I'm going to get right to the point here, folks: This film is really, really bad. It's REALLY, REALLY, REALLY BAD.
I've spoken at length about various comic book movies that were either so bad they were good, or just downright unenjoyable. This one sort of transcends all of that. In 90 arduous minutes, this film dances around being traditionally mediocre to showing flickers of promise, to being completely unenjoyable to being one of the most spectacularly, gasp-inducingly, jaw-droppingly, dick-losingly, face-forgettingly atrocious pieces of celluloid every edited and packaged together with the intent of creating a moving picture for public consumption.
Essentially, this film is a fucking disaster.
First and foremost, in case there's any confusion, this review has nothing to do with the more recent Fantastic Four films (starring Chris Evans as the Human Torch which has undoubtedly caused confusion for people watching him in "Captain America" and "The Avengers"). Personally, I had no major problem with those films. They were decent popcorn flicks that just didn't really try to be anything more than that. They certainly could have been a lot more and it's a bit of a shame, but overall I think there are worse comic book movies.
To refer to this as one of those "worse comic book movies" seems as much of an understatement as to refer to the Hulk as "a trifle miffed".
"The Fantastic Four" is so bad that apparently someone went back in time and prevented it from ever even being released. According to the timeline of the universe I live in, the reason the film was never released is because "It was never even SUPPOSED to be released."
Apparently, the company that made the film had owned the movie rights to the Fantastic Four franchise for a number of years and their option would lapse if they didn't produce a movie within a given time. Their 'solution' to this was to hire infamous B-Movie God Roger Corman to produce a "film" at lightning-speed (which he was well-known for doing) assumedly so that they'd be able to hold on to the rights for a bit longer - maybe with the intention of making a better film? Who knows? Essentially, from the beginning of this film's production, it was never supposed to be more than a leverage tool, a stamp on the production company's loyalty card so they could get a free latte at that year's SAG Awards. Personally, I don't believe any of this. In my own personal canon of the universe, I believe that Stan Lee, so completely horrified by this film's comprehensive woefulness, sold his soul to Mephisto in exchange for the ability to go back in time and fabricate some mad story about how the film was only made to retain the movie rights to the comic.
I've tried and tried to examine this movie's story, but it's too bizarre and has too many WTF moments where I just can't believe something that was made by industry professionals could be so terrible. Admittedly some of the stuff in the movie bears the stamp of seeming like the writers and actors were at least trying (the scene where Reed suggests that their powers have backgrounds in their individual psyches, is at least ambitious), but most of the movie is just total bullshit. There are episodes of Power Rangers with better, more ambitious production values.
Here's a few key moments of Complete Nonsense in this film:
- Reed Richards and Ben Grimm are 10-15 years older than Johnny and Sue, and visit them early in the movie when they're CHILDREN. Later, when Reed is arguing that it makes absolutely no logical sense whatsoever to bring two inexperienced 20-somethings (with no knowledge of astrophysics) into space with them, Ben argues that "Johnny won't forgive you if you don't take him," as if they were going to "Space Mountain" at Disneyland AND NOT OUTER SPACE. Reed changes his mind when he sees how beautiful Sue is. That's right: Mr Fantastic in this movie is kind of a paedophile.
- There's this completely arbitrary secondary villain named "The Jeweller" who serves almost no purpose whatsoever in the movie except to drive some of the movie's "plot" points. When Ben Grimm falls in love at first "sight" with a blind woman (oh, brother) so too does the Jeweller, who kidnaps her and makes her his "queen" (I couldn't make this up).
- Alicia (aforementioned blind woman, who actually is a character in the comics) meets Ben (in human form) once, at a bank, where he bumps into her and helps her pick up the things that she's dropped. After this, she randomly decides she's in love with him (see the video at the end of the review).
- The film is RIFE with kind-of inappropriate touching and weird moments of intimacy between all the characters. Almost every character in the film hugs every other character at one point or another. More signs that the writers were drunk when they wrote the film.
- Three actors play Doctor Doom in different stages of the villain's story arc. In no way were three actors needed.
- WHAT THE FUCK. THIS.
"Fantastic 4" certainly isn't the worst film I've seen, but it's without-a-doubt the worst comic book movie I have ever seen (although I've never seen "Elektra"). There are so many elements of total badness in the film (including entire characters, like the Jeweller) that could have easily been rewritten but were left in; there were so many special effects that just didn't cut the mustard and shouldn't have even been attempted without a bigger budget (the Human Torch's full flame-on being an example) and there's just generally a conflicting, depressing atmosphere of certain people (like the actors) really trying to make something special out of this mess, while others (the production crew, probably the writers, the company that ended up never releasing the film) never really believing in the product they were trying to create, to the point where it's just a total mess that can't stand up right.
As I said in the beginning of the review, it's hard to even classify this as a "So Bad It's Good" film like Captain America or The Punisher. It absolutely belongs in that genre and should be watched with that frame of mind, but even the pace of the movie is bizarre, with long, lumbering scenes of exposition completely annihilating even an ironic interest in the film. Pretty much every scene with the Jeweller comes close to being totally unwatchable. And yet...I absolutely recommend this film to Bad Film enthusiasts (I am going to rewatch this with my friends and many, many beers in the very near future). It's the bacteria on the knee of a flea scraping at the bottom of the barrel of comic book movies and it shows in absolutely every way. While the film does have a scant few redeeming factors (compared to the other films I've reviewed, this one is really close to the comics, outside of the fact that it randomly introduces a new villain), in almost every respect it is a supernaturally bad film that haunts the viewer for days after they've seen it. "The Fantastic Four" is The Worst Marvel Movie Ever Made.
So that's tentatively the end of "B-Movie Marvels", although I may revisit the title later for other, more recent Marvel movies I haven't seen (like "Elektra"). But, if you're still interested in bad superhero movies, I'll be taking a look at the movie that may have inspired Marvel Studios to make their huge crossover epic "The Avengers" (no, I'm joking. It so totally, absolutely didn't). Yes, my loyal followers, next week I'll be taking a look at the "Justice League of America" TV movie pilot from 1997, described by many as "a really shabby version of 'Friends' with superheroes in it".