Wednesday, 9 August 2017
Fantastic Four  (4 Stars)
I've known about the existence of this film for a long time, at least 10 years, but I've been reluctant to watch it. It was only available online, so I wanted to wait until it was released on DVD. I found out last week that it will never be released, so today I watched the film online at Daily Motion.
So why won't it be released? I've pieced the story together, starting with Wikipedia, then adding information from other web sites.
In 1986 the German company Constantin Film purchased the film rights to the Fantastic Four. If no film was made within six years the rights would revert to Marvel. There were doubts that the film could be made within the budgetary constraints of a relatively small company, so the making of the film was put off as long as possible. The filming finally began on December 28th 1992, three days before the rights were due to expire. I suppose it's a matter of legal definition whether the film has to be completed or begun within the six year period. The budget was still limited, so Roger Corman was hired as producer, because he promised he could make the film for one million dollars.
"Fantastic Four" was planned to be released in 1994. Avi Arad of Marvel expressed doubts about whether it was a good idea to release a low budget film about the Fantastic Four. He decided to block the film, probably with the support of his superiors. He bought the rights to the film for two million dollars, then cancelled the release. He ordered all the copies of the film to be destroyed, allegedly without even watching it himself. If that's true, he's sunk very low in my esteem.
Someone somewhere must have made a copy of the film, because fuzzy copies of the film have found their way onto the Internet over the last 10 years. I'm thankful that the film hasn't disappeared completely, but I'm sad that the picture quality is so poor. It's doubtful that any good quality tapes still exist.
The film is a typical origin story. We see Reed Richards, Benjamin Grimm, Susan Storm and Johnny Storm gain their powers, after which they battle against Doctor Doom. That's the same as what we see in the 2005 version and the 2015 version of the film, but just look at the screenshot of Doctor Doom. However fuzzy the picture might be we can still see that Roger Corman got the costume right. 100% correct. Also check out the costumes of the Fantastic Four themselves in the poster at the beginning of this review. Wow! They're perfect. Why did the costumes look so bad in 2005 and 2015? Apart from that, Roger Corman at least knew what skin colour Johnny Storm and Alicia Masters have. He didn't blunder in the casting the way they did in the later films.
The low budget means that the special effects are less convincing. In particular, Reed Richards' stretching powers look unrealistic. This has led film fans to call the film "so bad that it's good", but I consider that description to be incorrect. This film is superior to both of the later films. The acting of all the main characters can't be faulted, but the outstanding actor is Michael Bailey Smith as Benjamin Grimm. None of the other films have such an emotional depth in the portrayal of a handsome man who becomes ugly, but finds that a blind girl can love him.
As if that isn't enough, the Thing speaks the words "It's clobbering time" not once, not twice, but three times during the film. That's three times more than in either of the two later films.
Last year a documentary was released about the making of this film. I need to see it.