25 August 2002 | MichaelM24
a pleasant little surprise
Back in 1994, I rented a movie (since forgotten) and saw the trailer for THE FANTASTIC FOUR. I was absolutely jazzed. I was a huge comic book fan back then, and at the time, movies based on comic books weren't being made as often as they are know, so it was nice to see that one was on the way. Of course, the film was shelved days before it's premiere. Over the years, I'd heard reviews of the film from those who had seen bootleg copies of it, and most touted it as a huge disaster in every regard. Well, eight years later, I've finally had the opportunity to see it, and I must say, I found it to be pretty decent. Sure, it definitely looks low-budget (it has the feel of a TV show more than a feature film), but you can tell it was a labor of love for all involved and that everybody gave it their all.
A few of the effects shots--especially the Human Torch's full-body burn at the climax--reveal the film's extremely low budget, but the filmmakers make up for that with the story and characters. Though not the event film I always pictured a Fantastic Four movie to be, it instead takes a slightly more personal approach, focusing on the characters as they come to terms with their changes before pitting them against Dr. Doom. The cast does a good job, and the costumes, especially The Thing and Dr. Doom, are well done and faithful (unlike the another superhero team movie, X-MEN). The subplot involving a character called The Jeweler was a bit on the distracting side. I was bored whenever the film switched to him, but thankfully, the rest of the film was better. It's a shame this was never released, at least on video. Like another little-known (and just barely-released) comic book movie, CAPTAIN AMERICA, THE FANTASTIC FOUR scores thanks to its actors and the story exploring the characters, even if the production isn't quite as big as it should have been.
If the movie had had a slightly bigger budget and some better effects shots, I think it could have done reasonably well in the theaters. It will be interesting to see if the big-budget version (rumored to have been in development by a major studio since around the time this film was made) can create a good balance between story and character when it's sure to be made into a special effects extravaganza.