Sunday, July 22, 2012

Review: The Fantastic Four (1994)

Credentials: 20%, Certified rotten ( / 3.9 out of 10 (

Plot: It all starts with two allegedly college-aged scientist types doing a little experiment into some sort of cosmic energy event thing. Naturally, the experiment goes horribly wrong and one of the not-so young youths winds up dead. A few years and a whole bunch of gray hair later, the surviving scientist, Dr. Reed Richards (Alex Hyde-White), decides to take a second crack at the experiment that killed his friend. So he recruits three new friends to help him out. Naturally, the experiment goes horribly wrong again--- is he a worse scientist or friend, I can’t decide--- only this time no one ends up dead. Instead, Richards and his three pals all end up with superhuman powers. On top of that, turns out the first experiment may not have been as lethal as once thought, and Richards’ old friend, Victor Von Doom (Joseph Culp), is alive and annoyed. With a name like that, who could blame him?

Why it stinks: Unless your movie is called “Apocalypse Now,” it’s a horrible sign if the story going on behind the camera rivals the one unfolding in front of it.
                Let’s flash back to the early 90’s shall we? Constantin Film Produktion is in trouble. See, the company owns the rights to make a film version of Marvel’s “Fantastic Four” comic book series, but it’s up against a deadline. If it doesn’t start production on a film post haste, it loses the rights and someone else can snatch them up and make the movie.
                So, Constantin hatches a plan to make sure it doesn’t lose the rights: The company decides to make a virtually no-budget “Fantastic Four” movie and just never release it. Hide it away under the stairs like a dark-haired boy with a lightning bolt-shaped scar.
The company hires low-budget maestro Roger Corman to orchestrate the project, a bunch of no-name actors to star in it, and goes to work.
Here’s the catch. According to Marvel head honcho Stan Lee, Constantin never told the actors or crew members about the plan. So everyone went to the set each day, blissfully unaware no one would ever see the results of their hard work. Several of the actors even went to comic conventions to promote the movie.
Once filming wrapped, Constatin buried the movie and 11 years later the company got to make the multimillion dollar, “real” version starring Jessica Alba and Chris Evans, and its sequel “Rise of the Silver Surfer.”
And it all comes back to this super cheap, super crappy movie no one was ever supposed to see, but now we can thanks to the wonders of the internet.
As for the movie, “Fantastic Four” just doesn’t work with a low budget. There are just too many complicated visual effects. Between Dr. Richards stretching his limbs like Stretch Armstrong, the Human Torch controlling fire, the Invisible Woman’s ability to become invisible… (duh) everything just looks embarrassing.
You can’t really blame the effects department, they were just up against it. That’s too big of an order to fill without the coin to back it up.
One thing we can blame them for is the look of the Thing, the member of Richards’ crew who turns into a sort of rock-skinned, golem creature. His makeup and prosthetics actually look OK all things considered. Problem is, his head is clearly shaped like a certain part of the male anatomy. Kind of distracting. Maybe it was just me.
The less said about the repulsive blue and white costumes our heroes don when they become the Fantastic Four, the better.
The dialogue is equally as embarrassing, but screenwriters Craig J. Nevius and Kevin Rock don’t get a pass. It doesn’t take a million dollar budget to realize having two characters' mom say something like: “There they are, the Fantastic Four” is really cheesy.
Also, was the subplot involving the jewel-stealing leprechaun really necessary? Because you’d think Dr. Doom would be enough of a villain to carry a picture. Apparently not though since they had to shoe horn in that guy and his band of sewer dwellers. It’s like the filmmakers stuck some deleted scenes from the first “Leprechaun” into their movie just to see if anyone would notice.
All of the romance in the movie, and there’s a lot, is some combination of creepy, weird and forced. In the case of the Thing, all three.
The fight scenes are all undone by the same lack of an effects budget we talked about earlier.
One the bright side, there’s some occasional humor to be found, some of it intentional, the vast majority accidental. Still, a laugh’s a laugh. 

Worst of the worst

Spoiler Alert: A lot to choose from, but I’m going to pick the wedding that occurs near the end of the movie. The Invisible Woman is about to marry the reverse skunk-haired Dr. Richards. As is customary, she wears a wedding dress. What do the three male members of the Fantastic Four wear, including the groom? Their ugly blue superhero costumes! To a G’D wedding!


Video Evidence

             There you have it. "The Fantastic Four.” Bumblebee tuna.

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