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By Chris Thilk | July 6, 2005

This summer, the breasts of Jessica Simpson and Britney Spears team up in “The Fantastic Four!”

No? How about this one:

This summer, the only men who didn’t say “s**t!” when they read Jennifer Garner was schtuping Ben Affleck are The Fantastic Four.

In actuality, “The Fantastic Four” is the latest attempt by Marvel Comics to thumb their noses at DC by scoring a box office hit with one of their comic icons. The FF was the title that essentially launched Marvel Comics back in 1961 and so, the Roger Corman produced version not withstanding, you would think the publisher would take extra special care when adapting the characters for other media. They might want to guard it, shelter it. Because once you release a big-screen, high-profile movie with the characters there’s no disowning it.

From the looks of this campaign, they decided to go another way. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The Posters

There are a number of posters floating around for Marvel’s first family. The teaser posters highlighted the group’s symbol, the four in a circle, and only showed the characters in silhouette. Most likely this was due to the look of said characters not yet being nailed down. As teasers, they worked pretty well in that they built anticipation for the movie and the big reveal of what Reed, Sue, Johnny and Ben would look like.

That all was shot to hell when we got our first glimpse. I thought The Thing looked pretty cool and was glad they had created his look with practical instead of computer effects. The rest of the actors, though, really started the ulcer in my stomach going again. I don’t think it’s so much the look of the costumes (there’s no getting around the fact that in real life full body Spandex outfits don’t look good so I don’t even worry about it) as much as the actors themselves. Reed Richards and Sue Storm are supposed to be older, almost like parental figures. Johnny Storm is supposed to be younger and Ben Grimm should be closer to Reed’s age. Instead, all three non-rock based actors here look to be about the same age with the exception of Jessica Alba, who still looks 17. Not that I mind, of course.

The rest of the posters mostly featured the full team in variations on the same poses. In fact, most of the posters rehashed the same images and just added various computer-generated graphics such as flames. These are incredibly lame since there’s no point to them. I can use my imagination to picture what a blast of flame will look like around the actors. That’s not a new poster; it’s an alteration of the original image. All that says to me is the stars fulfilled their contractual obligation for one photo shoot and were not willing to commit to more. There’s also a series of character-specific posters, including the only promotional image of Dr. Doom, which should up the paranoia comics fans feel about how this villain has been translated to the big screen.

The Trailers

Campy and loud. It’s like 20th Century Fox took everything they learned with X-Men and Sony learned with Spider-Man (character development trumps special effects and catchphrases) and just ignored those lessons. “Let’s just show a lot of quickly edited effects shots,” they seem to have said. Nothing about the trailers or TV spots makes me actually want to see the movie. Poorly done, in my opinion.

The Website

This is one of the slowest websites I’ve come across in quite a while. Free advice to web designers: If the site is so slow (even on a T1 line) that people feel the urge to switch windows you need to redesign the site.

In fact, I can’t even tell you what’s on the site. It’s so incredibly slow in loading not only the main page but all the sections that I just gave up. Why should I, or any other visitor, be expected to sit there waiting for something to load only to find that’s not where I wanted to go in the first place? Or that there’s no real content, just more photos there? The site looks like it has lots of flashy video, including some exclusive behind the scenes content (which I’m sure is greatly different and more insightful than what you could see on Access Hollywood), but why should I sit here for five minutes waiting for each section’s menu to load so I can then click on something and wait five more minutes to actually see the content?

Just because it looks cool doesn’t mean you actually have to do it on a website.


Boy, I wanted to see this movie initially. I’m a fan of Marvel Comics and think when their movies are done right (X2, Spider-Man 2, half of Daredevil) they’re great and are actually good movies, not just good comic book movies. The emphasis on effects and corny dialogue in the campaign here does not inspire confidence. The overall non-user friendliness of the website shows the studio was more interested in making something slick and shiny than they were in something that would help promote the movie.

As moviemaking costs increase, the pressure to successfully market those movies becomes greater. In an attempt to show how marketers are trying to put the most hinders in the theater seats, Chris Thilk breaks down why some movie campaigns work and some don’t. The posters for “The Rocketeer” and “Unforgiven” remain two of his all-time favorites. For Chris’ ongoing movie journal and other various musings, visit his Movie Marketing Madness blog.

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