FANTASTIC PHWOAR! It's Taken 10 Years to Bring the Fantastic Four to the Big Screen - Now Special Effects Have Caught Up It's Been Worth the Wait
Byline: By John Millar
AFTER Superman, Batman,Spider-Man and The X Men finally come the superheroes fans had almost given up hope of ever seeing on the big screen . . . the Fantastic Four.
This bizarre quartet are Mr Fantastic, who can stretch his body like a piece of super-strong elastic, Invisible Woman, who can disappear and create forcefields at will, the Human Torch, whose body becomes a searing fireball, and The Thing, a monstrous creature who is built like an orange you-know-what brick house and has the angry catchphrase: 'It's clobbering time!'
Since they first smashed their way on to the comic book pages in 1961, these four have gone on to become the stars of the longest running series in the history of Marvel Comics. There's also been a TV cartoon series.
The idea of four very different superheroes was a package that excited Hollywood, but making a movie version provided film bosses with a huge headache.
Ten years was spent trying to get the right script together and the 20th Century Fox team had to wait until they had in place the computerised technology that might make the crucial Fantastic Four special effects possible.
Then, of course, there was the search for the actors who would portray this family of superheroes. Welsh heart throb Ioan Gruffudd, seen recently as Lancelot in King Arthur, was cast as Mr Fantastic, a role for which George Clooney was once a hot favourite.
Sin City star Jessica Alba is Invisible Woman, Michael Chiklis of hit TV cop series The Shield flexes his muscles as The Thing and Chris Evans, who starred opposite Kim Basinger in Cellular, gets all hot and bothered as the Human Torch.
Casting was completed when Julian McMahon, Aussie star of Nip/Tuck, was encased in metal as the villain, Dr Doom The final and vital part of the film's jigsaw was a commitment to be faithful to the comic books. So the movie, described as a dysfunctional family overcoming their problems and vanquishing evil, shows how the Fantastic Four came to be.
During a voyage into outer space scientist Dr Reed Richards and his crew - astronaut Ben Grimm, Reed's former girlfriend Sue Storm and Sue's hot-headed younger brother pilot Johnny Storm, are caught in a radiation storm.
Their DNA is altered and they discover they now have special powers that make them the Fantastic Four. And yet, despite the long-running success of the comic books, Ioan Gruffudd admits when he meets the Record in Las Vegas that he had never even heard of the Fantastic Four.
'I was not a comic book reader. My heroes were Welsh rugby players,' says Ioan.
'So this was a new adventure for me, researching the comics that span 40 years and getting the chance to play this incredible character, Mr Fantastic.'
Initially Ioan was also a bit was worried that his character's powers of elasticity might look too unreal or even silly. But he was reassured by director Tim Story.
'Tim explained that Reed's power was going to be very strong, masculine and sinewy,' says Ioan. 'We would see and hear his muscles and bones stretching, not just his skin, and it actually would be painful each time Reed stretched. It wasn't going to be an effortless power.'
There certainly was nothing effortless about the transformation Michael Chiklis had to endure to become The Thing.
The actor had to suffer more than any other cast member because The Thing is not a computer-generated character.
Each day Michael had to spend three hours being glued inside a latex costume that weighed more than 60 pounds and have prosthetic make-up applied.
He says it was like being inside a pressure cooker.
'The first day that I actually put on the costume was a very intense, frightening experience,' says Michael.
'I'm not a phobic person at all so when I felt that claustrophobic feeling, it really caught me off guard and was quite unnerving. …