Friday marks the opening of Fantastic Four, the latest movie version of the publication that launched the Silver Age of Comics, which established Marvel as a major force in the medium, and began the decades-long run of the periodical that billed itself as “The World’s Greatest Comic Magazine!”
What made FF such a classic? Was it how much we loved the characters—Reed Richard’s nerdiness, Johnny Storm’s fiery personality, Sue Storm’s sweetness or Ben Grimm’s heart of gold? Was it their cool powers? After all, who wouldn’t want to streak across the sky, leaving a trail of flames in their wake? Or turn invisible? Or have the strength of 100 men? Or…stretch like Reed? (OK, the stretching thing has always been a little weird.)
I think what might be the foundation of the FF’s awesomeness is the perfect balance of the team. A team of three heroes wouldn’t get it done. Five would be too many. There’s a perfection to four—after all there are four seasons, four limbs on the human body, four runs in a grand slam and four members in your standard barber shop quartet. There are four cardinal directions (north, south, east and west), four major sports (baseball, football, basketball and hockey), four Greek classical elements (air, water, earth and fire), and four gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John). Your car has four wheels, a four-leaf clover is good luck, you need four calling birds to finish the Christmas carol—even the word “four” itself is spelled with four letters.
Four truly is fantastic.
So to salute our favorite super-troupe, we give you four movies featuring famous foursomes and a book about four of our greatest founding fathers. Go forth and enjoy!
Our favorite comic book super-group may be fantastic, but this greatest of all rock-and-roll bands was truly “Fab,” so much so that their very names—John, Paul, George and Ringo—have become part of the world’s cultural lexicon. Their first foray onto the big screen was an enormous hit, and is still considered by many film critics, including the late Roger Ebert, to be one of the great movie musicals ever made.
No, there weren’t three Musketeers; there were four. Athos, Porthos and Aramis were the original trio, but their tales of derring-do didn’t begin until they were joined by d’Artagnan, creating the heroic quartet of legend. There were many film adaptations of their story. This one was helmed by A Hard Day’s Night director Richard Lester (the vehicle was originally meant for the Beatles), and starred Michael York, Oliver Reed, Frank Finlay and Richard Chamberlain. A sequel, The Four Musketeers, was released in 1974. Currently the Musketeers are enjoying fighting and wenching on a television series on BBC America.
Sex and the City
Think of Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda a the Four Sex-keteers—a quartet of women who bond, confide in each other and remain inseparable as they navigate the adventure of life and love in the Big City. The show was ranked as one of the 100 Best of All Time by TIME magazine, and was popular enough to inspire two feature film follow-ups.
Who ya gonna call? Well, if your problem is ghosts, you’d better call all four Ghostbusters. If you like the classic version of the team, you’re going to get Bill Murray, Dan Akroyd, Harold Ramis and Ernie Hudson. Your modern Ghostbusters, stars of the reboot scheduled to debut in 2016, will be Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon. Either way, you run the risk of dying of laughter.
The Quartet: Orchestrating the Second American Revolution, 1783-1789, by Joseph J. Ellis (Knopf, 2015)
So the result of the Revolutionary War was the creation of the United States of America, right? Well, not exactly. The 13 colonies, author Ellis explains, considered themselves free and independent states who banded together to defeat the British, but then intended to go their separate ways afterwards. This book tells the story of four founding fathers (George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay and James Madison) and everything they did to bring the states together for the Constitutional Convention, forming the basis for the America we know today.