Saturday, July 7, 2007

FANTASTIC FOUR (1994) Movie Review


Early in the last decade of the second millennium, Roger Corman created a movie version of The Fantastic Four comic book that was nigh-unwatchable, never meant to be released and was only made so the rights' holders could keep it longer (unbeknownst to most of the cast and crew).

Here, Reed Richards and Victor Von Doom are working on collecting cosmic radiation during their college years. When the experiment fails, Victor is presumed dead in the accident, and Richards commits his life to completing the project. Ten years later, he succeeds in creating a spaceship, and enlists college chum Ben Grimm to fly the shuttle and brings along Sue and Johnny Storm to help navigate. Meanwhile, Doom is still very much alive and bent on destroying Richards. When the Reed..s mission fails, the four are bombarded with the rays, and soon discover they have been given their famous super powers. When Doom learns that the four are still alive, he kidnaps the four to conduct experiments on them, and then sets out on a plan to recreate the experiment and hopefully to acquire all four powers in himself. Oh, and the underground-dwelling thief The Jeweler works himself into a subplot too. Pretty good for a film that clocks in at just under ninety minutes.

Let's get down to the bad and hokey shall we? If there was any proof needed that superhero costumes on paper do not directly translate to costumes on celluloid, this is it. Doom almost gets away with it, but the classic blue costumes of the four look ridiculous. Richard's trademark white temples look painted on with whiteout. The fully transformed Thing is obviously a heavy foam and latex suit (ever see rock ripple like fabric?). And the special effects here are just laughable. From Richard's stretching (how do normal clothes stretch when he does?) to Storm's invisibility (how do you get invisibility wrong?) to Johnny's climactic full-body flame-on (video games look more realistic) this is student-filmmaking at its best. Seriously, some of the fanfilms coming out nowadays look more professional than this.

What this film does have though, is heart, and a true desire to literally translate a comic book into the film world, which does give it a little wiggle room and forgiveness can easily be given. Remember, this was made in the age of Dolph Lundgren's THE PUNISHER, the direct-to-video CAPTAIN AMERICA and the X-Men TV spin-off GENERATION X among others, and filmmakers and producers had yet to learn and capitalize off of Bryan Singer's X-MEN and Sam Raimi's groundbreaking SPIDER-MAN. Highlights to watch for include the Fantastic Four moniker being clumsily bestowed, the out-of-nowhere catch-phrase "it's clobbering time" being uttered at least three times, and a zero-to-sixty in five seconds romance between Grimm and the blind Alicia Masters.

If you enjoyed PIRANHA over JAWS, MUNCHIES over GREMLINS, and CARNOSAUR over JURASSIC PARK, you could very well be in for a treat. So make this a double feature with the recent big-budget release, and decide for yourself which is more fantastic-er. Sadly, and however you may feel about Roger Corman, it is probably this one.


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