Wednesday, March 09, 2005

'Fantastic Four': a tale of two movies

USA Today looks at what's at stake with the July 8 release of the Fantastic Four movie, including hopes for an X-Men-style franchise for 20th Century Fox, and merchandising tie-ins with more than 60 companies selling everything from video games to toothbrushes:
Many also see the film as a chance to invigorate a genre that has sputtered of late. Though comic-book sequels such as Spider-Man and X-Men have been hits, new adaptations have struggled. Catwoman and Elektra were unmitigated flops. The $100 million Constantine opened to a strong $34 million but dropped 64% its second weekend.
The newspaper also talks with Stan Lee about the creation of the Fantastic Four, and readers' disapproval of the team's original street-clothes look.

"I've never understood it," Lee told USA Today. "For as long as I've been doing comic books, fans have insisted their heroes be in some kind of get-up. That's the only reason The Incredible Hulk has green skin. It was the only costume I could think of for a guy who doesn't wear a shirt."

Meanwhile, in the March issue of Los Angeles Magazine, associate editor Robert Ito gathers Roger Corman, Oley Sassone and the cast of the 1993 movie that, although never released, has become an integral part of comic book/Hollywood lore.

"That movie was never supposed to be shown to anybody," Lee told Ito. "This fellow had the rights to do the Fantastic Four movie for, like, 15 years, and finally the option was due to lapse. If he hadn't begun principal photography by December, he would lose that option. And he still wanted to make that movie! So he figured he would bat out a fast movie for a dollar-ninety-eight budget just so he could keep that option. The tragic thing is that the people involved with the film were not aware that the movie was never supposed to be shown to anybody. Do you see? It was never supposed to be seen by any living human beings."

Lee's account is the generally accepted version. But the eight-page article, titled "Fantastic Faux," goes on to tell the the bigger story of what producer Corman calls "the strangest film production I've ever been involved with in my life."

It's a great piece that, unfortunately, isn't available online. But it's definitely worth the $3.95 cover price.