The Fantastic Four

Director: Oley Sassone

USA - 1994

  Hoff! Hoff! Hoff! Hoff!


First off, let me apologize.

I am not a rabid comic bookOne has to be quite secure in his masculinity to sport this particular look. collector. Don't expect this review to reference issue #76, which was the only time The Fantastic Four was inked by Pooky Pookenbottom (or whoever), and introduced the storyline where The Thing comes to terms with his mutation, and Reed acquires the habit of sticking his head up his own rectum; or, for that matter, the graphic novel (the "grown-up" term for comic books) where Sue uses her powers of invisibility to sate her incestuous desire towards Johnny Storm. It ain't gonna happen. I haven't bought a comic book in a good 10+ years. From what I remember, Superman and the gang still hang out at the Hall of Justice, and the biggest thorn in their side is Mxyzptlk.

Consider this a prelude to the upcoming X-Men, directed by Bryan "The Usual Suspects" Singer. Besides both being comic book adaptations, the biggest similarity between the two is the fact that they both suck. Sure, I have yet to actually see X-Men, but undoubtedly, it will suck eggs. When was the last time you saw a good superhero movie? The Batman franchise never rose above mediocre. Spawn was known to strike blindness in small children and senior citizens. And what did everybody like about The Crow? Just because a film is"Damn you, Corman!!" dark, and the majority of the action sequences are in slow motion, that doesn't mean the film is necessarily artistic, by any means. The last good superhero movie I've seen was Superman II. I did enjoy most of The Incredible Hulk Made-For-TV movies, but I wouldn't go as far as calling them "good." So, with that in mind, let's turn our focus to The Fantastic Four. Being that the superhero genre is, apparently, impossible to do well, mixed with the fact that Roger Corman is one of the "brains" helming this picture, I think you know exactly where this is going...

Victor and Reed are scientists, but not only that, they are also best friends. They both live at a boarding house run by Mrs. Storm and her two children, Johnny and Sue. Johnny is a "hot-tempered" sprite, but an all-around good kid. Sue is sweet, and finds Reed to be "dreamy," but is too shy to even to look him in the eye, let alone express her feelings. Throughout the course of their friendship, Victor and "....and I will alwaaaays looooove yooouuuuu...."Reed have strived to discover the secret behind travelling at the speed of light. One evening, the two buddies attempt to harness the energy of Colossus, a "radioactive, comet-like energy source" (?); unfortunately, those who are relatively movie savvy know, whenever someone attempts to "harness the energy" of something, there is usually no good that will become of it. The scientists' energy conductor explodes, merely knocking Reed to the ground, but horribly disfiguring Victor. Reed, along with his friend Ben Grimm, rush Victor to the hospital -- but to no avail, as the doctor reports that Victor has passed on.

Ten years later (this is signified by an obvious gray streak in his pompadour), Reed has built a spaceship, and is bound and determi"Nobody better steal me pot o' gold!"ned to fly out to Colossus and harness that there energy (along with Ben, who also happens to be a pilot). For no apparent reason, they bring Johnny and Sue along for the adventure. They're not scientists and have no flight experience -- but hey, space travel is fun for the whole family. Unbeknownst to our fearless crew, Reed's Energy Crystals (?) used to power his ship were replaced with fakes by The Jeweler, a Leprechaun-looking evil-doer who lives beneath the city, and controls an army of homeless people. He's called the Jeweler because he steals jewels, such as Reed's Energy Crystals. It all fits seamlessly together, folks. Really!

After dedicating the flight to the memory of Victor, Reed and the crew fly out to Colossus, but unfortunately, everything goes wrong due to the crystal-switch. The ship explodes, sending all its passengers plummeting to Earth. The crew awakens amongst the wreckage to find that not only are they unscathed from the explosion, but each astronaut has acquired a unique (or "fantastic," if you will) power. Reed can stretch his limbs to fantastic lengths. Johnny can shoot fantastic fireballs. Sue can cloak herself in fantastic invisibility, and Ben is covered in stone and Doom's Lair courtesy of He-Man, and the Masters of the break stuff. The crew are then rescued by the government, and taken back to the labs for testing.

Meanwhile, The Jeweler, no longer satisfied with just having the Energy Crystals, sends his henchman out onto the streets to find him a queen. So the goons head out, abduct a woman, and bring her back to the lair. Coincidentally, the abductee turns out to be Ben's girlfriend. Back at the lab, after coming to the conclusion that the foursome have, in fact, acquired fantastic powers, our crew discovers that this is no government lab at all! As a matter of fact, it's run by Reed's presumed-dead friend, Victor -- who now dons a metallic exo-skeleton and the menacing moniker of Doctor Doom! As it turns out, Victor blames Reed for his disfigurement, and has been plotting for the last ten years to kill him. He also wants to take over the world with the utilization of his all-powerful laser (it's called a "Lay-Zer"). As luck would have it, though, The Jeweler, he thought, beat him to it when he stole the Energy CryCorman takes the term "fantastic" lightlystals. But now, being that Reed was still alive, he would have to finish the job himself. Using their fantastic powers, the astronauts manage to escape from Doom's hideout, and regroup at Reed's lab.

Needing a power source for his laser, Doom decides to steal the Energy Crystals from The Jeweler. After a battle of (semi-)epic proportions, Doom not only obtains the Crystals, but Ben's girlfriend as well. Then, Doom makes a final challenge to our Fantastic Four to face him once and for all; not only to save Ben's girlfriend, but to save THE WORLD! (Doom then illustrates the power of his laser by showing that tired stock footage of an atomic bomb -- complete with the little cabin being blown over. Damn, how many movies have used that footage? After fingers and toes, I begin to lose track.) The Fantastic Four, having come to grips with their powers, and now sporting silly tights, head off to Doom Central -- the fate of the world hanging in the balance. DrDoctor Doomamatic, ain't it?

Let's try something different and start off on a positive note: I thought both Doctor Doom and Ben Grimm's costumes looked pretty cool; Doom's, in particular. He had that Cylon-thing working for him. The Thing outfit looked reminiscent of the design utilized for The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles costumes. Even though the mask looked bulky and cumbersome, it was still able to produce some emotions through such subtleties as a twitch of the lip, or the raising of an eye. So, kudos to the costume design*.

The story, on the other hand, shall receive no accolades. I mean, world domination through a laser? Seen it! And if a film is centered on superheroes, shouldn't their super-powers be a highlight? We see The Thing break through some walls, Storm shoot one or two fireballs, and Sue "disappear" once or twice. The silliest being Reed throwing stretch punches and tripping hooligFantastic Four costumes courtesy of Underoosans with an extended leg. If you don't have the budget, nor the creativity, to successfully showcase a superhero's abilities in a superhero film, then perhaps you shouldn't be making a superhero film. Or perhaps make a superhero film of a character that doesn't require extensive special effects -- say, the oft-neglected Aquaman? You know, it must've been pretty tough for ole Aquaman at the Justice League. All the real heroes with real powers sitting around, trying to determine a plan to thwart the current Bad Guy O' the Week. The fate of the world hanging in the balance, and such. Aquaman would meekly interject,

"Hey guys, if we can lure the criminals close to the lake I can..."

Only to be quicWow. His arm. It's really stretching.kly cut-off, "Can it, Aquaman!"

Once again, I'm rambling. Overall, The Fantastic Four was, for the most part, fairly entertaining. Should you bother hunting a copy down? Nah. This version was shelved after post-production in lieu of making a big-budget feature later on down the road (to be possibly helmed by Chis "Stepmom" Columbus). The big-budget version, like Corman's, will suck as well; the sole difference being -- a lot of money will be invested, as opposed to the miniscule budget this movie was made on. So, hold off on getting your Fantastic Four fix until the new feature hits the theaters. You'll save yourself from shelling out big bucks for a bootleg, and you can experience the very same disappointment I feel for Corman's vision -- or lack thereof.

Human Torch effects courtesy of Hanna-Barbera


These are the times of which to cherish...

- Right before Reed and the gang head out on their spacecraft for their date with destiny, Mrs. Storm exclaims, "Look at you! The Fantastic Four!" Such brilliant foreshadowing should not go unnoticed.


Any scene with Jay Underwood (Johnny Storm). You might remember him from Not Quite Human, Still Not Quite Human, Still Not Quite Human, But Not Quite An Actor, Either and The Boy Who Could Fly. This guy puts the "Act!" in "Acting!" Subtlety, as we all know, is overrated. To portray "angry," you have to beat your hands on the ground repeatedly, and twist your face into obscene contortions. To do "happy," you have to bounce off the walls like an idiot, and stretch your grin from earlobe to earlobe. Underwood's ridiculous gesticulations lead us right into...

Doctor Doom demonstrates his dastardly pimple-popping technique

Any scene with Doctor Doom. Though his costume looks cool, his acting does not follow suit. I'm assuming that Doom's voice was dubbed in post-production, but the actor in the suit must not have trusted the sound guys, because his wild mannerisms in accentuating his every single word was a tad much. Every syllable he uttered was followed by a gesture representing its main idea. Was this for the benefit of the hearing impaired, perhaps?

- Reed's revelation on the basis of the crew's newfound powers. Sue becomes invisible because she's so shy, and afraid of confrontation. Johnny's flames are a direct attribute to his hot-tempered nature. Ben's immense strength and rock-like skin comes from the fact that though he has a brilliant mind..*cough*...he relies too heavily on brute strength to solve his problems. Reed's elasticity represents his attempting to do everything at once, thus spreading himself too thin. It takes Reed about ten minutes to explain this simple idea to his colleagues (and us, the ignorant audience), when it should've taken perhaps three.

Wow. Her legs. They're really invisible.

Sue's impractical power of invisibility. It seems that whenever Sue utilizes her gift, the success factor relies too heavily on her opponents being morons. In one scene, two guards stand on either side of Sue and open fire. Sue, at the last minute, disappears, thus causing the two guards to shoot each other. In another sequence, two guards charge Sue from opposite directions, but once again, Sue disappears at the last second causing the idiots to run in to one another. Hardy-har-har.

- Ben's love affair with Alicia Masters. Upon entering a museum with Reed, Ben accidentally knocks over a blind girl. At first she's quite upset, but while picking her up and dusting her off, Alicia is afforded the opportunity to feel Ben's face. Grimm then says something along the lines of, "Don't worry, you're safe with me." And Alicia replies, "I know. I can sense it." And that is the entire foundation of their love affair. Later, while Doom holds Alicia hostage, Ben is about to attack when Alicia proclaims, "I love you," thus causing The Thing to shed his rocky exterior and become a man. (Insert groan here.) So, if I go out and tackle some attractive woman on the streets, will she, in turn, fall in love with me? Who would've thought love come could so easily?

- While coming to terms with his stony mutation, Ben has a soul-searching musical montage in the city. Complete with trying to pick up some hookers (at least I thought they were hookers), and being ousted from an alleyway by an annoyed cook. In both instances, once they got a glance at Grimm's countenance, they ran away in fear. That, along with the tear-jerking music in the background, got me all worked up inside. I truly felt his pain. Really!

- And finally, after the inevitable marriage of Reed and Sue, we're left with this parting shot as the happy couple head-off to their honeymoon:



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