four 3. By June 2007, J. Michael Straczynski was working on a new screenplay, which was set after Rise of the Silver Surfer: the Surfer returns to Zenn-La, anxious that Galactus will consume it after he betrayed him. Straczynski described Galactus in a manner more faithful to his comics appearance in the script, revealing his cloud form from the previous film was a disguise. Jones is signed on for two more films, and hopes that Fox will option him to reprise the role, and would like the opportunity to supply his own voice for the character, as was the case with Jones' second portrayal of the character Abe Sapien, in Hellboy II: The Golden Army. A large amount of filming will take place in Australia. Fox was disappointed by the box office return of Rise of the Silver Surfer. In July 2008, producer Kevin Feige said Fox was waiting to see how successful the spin-off film X-Men Origins: Wolverine would be before putting the film in active development.

References

External links

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