Fantastic Four (1994)

We recently reviewed After Earth, in which we concluded that the desire to humour a spoilt rich kid is not a well from which a quality film can spring. But what about a film made purely to retain the rights to an intellectual property?

fantastic_four_1994

The answer is a tentative yes. For was this not the sole motivation behind 2012’s The Amazing Spider-Man? Which was far better than the inexplicably popular Sam Raimi’s attempt. But what if we look further back?

This was also the reason why a Fantastic Four movie was made in 1994, apparently with no intention of it ever being released. What results is, bizarrely, one of the better movies of the franchise (against an admittedly low bar).

The film is obviously made on the cheap, which is apparent in every single scene. Yet apparently those involved in production were not told it wasn’t planned for release, so there’s an earnestness to the production, lending it an authenticity far exceeding Fant4stic, where the actors looked like they’d already written off the production (especially Kate Mara).

There’s a refreshingly liberal use of The Thing’s catchphrase (“It’s clobberin’ time!”) inevitably followed by him smashing something clearly made of polystyrene. But fans of the Invisible Woman’s embarrassment will be disappointed she’s never caught naked in public as Jessica Alba was in every other scene.

The writing is better than any other Fantastic Four film, with characters that are actually somewhat believable as scientists. Doctor Doom has clearer motivation than in other adaptations, but is rendered totally inaudible through his mask, which apparently looked so bad they had to leave him in the dark in most scenes. His lips are obscured so it would have been incredibly simple to re-dub, but maybe the director realised it wasn’t destined for cinemas by that point.

What results is a thoroughly decent school movie project Fantastic Four, which is surprisingly watchable, in spite of being so cheap you can actually see the shoe strings. Maybe Fox should have followed the lead of their 90s predecessors and not released Fant4stic.

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