Fantastic Four Reviews
It's important to know from the get go that The Fantastic Four is to be anything but fantastic. Having been produced on such a low budget solely for the purpose of not losing the rights to the classic Marvel heroes, The Fantastic Four is clearly not a feature that set out to genuinely entertain anyone. There was never intention for the film to be released, and the only reason it's available for viewing is through bootleg copies leaked on the internet. In contrast to the $100 million budget 2005 adaptation of the Fantastic Four comics or the 2015 $120 million version, this rendition of the classic Marvel superhero story cost a hundredth of that. With a budget as low as a meagre $1 million, it is clear that there is no hope in the feature doing any justice to the comic book series. The fact that it genuinely exists is funny enough.
There have been four live action films released to date that bear the Fantastic Four name, and not one of them have been anything close to fantastic. The 1994 adaptation stands to be judged completely differently as this production is not a serious one, and so the only way that entertainment value is likely to be found will come from the nature of the film as a low budget Roger Corman production which boasts the title of an iconic and internationally recognized superhero squad. In all honesty, the existence of the film is a joke which is actually funny at times.
The scene in which Dr. Victor Von Doom stands in the centre of an electrical storm created as the result of a failed experiment is one of the funniest moments in the film. Actor Joseph Culp stands directly in the middle of poorly rendered visual effects while he puts his arms out and screams the word "No!" for an extended period of time, pausing momentarily to actually take a breath and start again for some godforsaken reason. Another hilarious moment comes from the first scene where the titular gang are united in preparation to enter an experimental spacecraft. Annie Gagen delivers the line "Look at you. The Fantastic Four.", and the self-referential nature of the line is so blatant and obvious that it lives up to the standard of the joke from the Family Guy episode 420 which references films that say the name of their title in the dialogue. The endeavour of this joke is one where Superman says " In order to do this, I must become Superman IV: The Quest for Peace". This moment in The Fantastic Four is a legitimate real-world example on par with that joke. But then again, the film itself is a joke. When The Fantastic Four is not pretending that it has a plot, it manages to use some ridiculously cheap dialogue to evoke unintentional comedy which is genuinely rather funny for all the wrong reasons, and since the budget is so low there is little room for spending on any kind of action scenes which means that it all relies on the screenplay. Bad move.
There is no time given to characterize the paper-thin characters of the story as the feature takes off and jumps straight into trying to turn its characters into the titular team of superheroes without ever stopping to consider why it's doing that. It's clear that the screenwriters don't care, but since the film was never intended to receive theatrical release they don't even need to pretend to. And when it comes to the characters, nothing makes sense. The appearance of and characterisation of Sue Storm gives her the appearance of some kind of 1950's housewife thrown into a wacky situation like an old disaster movie, while her relationship with Reed Richards feels like a cheesy teenage love story from straight out of the 1980's. Doctor Doom is characterised as a rip-off of Frank Langella's Skeletor from the 1987 live action adaptation of Masters of the Universe and every hammer horror movie villain ever. Aside from Doctor Doom, the antagonists of the story are a collection of gypsies who serve under the reign of "The Jeweler". This is the most Roger Corman aspect of the film as it is stereotypical, cheap, out of place and above all senseless. And when it comes to my favourite character from the original comic series, Johnny Storm is played by Jay Underwood who seems to be a combination between Alex Winter playing Bill S. Preston from Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure and Allen Covert from every Happy Madison film. Yet it is Ben Grimm that stands out. The appearance of The Thing is one of the most laughable elements of the visual experience. In a suit made of such ridiculously obvious rubber, The Thing could not look less convincing. As it is, you can see the eye holes in his suit where Carl Ciarfalio is, and the movements of the mouth are the furthest thing from believable. The way that Carl Ciarfalio acts suggests that production values have not changed in the 61 years since the release of the original King Kong. I didn't feel that it was clobbering time for a second, I felt that it just a time to acknowledge that The Fantastic Four was a 1960's B-movie produced in the 1990's.
The low production values make a notable impact on the quality of the action which prove to be some of the best moments in the film. Though the quantity of action is very sporadic, the low budget nature of the film condemns them to being at a standard that yearns to reach the high class of camp and instead settles for being hilariously shlocky. One moment in the film uses stock sound effects and a spinning camera frame to create an ellipsis that implies action has just happened. This should be laughable, but by this point in the film it is just sad. The same stock effects are heard at every other action scene in the rest of the film. Other moments make use of chees y visual effects, weak practical stunts and a desperate attempt to maintain the illusion that they are anything but ridiculous through an abundance of poor quality slow motion. There is no making sense of it.
Lastly, the musical score is one of the elements that feature the highest production values of the film, but there is still nothing to boast about. Many of the moments feel derivative of the John Williams' excellent score from Jurassic Park the prior year, and that one segment is used so repetitively that it is practically impossible for viewers to miss this. Most of the time the feature has the musical score of a soap opera, and yet it uses it every second of the entire film to pump melodrama into the story without ever considering that maybe it's a stupid idea. What it does is make the film more of an unintentional comedy as it just reinforces everything in the film which is poorly written. The moment where the main characters realize that their superpowers are a simple allegory for their emotional difficulties in life is the single cheesiest moment in the film, and the discovery and dialogue plays out like an NBC "The More You Know" public service announcement with ridiculously corny sentimentality brought on by the thin acting and musical score. And when Johhny Storm says "Holy Freud, Batman", I was left speechless.
So The Fantastic Four embodies the standards of low-budget Roger Corman B-movies films from the 1960's and 1980's with shlocky production values, thin characters and weak writing which leaves it unintentionally humourous at the best times of the film, and yet the fact that it maintains the name of Marvel's iconic superhero team puts it on a new level of ridiculous.
The costumes were cheesy, the visual effects are god awful and the movie is so bad that it's kind of funny.
Hell; Doctor Doom looks the way he should and even has his throne. The movie is goofy and not great by any means. But I like that it has a whimsical take on the Fantastic Four. To me that is the right approach over being dark and boring like the new one.