nfamous film producer Roger Corman's Fantastic Four
is the movie that shouldn't have been, but since it has found a way to become
despite the odds, has been hidden so far in the Earth core that only those
wholly devoted to the comic book of which the movie is based would take the time
to seek out a copy. Corman and his people acquired the movie rights to the
Fantastic Four at a time when Marvel Comics, the company that created and owns
the rights, was in the dumps.
Marvel, unlike its rival DC Comics, seemed unable
to make a profitable movie adaptation of its vast sea of comic properties. DC
had Batman and Marvel had...The Punisher with Dolph Lundren; DC
had Superman and Marvel had...Captain America with Matt Salinger.
(Who is Matt Salinger? Exactly.) Every
movie made from a Marvel comic book either went straight to video hell or, as
was the case with The Incredible Hulk, managed to get on network TV...just
barely. So when Corman came and asked to buy the movie rights to the Fantastic
Four, Marvel eagerly gave it to them. And Fantastic Four was made -- and
All that having been said, is Corman's Fantastic Four
really as bad as people make it out to be? Well, no, not really. Well, okay,
The film opens with college brainiacs and chums Reed
Richards (Alex Hyde-White) and Victor von Doom (Joseph Culp) planning to harness
the energy of something called Colossus, which has appeared in space over Earth.
The duo's plan goes awry, and Victor is presumed dead and Reed's collegiate
career ended. Flash-forward 10 years, and Reed is now a brilliant scientist who
has built a ship to go into space to once again harness the power of Colossus.
Reed's crew consists of test pilot Ben Grimm (Michael Bailey Smith) and the
Storm siblings, Susan and Johnny. The planned flight goes -- what else? -- awry
when a diamond thief called the Jeweler steals an important part of Reed's ship,
causing the ship to explode in space and sending the crew tumbling back home.
Once on terra firma again, the crew discovers that they have developed
superpowers -- just in time, too, since a maniac covered from head to toe in
metal sheets is threatening to destroy all of New York City with a big bastard
of a cannon...
First of all, Fantastic Four is a low-budget movie.
Anyone who has seen enough movies with Corman's name attached to them in one
form or another knows this, and has accepted it. So why would anyone try to make
a superhero movie with such a low budget? I have no idea. It's akin to trying to
build a Cadillac out of spare parts from a tricycle. It just isn't a good idea,
Here are the powers of the Fantastic Four: Reed Richards
has the power to stretch, but seems to only be able to stretch his hand and feet
-- which looks like what they are, that iiis a fake hand or foot stuck to the end
of a really long pole. Susan Storm, who can turn invisible, provides the movie's
cheapest sfx, since "going invisible" costs little to nothing
nowadays. Johnny Storm can make fire, but besides shooting the same fireball
over and over again (only blue screened on other backgrounds), his only real
"special" ability comes in handy at the end, when he completely turns
himself into a literal human torch. Ben Grimm's power, as the Thing, a large
monstrosity covered in chunks of orange-colored rocks, is all prosthetics, but
they're very well done prosthetics.
So what I'm trying to say is, if you went into Fantastic
Four looking to go "wow," then you should turn on the WB to catch
an episode of the Superboy TV show "Smallville" instead. The sets are
notoriously Corman, which means their idea of "high tech" is a series
of buttons and levers borrowed from the original "Star Trek" TV show.
The acting is sub par by the 4 leads, with Joseph Culp (Doctor Doom) grossly
overreacting, perhaps trying to make up for the fact that we can't see his face.
The movie's only real highlight comes from the Ben Grimm character, which in
Thing form is played by another actor besides Michael Bailey Smith. The Thing
blames Reed Richards for turning him into a grotesque "thing." Oddly
enough, despite being covered in prosthetics, the Thing shows the most emotions
and range of all the actors.
Oley Sassone, who shows no real flair for comic books,
directs Fantastic Four as best as he can under the situation. All the
scenes are average and Sassone doesn't seem to have gotten much out of his
actors, in particular Rebecca Staab (Susan Storm), who brings her pretty face to
the film but forgot any thespian ability she may have had. Writers Craig J.
Nevius and Kevin Rock hits all the right notes, covering all the origins of the
Fantastic Four as told by the comic book, but it's obvious their script was
written to heavily conform to the film's low budget. The addition of the
Jeweler, an underground dweller and diamond thief who kidnaps Ben Grimm's girl
in hopes of marrying her, seemed out of place and unnecessary.
Fantastic Four has been making the rounds of comic
book conventions everywhere, with bootleg copies being the only way to see this
film, since I doubt you could find a copy at your local Blockbusters. It's not
an entirely bad film, and even with its many constraints and negatives, the film
is notable for being very faithful to its comic book roots. Unfortunately it's a
Corman film, so there you have it.