Marvel Movie Madness! Part 4: Fantastic Four (1994)

This early attempt is no stretch of the imagination.

by | May 17, 2011 | Comments

Enter Marvel Movie Madness, wherein Rotten Tomatoes watches all of the significant Marvel movies ever made. Full Marvel Movie Madness list here. Tune in! We give you our thoughts, and you give us yours.

[rtimage]siteImageId=10243271[/rtimage]

Part 4: The Fantastic Four (1994)

Directed by Oley Sassone, starring Alex Hyde-White, Rebecca Staab, Carl Ciarfalio, Jay Underwood

Matt: Imagine hiring a director and cast to make a movie that you never intended to release. That’s exactly what happened in 1994, when Constantin Film partnered with Roger Corman to make this low-budget version of The Fantastic Four. The film was made only so that Constantin could maintain the film rights to the franchise.

There’s no getting around it – this movie is pretty bad, as expected from something that was never meant to see the light of day. And the standard Roger Corman elements are there – stock footage, cheap effects, etc (one of my favorites was the use of asbestos fire suits to stand in for space suits). But to be honest, it’s no worse than you’d expect out of something shown on TV in 1994.

The kicker here is that no one told the cast and crew the movie wasn’t intended to be released; they all thought the movie was legit at the time. The fact that the director and cast thought they were making a real movie makes this weirdly fascinating to watch. The actors are clearly trying here (sometimes too much), and the movie does have a sort of hokey charm.

In some places, the movie actually does compare to the 20th Century Fox productions. I think this Dr. Doom is more true to what we’d expect from the comics, and The Thing from the later, big budget films doesn’t really look that much better than he does here, although this Thing looks a little reptilian.

Alex: I’ve been falling asleep to this movie over the past week. I’m at the part where one of the villains — the one that looks like The Penguin’s disfigured cousin — kidnaps a blind pottery artist to make her his bride. I’m assuming Dr. Doom fits into this, perhaps as one of the groomsmen? Is he planning the bachelor party? I’m sure it’ll make sense when I get to the end.

[rtimage]siteImageId=10243272[/rtimage]

Tim:: My cousin, who’s a huge Marvel geek, was talking about this movie around the time it was made, so I’ve long wondered what a zero-budget Fantastic Four movie would look like. Thanks to the miracle of YouTube, I have an answer — and though this movie is far from being good, it’s not the unwatchable mess I had anticipated. I agree with everything Matt said; it’s kind of poignant watching the faux Four (and the filmmakers) invest such energy into a movie that would never (officially) see the light of day. The Fantastic Four is overacted (sometimes laughably so), the sets and special effects are straight from the dime store, and it’s got a goofy, gee-whiz vibe that’s laughably out of fashion in our era of dark, gritty comic book adaptations. But it’s occasionally a lot weirder than it has to be (the Jeweler, surrounded by legions of subterranean hobos, wouldn’t seem out of place in a Terry Gilliam movie). And I have to admit, the scene in which the Four’s craft is hit by a cosmic ray was nicely done — the slow-mo shots of our heroes blinded by a powerful blast of light was both inspired and evocative. All in all, it’s a thoroughly so-so movie, but not a disaster by any means.

Jeff: Purity of intent can go a long way, can’t it? Maybe I’ve just been beaten down by crassly cynical Hollywood product, but I think there’s something sort of endearing about a movie this cheerfully crappy. Fantastic Four is bad, but it’s bad in a Little Rascals-type “Let’s get the gang together and make a movie!” way. It reminds me a little of the Sunday night movies that Disney used to make for network TV, with bare-minimum production values, slumming character actors (I hope they gave you at least enough for a mortgage payment, George Gaynes), and performances that swing wildly from curiously deadpan to way over the top — sometimes during the same line.

[rtimage]siteImageId=10243273[/rtimage]

A couple of asides: If someone ever writes a book about the making of this movie, I’m buying it. And during the opening credits, while the Muzak score played over a tour of the galaxy, I briefly daydreamed that I was watching an episode of Newhart in Space.

Matt: Jeff, I think you should do the investigating and write that book – there have to be some great stories there. I’d love for this to get a DVD or Blu-ray release, because I’d be interested in seeing a decent transfer. We all watched this on YouTube, and I think that watching a 240p feed from what has to be at least a 3rd generation VHS copy only adds to the experience. And if it ever makes it to DVD, Jeff gets the pull quote on the box: “Cheerfully crappy!”

Tim:: All joking aside, you guys raise an interesting point: it’s unlikely that we’ll ever see a curiosity like it again, since no Marvel property is getting the B-movie treatment in the near future. That’s not necessarily a bad thing; in the last couple years we’ve seen some remarkably mature, stylistically bold comic book movies. But that also means we’ll be denied perversely watchable oddities like this.

Alex: Made it to the end. Nope, no sense at all. Put this one back in the ashcan.


More Marvel Movie Madness:

Tag Cloud

MSNBC kids A&E Netflix Christmas movies Tubi Creative Arts Emmys Pirates robots Winners period drama facebook Epix DC Universe El Rey Baby Yoda Fall TV 2017 Amazon Prime Turner Classic Movies Mary Tyler Moore TIFF American Society of Cinematographers Rock Election green book werewolf cinemax Academy Awards GLAAD Food Network game show SundanceTV sag awards WGN Syfy Horror Trivia ESPN spanish language Country YouTube Red Trailer based on movie Rocky documentary dc science fiction SDCC Marvel 2015 cats Pet Sematary unscripted Chilling Adventures of Sabrina IFC MCU Mindy Kaling Nickelodeon television true crime cults latino 20th Century Fox Toys award winner psychological thriller police drama stand-up comedy revenge TV biography sequel Freeform Walt Disney Pictures canceled TV shows Logo book Masterpiece Britbox Valentine's Day Family Sundance TV Vudu mockumentary teaser Disney+ Disney Plus aliens YouTube Premium Holidays Grammys strong female leads LGBTQ dceu The Arrangement adaptation Watching Series Lucasfilm cars Bravo thriller Mystery Binge Guide Box Office Opinion Discovery Channel Amazon social media Certified Fresh diversity Year in Review TCA Winter 2020 composers TLC Marathons CW Seed San Diego Comic-Con Trophy Talk Film Anna Paquin nature historical drama PaleyFest Rocketman justice league screenings CMT space FX discovery zero dark thirty X-Men Red Carpet movies LGBT CBS Disney Channel ITV cancelled television CNN First Look Sneak Peek cancelled TV shows WarnerMedia A24 BET Holiday binge blaxploitation Rom-Com The Witch comics cartoon Avengers Spike ghosts GIFs Photos 2018 directors toy story mutant Endgame Hulu 24 frames batman BBC America anthology TNT Tomatazos Song of Ice and Fire jamie lee curtis DC streaming service Awards Music Stephen King what to watch adventure Turner Summer game of thrones 71st Emmy Awards Tarantino Thanksgiving GoT video talk show joker Character Guide Star Wars Premiere Dates Infographic Comedy Central Dark Horse Comics Women's History Month movie doctor who breaking bad Schedule See It Skip It Quiz Apple TV Plus HBO independent Interview singing competition YA PBS Peacock Set visit Comic Book zombie boxoffice crossover blockbuster richard e. Grant spain Cannes VH1 Ovation National Geographic romantic comedy Pop Animation cooking FOX south america Shudder Oscars theme song crime harry potter cops USA Best and Worst NBC Paramount Network casting CBS All Access 21st Century Fox 2020 Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Fantasy natural history Paramount Hallmark The CW Mary poppins Starz Calendar Shondaland political drama The Purge children's TV disaster Polls and Games Superheroe Spectrum Originals DC Comics Sundance Winter TV DirecTV 2019 45 elevated horror BBC Fox News travel streaming RT21 transformers slashers free movies First Reviews renewed TV shows hispanic Marvel Television Star Trek dragons APB name the review halloween spinoff Amazon Prime Video supernatural Adult Swim Disney Plus romance Sony Pictures Captain marvel TV Land Heroines Chernobyl Superheroes Columbia Pictures Biopics Nat Geo witnail Action History Brie Larson cancelled Teen golden globes Elton John Netflix anime Marvel Studios Black Mirror USA Network Apple TV+ Film Festival Showtime Ellie Kemper DGA canceled animated foreign Television Academy Hallmark Christmas movies Extras indie Esquire Disney streaming service sports comiccon Christmas Warner Bros. YouTube HBO Max medical drama Spring TV TBS vampires OneApp ratings sitcom crime thriller Pixar Comedy christmas movies Mudbound zombies E! ABC Family war Emmy Nominations OWN festivals Video Games New York Comic Con AMC tv talk ABC Writers Guild of America Pride Month finale Lifetime Christmas movies TV renewals Nominations Drama 007 IFC Films Podcast quibi Sci-Fi NYCC Kids & Family Reality Competition Disney rotten movies we love reboot screen actors guild hist Musical Cartoon Network Emmys miniseries The Walking Dead Reality docudrama RT History Awards Tour Countdown TCA Western crime drama VICE MTV Universal Musicals Mary Poppins Returns Lifetime SXSW serial killer Lionsgate versus Apple E3 Tumblr Classic Film President series TruTV Ghostbusters Acorn TV spider-man technology Crunchyroll Crackle Comics on TV cancelled TV series spy thriller Cosplay 2016 Martial Arts Sundance Now Super Bowl TCA 2017 politics Arrowverse TCM FXX dramedy psycho comic