Director: Oley Sassone
USA - 1994
First off, let me apologize.
I am not a rabid comic book 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
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 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 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 determined 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 can..um...fantastically 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 Crystals. 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. Dramatic, 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 hooligans 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
"Hey guys, if we can lure the criminals close to the lake I can..."
Only to be quickly
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.
- 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...
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,
- 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
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.
- 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: