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5/12/16

THE FANTASTIC FOUR (1994) - REVIEW


Though it's often forgotten, there was an early attempt at making a film about The Fantastic Four back in 1994 when German producer Bernd Eichinger teamed up with B-movie maestro Roger Corman to make a low-budget film based on the iconic Marvel characters.

The film cost about $1M and was never released though it would later resurface on bootleg videos. Stan Lee was not directly involved with the project except for selling the rights temporarily but it still stayed surprisingly true to the comics both in spirit and story-wise which shows that there definitely was a genuine attempt at making the most of that low-budget. The film sees scientist Reed Richards (Alex Hyde-White) gather a team to perform an experiment in space, an experiment which, of course, goes wrong and they crash-land back on Earth unharmed thanks to unusual powers they somehow picked up along the way. An ex-colleague of Richards', Victor Von Doom (an over-the-top Joseph Culp), lives up to his last name and becomes the film's main antagonist after a near-fatal accident turns him into the masked, cloaked Dr. Doom.

There's also a bizarre subplot involving Ian Trigger as The Jeweler, a villainous thief who kidnaps Ben Grimm's (Michael Bailey Smith) girl, blind sculptor Alicia Masters (Kat Green), with the goal of making her his bride. While that part is connected to Dr. Doom through a stolen diamond, it really feels unnecessary and should have probably been cut altogether. The main problems with the film, however, relate to the low-budget as the climax is packed with lacklustre special effects, The Thing's bodysuit looks awkward, as do all the costumes in fact, and the whole thing looks like it was filmed in the late 70's or mid 80's, certainly not in 1994. Which is a shame because it does have some things going for it: Alex Hyde-White makes a decent Mr Fantastic, the team is genuinely likeable, the score is very good and the film is altogether pretty entertaining.

Like the Captain America movie from 1990, The Fantastic Four is something of a charming failure: give it a proper budget and it would have actually been a fun first outing for those characters. It respects the source material and it's watchable, which is more than I can say for that old Dr. Strange TV Pilot. Wooden performances, below-par effects, bland cinematography and an uneven plot make this a bit of a clunky effort but it's still far more enjoyable than the 2015 reboot.

Not fantastic but not the worst either.

For the curious Marvel fan.

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