Saturday, September 3, 2011

Super Saturday: Fantastic Four TV

Recently for my superhero fix, I've taken to watching the animated Fantastic Four: World's Greatest Heroes show, from circa 2006, on the free Hulu service.

I did not immediately care for it: for me, it was a bit of an acquired taste. In fact, after watching 1 or 2 episodes I took to calling it "that terrible FF show" -- but over the summer I wound up watching it anyway over dinner (without much else on that was new-to-me). It has very anime-esque art and over-the-top (say: juvenile) humor, with the Thing and the Torch routinely in open combat with each other as a gag. And the overall design follows in the footprints of the poorly-received 2005 Fantastic Four movie (including Doctor Doom's power design and involvement in the spaceship-launch origin, Alicia Masters' ethnicity, etc. -- not that I've seen said movie).

But after a while I've come to appreciate what the creators are doing with the show, and have found it to be a lot more rewarding than I first expected. It turns out that there's actually some very nice, subtle character development, and I think it's my favorite portrayal of Mr. Fantastic that I've ever seen (brilliant but fallible, and just a bit oblivious when his scientific wonderment overtakes him -- rings to me as true, based on colleagues that I've known). The Thing and the Invisible Woman have some very nice acting gestures. The Torch is probably the most grating, but after a while you learn to accept it and occasionally find him actually funny.

Other things: The opening title credits are uniformly fabulous, and clearly some creator was having a great deal of fun with them. The stories frequently start in media res, already and immediately in the thick of action, with the viewer forced to catch up on the story later on, through dialogue or flashback (and I routinely beg for some kind of alternative storytelling structure like this in regard to superhero movies). The series totally declines to bother with an opening origin-story episode (ditto; although you could take the live-action movie as having served this purpose).

Now, here's the thing that impresses me the most -- There are quite a few crossover/team-ups, but the show inverts the normal presentation. Like: I'm used to comic books that loudly trumpet a guest character on the cover, and maybe they only appear for a page or two, or even just in the very last panel. But in FF:WGH, it's played exactly the opposite -- frequently there's no hint or warning in the promo or title credits, and then some other Marvel hero busts into an action scene, and it's completely by surprise. I find myself literally shocked and applauding when it happens; there are several very clever touches they use to intentionally obscure or misdirect who's about to show up. In at least one episode, I'm pretty sure there's a famous character present with the FF for the entire show, who never once reveals or even hints at their super-hero identity.

And I also have it good authority the Namor the Sub-Mariner is apparently both "hot" and "doable". So take that as you will.

Recommended -- Fantastic Four: World's Greatest Heroes on Hulu.

2 comments:

  1. I liked it so much, I bought it on DVD.

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  2. New favorite catch-phrase from Episode #23: "Yeaaah!! Take that, magic!!"

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