Fantastic Four 1994
It’s time for yet another classic cheesy movie goodness, and while this is the newest of these movies that I’ve seen, being from the 90’s, the fact that the budget was so low that it looks and feels at least five years older than what it actually is. If there’s one piece of trivia that any superhero movie fan knows it’s this Fantastic Four movie directed by Roger Corman. It was never intended to be released in theaters or even on home video, the studio decided that it was worth the small budget that they gave the movie in order to retain the rights to the Fantastic Four so they could make a better version of the movie in the near future. This is the exact same reason why all of the recent non-Marvel studio movies are being rebooted and churned out so quickly. If they didn’t make these movies then Fox, Sony, and whatever other studio would lose the rights to make another movie using those characters. But while it was never intended to be released, no one that actually worked on the movie knew that fact so they all put their full effort into it, just at a dirt cheap salary.
The biggest problems with this movie come from the dirt cheap budget, but not all of them. The actors are generally hammy or unconvincing. Johnny Storm is wildly over the top, while Ben Grimm has little to no personality before changing, and after changing he manages to say his catch phrase no less than three times. Doctor Doom is also plenty hammy with his over the top evil laugh as well as plenty of monologue-ing. On top of the acting, the plot is pretty poor as well. Reed Richard’s “explanation” for their powers is that it comes directly from their personality traits: Sue is shy to the point of invisibility, Reed stretches himself thin on too many projects, Johnny has a hot temper, and Ben is a blockhead; I mean Ben too often uses brute force instead of his brains. Doom’s big evil plot is to take all of their powers and implant them in himself, or he’ll destroy New York. Something like that, he’s too busy laughing and being king of some country that also seems to be in New York somehow. He does have my favorite moment in the movie when the Four first escape from his clutches while he’s in the other room “not getting his hands dirty” and he comes back to see them gone and a Thing-shaped hole in the wall. His only response is a simple “huh”. His delivery of that line alone cracked me up more than anything else in this movie. Oh, and there’s a subplot with the Jeweler and his band of Morlocks or whatever who is in love with the blind Alicia, Ben Grimm’s eventual love interest. There’s just a whole bunch of stuff that doesn’t make sense even from a comic book perspective.
The special effects of course come with their own set of problems. The movie uses tons of obvious cost-cutting tricks like a Batman-like swirl in place of the Thing’s first actual fight scene. The one thing that I’ve heard a lot of complains about, but I thought was one of the best things going for this movie was the Thing himself. Even though there’s a weird moment where Alicia declares her love for Ben (based on just a single moment where he knocked her down, said sorry, and let her touch his face) and he reverts back to his regular non-rocky form until he gets mad. Somebody must have forgotten to tell the filmmakers that is the Hulk’s schtick rather than the Thing. I though the actor did a decent job when he wasn’t just spouting his catch phrase, and I thought the costume looked pretty good especially when you factor in how little money they must have spent. The animatronics were a little stiff, but otherwise decent. They also went as long as possible before showing the full range of the Fantastic Four’s powers. Sue only uses her invisible shield once, and Johnny only goes fully inflamed right near the end in a crudely animated style.
Having watched several cheesy 80’s superhero movies before this one that were all flops in their own right I can safely say that I enjoyed watching all of the previous ones. The one line I keep coming back to is that they have a certain charm to them. But this movie fails to capture all but a little bit of that charm. Most of the actors aren’t very likable and the absurd moments don’t have that little wink to the audience that I feel like many of the others seem to have. It was made quickly, cheaply, and it really shows. The script was likely written too quickly, the actors were chosen for their pay rate rather than their ability to actually play the roles that were given to them in the best way possible. The special effects were done for their cost effectiveness rather than the actual visual look of them. And when you finally combine all of these failures of execution you come up with a whole that’s just not very good. The other big problem with this movie is that it’s just not very memorable. I watched it only a few hours ago and I have already forgotten a lot of it. With so many bland characters and such a generic plot, there’s really nothing to catch my interest. At this point the movie is more about just being a curiosity, a point of trivia, a chance to say “yeah, I saw that movie”. If your own curiosity gets the better of you, it’s easily found on YouTube, but I would honestly recommend against it, unless you enjoy ripping on bad movies. And so this ends my current trip through cheesy memory lane. I will continue on to the other leading choice in my recent poll by watching the X-Men movies. I’ll be watching them in somewhat chronological order, starting with First Class, then moving onto Wolverine, then finally the original X-Men trilogy. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.