Marvel is no stranger to digging into its rich history and turning the results into cinematic gold, but that wasn’t always the case. In the early to mid-2000s, marvel finally felt it was time to try with a quartet, versus the continuing solo efforts of heroes like The Hulk. In 2005, the origins of The Fantastic Four finally got to see the light of day, after the aborted attempt over a decade ago, in Fantastic Four.
Brilliant Dr Reed Richards believes he can prove that space rays caused evolution, and wants to fly into space and test his hypothesis. Lacking the financial powers to do so, he turns to his old college buddy, Victor Von Doom, head of Von Doom Industries, for resources. Von Doom conditionally agrees to control the project and a lion’s share of the profits, and Reed gets to work, assembling a crew of him, siblings Sue and Johnny Storm, Ben Grimm, and Von Doom. After some miscalculations leave the crew dangerously exposed to the space rays. Returning to Earth, they each start to exhibit superpowers, Some might be beneficial, others horrifically altering. As they get to grips with the life-changing aftermath, other sinister consequences may be unearthed from their experiment.
Fantastic Four firmly focuses on the origins of the heroes, rather well, and spends the majority of the story following similar ground to the shelved film 11 years previously. Even if the finer details are different, the broad strokes remain largely unchanged. Being a blockbuster from the mid-2000s, there’s a healthy dose of attitude that ends up permeating the film. Some very flippant dialogue and ample scenes of the radical X Games help give the film a sense of attitude, despite being a more upbeat, and family-friendly affair in the face of films like Daredevil and other anti-hero films. This can also be felt in the soundtrack featuring select tracks from Marshall Mathers, Loser, and Sum 41.
The relationships between the four help set it apart, particularly the joshing between hotshot The Human Torch and The Thing, which speaks strongly to the casting. Ioan Gruffudd, who makes for a fine Reed Richards, along with Jessica Alba after revealing the origins of Leatherface is here to help tell the origins of Sue Storm. Michael Chiklis brings a lot of the core emotions of The Thing to the forefront, and Chris Evans makes Johnny Storm a wise-cracking heartthrob, worthy of the name The Human Torch. Julian McMahon is also a fun choice as Von Doom, and this wouldn’t be an official Marvel film without a cameo from Stan Lee, and a small chunk dedicated to Kerry Washington’s portrayal of Alicia Masters.
2005’s introduction to the fabled four adopts a more blockbuster approach, instead of the economical approach of its predecessor. One that speaks to the frontier day before the standardisation of the M.C.U. and even a different change from the more anti-hero offerings of Daredevil, Elektra and other comic adaptations in the coming years. It shows Marvel’s filmmaking strengths far before Cinematic Universes were de rigueur. As a last hurrah before the landscape was changed, if you officially want to celebrate the origins in an utterly 2000s way, you can now finally just call the four.
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