In this Marvel Comic adaption, four astronauts get bombarded with cosmic rays when an accident occurs. The four of them acquire special powers, and decide to form a superhero group called the Fantastic Four. They then fight their arch-enemy Dr. Doom
Produced under the wing of B-movie maven Roger Corman, 1994’s “The Fantastic Four” attempt would fulfill the realization of seeing the team come to life for the first time in this TV movie. For its time, the special effects were right in line with what was being produced however it would be years later until Fantastic Four would really find its way into theatres with a stellar cast and high tech cgi at its disposal.
This 1994 version has to this day remained elusive and hard to find only really showing up on bootleg releases. It’s no wonder. as it doesn’t compare to what audiences expect these days….. however it still has a certain retro charm to it. Silly costumes, and camera edits make for most of the Fantastic Four powers, yet I still found the interpretation of the “The Thing” to be actually impressive for 1994’s standard. As a low budget film, it can however get quite tedious to watch as we try and make sense of some of the dialog pushed around.
For purists we know the story already which also introduced the foe favorite “Doctor Doom”. Added for our viewing pleasure is another villain by the name of “Weasel” that almost mirrors Batman’s Penguin character. Those who are in tune with the early comic books would come to recognize this weasel character more as The Mole Man”, though it was not presented that way in this release. My takeaway is that perhaps someone had some left over makeup from the Leprechaun franchise?
The production team of Roger Corman and Bernd Eichinger also had their hand in the more popular 2005 version.
“Fantastic four” is a origin film that shows how the team gained their extraordinary powers and the relationships between them. We open on college friends Reed Richards (Alex Hyde-White) and Victor Von Doom (Joseph Culp) who jump at the opportunity to test their latest device on a passing comet called Colossus. The experiment which is hurried without simulation testing backfires on Victor and burns him alive. Thought to be dead, it is ten year later that we discover Victor’s recovery now forced to wear a metal casing garment. It is also 10 year later that Reed and his friends embark on an experimental spacecraft to once again discover the Colossus comet but are hit with a series of cosmic rays when their protective diamond is swapped for a fake. They do survive as the spacecraft crashes back to earth but at the expense of their now altered DNA giving them extra-ordinary abilities.
Sue Reed (Rebecca Staab) inherits the ability of invisibility, Reed is able to stretch his body to obscene elastic proportions, Johnny (Jay Underwood) becomes the “Human torch” being able to pull fire from his body at will leaving Ben Grimm (Carl Ciarfalio) who soon after turns into a organic rock-skinned beast, named “The Thing”.
The story falls mostly in line with the original comic but also differs in various ways. As the team regroups at the Reed Richards “Baxter Building” they anticipate how to deal with their new found abilities. Ben Grimm, now stuck with external monster-like appearance goes into hiding depressed over his drastic change.
Beforehand we do encounter Alicia Masters (Kat Green), a blind artist who develops a crush over Ben before his transformation. The subplots have the team being kidnapped by Doom who wants nothing more that to see them dead and to claim his place among science as the one to capture the comet’s power.
From here on out it’s pretty typical TV showmanship that has henchmen invading, kidnapping, and then being overthrown by super-powered humans. The Weasel makes a failed attempt at trying to claim Alicia as his underground bride while the Fantastic Four have their inevitable showdown with Doom at his castle.
Everything here is pretty tongue and cheek with a few moments just coming across as awkward (like Doom’s maniacal laugh or the fact that Reed first meets Sue when she is a child and then later ends up marrying her 10 years later when she come of age).
This interpretation would never reach the ranks of satisfaction for fans of comic fare but was still a good attempt when there was nothing around to meet that need. The film viewed now would translate as cheesy with bad acting that would later find justice when it arrived in 2005 under the direction of Tim Story.
For those who are paying attention it was just announced that “The Fantastic four’ would once again find its way to remake in 2015. Perhaps Hollywood needs to find new superheros instead of redoing them all 3-4 times. Or maybe they shouldn’t have castÂ 2005’s Human Torch as “Captain America” as well?.
Needless to say, if you want to see how it all started, then sit down with this cheesy bad gem!
The Fantastic Four (1994)