The Fantastic Four (1994)

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Say whatever you want about 1994’s guilty pleasure “The Fantastic Four” but I’ll take it any day over the god awful big budget films released in 2005 by director Tim Story. There may not be much of a budget to draw on, but at least there’s Dr. Doom in all of his glory and much of what made the comics so readable back in the early nineties. Plus, while much of it is generally in line with the kid friendly tone of the big budget films, director Oley Sassone opts for a darker tone that works much more than the big budget successors in the next decade.

For fans of comics and the underground, much is known about “The Fantastic Four.” Originally meant to hold on to the copyright for the title, the studio behind this film hired Roger Corman to fuel a basically low budget filming of a movie that was never meant to be released in theaters. What emerged was a cult classic that became infamous for its horrific special effects and unintentional gaffs at the expense of what is supposed to be a down to Earth story about four superheroes bringing down a steel faced enemy. “The Fantastic Four” has a lot going for it, and you can sense by the atmosphere and awe-inspiring enthusiasm behind the shoot that with a large budget, this could have been a banner film for the Marvel label. Rather than being an inside joke for comic book nerds across the world.

I won’t pretend this is a masterpiece of comic book cinema, but it’s definitely so much more fun than its 2005 successor primarily because it takes what it has and tries to tell the best story it can with it. All the while inspiring some genuine oohs and aahs from the top notch cinematography and wicked action set pieces. The story follows the same basic mold of the original “Fantastic Four” comic books. The four friends all head in to space in a shuttle that passes by the cosmic rays of a passing meteor. After crash landing on to Earth, the group embodies the super powers that hone in on their insecurities and desires. The hot headed Johnny becomes a human fireball, the rough and tough Ben becomes a rock monster, and the often inadequate Sue discovers she can become invisible.

The meteor also disfigures their friend Victor Von Doom who embodies the mantle of Dr. Doom who has wicked plans for the four superheroes and planet Earth. This of course results in a camp classic that features some horrible prosthetics for Mr. Fantastic and his stretching abilities, and a dated computer generated battle in the sky featuring Human Torch. I kid this film, but it’s definitely one of my favorite bad films that I wish would get a deluxe home release, if only to show that a film with charm and charisma can make up for its lack of budget, in the end. While by no means a comic book movie classic, it’s still a cult gem that deserves to be watched by fans of good bad films and the cult underground. With child-like enthusiasm and some rather entertaining set pieces, “The Fantastic Four” is a goofy but ultimately engrossing piece of film that I hope more fans discover.