The Fantastic Four’s movie track record so far hasn’t exactly been stellar, but before Disney decides to jump-start them in the MCU it’s time to look again at that other movie they were in. No, not Fant4stic, the film where Johnny Storm looked like Killmonger from Black Panther. We’re not talking about the two before that either, the ones where Johnny Storm looked like Captain America.
Nope. We’re talking about the film they made before that, the one we weren’t supposed to see. The one where Johnny Storm looked like… Ernest Hemingway?
1994’s The Fantastic Four film was co-produced by low-budget movie king Roger Corman and was never officially released, either theatrically or directly to video. But bootleg copies of it could be found, and it’s magically appeared on YouTube too. It’s one of the least popular skeletons in the Marvel Movie closet, and unintentionally contributed to one of the best running jokes in the fourth season of Arrested Development. But is it really that bad? Well, these are the high and low points…
00:01:48 Wait, George Gaynes is in this? Is this another Police Academy movie?
00:02:22 Special effects are by “Mr. Film”. Now there’s a name that inspires confidence…
00:02:34 Music by David and Eric Wurst. Yes, this movie has the Wurst music?
00:05:47 Reed Richards and Victor Von Doom are at university, but beware of the mysterious men in hats who are following them.
00:06:52 Enter Reed’s dreamgirl, the… 14 year old Sue Storm?! Okay, this just got super-creepy.
00:09:21 Reed and Victor engage in their usual science shenanigans. We know they mean business because this experiment goes from 7 to 1 on a scale of A to M on the Magnetic Inferometer. What does it mean? Uh… SCIENCE!
00:12:41 Doom is dead. Wait, what? And what’s with the weird love theme music going on between Reed and Ben?
00:13:00 Doom is alive! All hail Doom!
00:14:25 So it’s ten years later, and little Sue is all grown up now. Still a bit creepy though. Also, screw hiring proper astronauts to go into space, just ask your friends. Health and safety be damned.
00:17:00 Doctor Doom wants to steal a diamond shaped like one of Marge Simpson’s jell-o desserts. But the Leprechaun-like villain the Jeweller wants it too, the little scamp. Also, the guy claims to be able to smell a diamond a hundred miles away but lives in the sewers. His sense of smell can’t be that good.
00:18:22 Ben knocks over blind Alicia Masters, shatters her statue and then manhandles her – and Reed laughs at this. What kind of a cold-hearted bastard are you, man?
00:21:15 Sue tells Reed “Anywhere you want to go, I’m there.” That must make his trips to the bathroom really awkward.
00:24:36 While the Jeweller plays hopscotch as he tries to steal His Precious, we get our first proper glimpses of Doctor Doom and he looks glorious!
00:28:08 The Fantastic Four’s doomed space flight has led to them crashing on Teletubby Hill? Naughty Noo Noo!
00:30:15 Johnny Storm first shows his Human Torch powers by sneezing and setting a bush on fire. Well, at least he didn’t light his own farts while snowboarding.
00:33:00 Don’t panic! Don’t panic! Johnny Storm gets the “Game over, man! Game over!” award for over-acting.
00:35:12 Say what you want about this film, Doctor Doom knows how to make an grand exit as his cape makes a whooshing noise.
00:35:37 We’ll pretend that we didn’t see Alicia going for the big O during her earlier sculpting scene cribbed from Ghost, but now she’s rubbing Ben Grimm’s clay over her lips. Don’t say that isn’t weird.
00:37:48 The Jeweller’s henchmen are all chanting “QUEEN!”, and who can blame them? Bohemian Rhapsody rocks!
00:41:00 It’s the Thing, and facially he actually looks pretty close to the comics – or at least closer than any other movie has. But he’s as scrawny as a rake and looks to have shrunk by several inches, so he now resembles a deep-fried corndog.
00:44:30 It’s a medical sequence montage as Johnny flames on and Ben breaks a chair, while the doctor examining them goes all Tim Conway by injecting himself by accident. Except it isn’t as funny.
00:49:10 Doom’s bungling henchmen trade quips with the Jeweller and his henchmen. Doom wants that jell-o diamond the Jeweller stole, but the Jeweller sends Doom’s henchmen packing. How hu-miliatin’! Bah! Doom should have no need for henchmen at all!
00:51:41 In a daring attempt to escape from the military (who are really Doom’s minions), Reed and the gang knock out some of his scientists. Possibly. It’s all a little vague. One moment, the Thing was staring at them… then the screen spun about and there were some sound effects of punching. Next thing you know, they’re all dressed up as bananas.
00:55:50 Doom confronts Reed, Sue and Johnny. It’s hard to decipher what he’s saying, as Doom is suffering from Bane’s Masked Mouth disease. There’s lots of mumbling about how they need to “Bring the kids!”, and tells Johnny to “Keep your poo.” Uh… Still, he looks pretty awesome before he leaves and sends in his guards.
00:56:45 “It’s clobberin’ time!”
00:58:00 Reed’s entire contribution to this astonishingly dismal fight sequence is extending his leg to trip up advancing guards. Now that’s a superpower!
00:58:45 One of the funniest movie moments ever as Doom returns, boasting loudly. Suddenly he stops in mid-soliloquy, realises his guards are dead and that the FF have escaped. Doom’s classic response: “Huh.”
01:01:14 Johnny just called Reed “Batman”. Oh, the hilarity!
01:07:30 When the Thing takes one of his usual long, sullen walks away from the team, he comes across the Jeweller. What a coincidence…
01:10:10 Doom invades the Jeweller’s sewers and beats countless armed guards by flexing like Hulk Hogan. Being Doom, he has to laugh maniacally about it afterwards too. Say what you want about the quality of this film, but this Doom is still better than the one Josh Trank gave us.
01:12:00 It’s another wacky Doctor Doom moment as he uses Alicia as a hostage… and the Thing runs away!
01:14:00 While Sue seems to be the only one who likes wearing her costume, Doom just keeps getting better. He appears on Reed’s viewscreen, talks with his hands a lot and sends the funniest message since Star Trek‘s “Hello, I’m Nero!”
01:15:23 When did Reed find the time to build a hybrid of the Fantasticar and the Pogo Plane, and slap up “4” logos on the Baxter building? Anybody?
01:19:26 Doom’s Latverian sign language for the hearing-impaired aside, you’ve got to dig this guy. It’s hard to figure out why his cosmic-ray sapping laser is making Sue scream though, so we’ll guess “science” again. Meanwhile, Reed looks like he’s more worried about returning an overdue library book than her safety.
01:20:30 It’s clobbering time again, this time using some footage that looks, um, bizarrely identical to the fight they had earlier.
01:21:40 Johnny flies. It’s bad. It’s so, so bad. That SFX guy, Mr Film, has a lot to answer for.
01:24:31 After a pathetic fight between Reed and Doom, Doom falls to his (supposed) death – laughing the whole time. This guy is one crazy Latverian!
01:25:55 It’s animation a go-go, as Johnny attempts to stop a laser beam from destroying New York. We’re not saying they cribbed this from somewhere, but it does look curiously like an old Fleischer Superman cartoon that’s been hastily drawn over. It ends with Johnny flying in deep space, but how can he stay on fire when there’s no air? Um…
01:26:24 Reed and Sue get married, and to show his enormous respect for the occasion the Thing has decided to wear his underpants and nothing else. Great aunt Petunia, where did he learn to behave like this?
01:26:57 As the limo drives away from the wedding, Reed’s weird elongated hand pops out of the sunroof to wave goodbye. Wow, that honeymoon should be something else. Try not to imagine it, it’ll scar you for life.
01:30:00 It’s over! Yes, just like that. And since this isn’t an MCU movie, there’s no post-credits extra scene!
To be fair, this Fantastic Four film isn’t all that bad. Okay, so it IS bad, but in a cheesy way that makes it fun-bad. The acting is lousy, the costumes mostly look terrible and the grey streaks in Reed’s hair that make it look like the guy went crazy with a bottle of correction fluid. The effects were shoddy even by the standards of the time and the plot is a mess.
But damn, it’s entertaining – not just because of its badness but because at least it’s fun. Not only that, but this film probably has the best looking Doctor Doom of all cinema versions. This film’s budget was a hundred times less than Fant4stic, but it’s a hundred times more entertaining because it’s never boring.
If you’re looking for a good film to watch, 1994’s The Fantastic Four isn’t it. It’s no masterpiece and is still one of the worst Marvel movies ever made. So don’t be fooled into thinking it’s unwatchable just from its reputation. For all its faults, it’s no worse than a semi-competent fan-film, and at least worth a few cheap laughs.