The Fantastic Four (1994) / Sci Fi-Action
MPAA Rated: Not rated, but probably PG for violence
Running time: 91 min.
Cast: Alex Hyde-White, Jay Underwood, Rebecca Staab, Michael Bailey Smith, Joseph Culp, Ian Trigger, Kat Green, George Gaynes
Director: Oley Sassone
Screenplay: Craig J. Nevius, Kevin Rock (based on the comic book created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby)
Review published July 30, 2005
Reportedly rushed into production by Roger Corman's production company so that their rights to the Fantastic Four wouldn't lapse, The Fantastic Four movie would never see the light of the silver screen or an official video release. A big budget version was in the works, and as rumor has it, this little cheapie was bought out so that the bigger, grander production could proceed without a bad, b-movie experience ruining the taste in people's mouths about the long-established comic book characters. Two things come immediately to mind after viewing this 1994 version, which has been circulating underground for years. First, for a reported budget of under $2 million and the fast pace of the production, it isn't nearly as atrocious as most would have made the same film under similar circumstances. Second, the background to the movie's creation and permanent shelving is far more interesting than the movie itself, because even ignoring how fast and cheaply it was made, it is still a bore, with a lackluster script, bland acting, and characterizations more juvenile that the original Stan Lee/Jack Kirby creation had ever been, even when their comic had been read primarily by children.
Reed Richards (Hyde-White, Pretty Woman) and Victor von Doom (Culp, Dream Lover) are scientists and friends, until one day an experiment involving an outer space comet known as Colossus goes awry that sees Victor left for dead. Time passes, and Reed has continued his experiments in Colossus, crafting an advanced spaceship to take himself, his co-pilot and friend Ben Grimm (Smith, Monster Man), his would-be girlfriend Susan Storm (Staab, Love Potion No. 9), and Susan's brother, Johnny (Underwood, Afterglow), to go up close and personal with the energy mass itself. Alas, a greedy villain known as The Jeweler (Trigger) has sabotaged the project, causing the hapless quartet to be exposed to radioactive energies unlike anything they could ever know on Earth. The spaceship crash-lands, but the four miraculously survive, but they find they are forever changed. Reed can stretch his limbs, Johnny can create flames, Susan can turn invisible, and Ben turns into a man of stone and strength. Meanwhile, a masked figure calling himself Doom (gee, I wonder who he is??) wants the item that the Jeweler took, while the Jeweler has kidnapped Alicia Masters, aka the blind sculptress Ben Grimm would have the hots for. It's up to the newly formed Fantastic Four to save the day.
For the most part, The Fantastic Four adheres to the origin of the comic book, with a few tweaks here and there for the sake of easy explanation. What's most notable isn't what they have changed in the story, since tghe comic book itself has changed the origin many times since it was first done, but the powers of the main characters themselves. I'm guessing that most of this has to do with the limited budget, as we very rarely see anybody's powers called into play. Sue Storm does have invisibility, perhaps the cheapest of the effects to create, but she doesn't have the ability to create force fields or invisible objects in her mind as she does in the comic book. Reed seems to only be able to stretch his arms and legs, and not conform to any shape his mind desires, which makes him a very weak superhero, since all he has is extra long punching power.
It's not as bad as, say, Captain America or the first attempt at a big screen adaptation of The Punisher, but for such a popular and beloved group of superheroes like The Fantastic Four, it would have been quite sad to see them getting such a paltry excuse for a release. Thankfully, wiser heads prevailed, leaving this one to gain notoriety and a cult fan base of its own over the years among comic book fans, although very few actually champion it as a great film.
Cutting down to it, as an experiment in what one could do with the Fantastic Four if given only $1.5 million to do it, this is probably as impressive a film as anyone could have created, except for one important fact -- no one wants to see a movie about the Fantastic Four that costs $1.5 million to make. If you're insatiably curious, I'd say to watch it, but keep your expectations as low as they can possibly be, and hopefully, you didn't pay a penny to see it either. The Fantastic Four is here, but it's anything but fantastic.
-- Finally made into a big budget feature in 2005 withFantastic Four.
©2014 Vince Leo