I, like most people, love bad movies. Love them. Actually, I guess I can’t say that “most people” like them, as I recently witnessed first hand. A couple of weeks ago, my friends and I held our annual Bad Movie Night (annual meaning that we did it once, and decided to do it again.)
We had a few movies lined up, but the piece of resistance was a movie I had been looking forward to seeing since about 1994. Growing up reading Wizard, a magazine about comics (my current life isn’t much better,) I was well informed about a movie that was in production. When it was finally finished, the public was shocked to discover that the movie was not going to be released. This was due to the fact that the movie had a smaller budget than the average infomercial.
This may sound somewhat surprising, since comic movies have been largely successful in recent years. The 90’s were a completely different story when it came to comic book related movies… at least as far as I remember. Successful movies like The Crow were the exception to the rule. Instead, we got movies like Captain America. All that needs to be said about this movie was that the ears on his mask were rubber, and that they took the evil Nazi villain Red Skull and made him Italian.
On our Bad Movie Night, we have survived some true atrocities: Gigli, Glitter, You Got Served, and Speedway Junky. We thought we could handle bad movies. However nothing, I repeat nothing, could have prepared us for the Fantastic Four. This movie goes down in Bad Movie Night history as the first movie that was ever turned off midway through. It was that bad.
I must state in my defense that the turning off of the movie wasn’t my idea at all. The majority of the people I was with seemed to miss the boat on why the night was called Bad Movie Night. However, I was outnumbered in the vote, and it wasn’t even my TV, so I had to concede defeat.
I refused to let that be the end of that. I was going to watch the rest. Since we hadn’t paid much attention to the beginning, I started it over. And, having watched it in its entirety, I can say this with confidence:
This movie is terrible.
I debated whether or not I should do a review of this, for a couple of reasons. First, I just gave an incredibly accurate one sentence review. Second, I tend to blather on endlessly when reviewing a movie, boring both myself and the reader. So I decided that when reviewing this movie, I would try to be much more concise than usual. Although that never really seems to work out, so we’ll see what happens.
It starts off with a less than promising introduction and credits, somewhere between the level of PBS cartoon and high school film class project.
We begin in what appears to be a college classroom, filled with students in their mid thirties. Or maybe they just look that way. We learn the main character, Reed Richards, is a nerd, his friend Ben is an oaf, and his lab partner Victor is an overacting nutcase. Although I don’t want to classify Victor as overacting, because then that word might get overused when I apply it to nearly every single character in the movie.
Much of the beginning of the movie is made up of the professor talking about some star event, called Colossus, and Reed and Victor arguing over something that involves phrases like “calculations,” “velocity vectors,” and “quadrant.”
We then meet out other soon to be main characters, Susan and Johnny Storm. Despite the fact that Susan Storm appears to be about eleven years old, and Reed appears to be almost forty, they eventually get married in the movie.
That night, during Colossus, whatever that actually is, Reed and Victor are furiously typing away on their lab computers, in front of a very scientific looking device. Despite the fact that the device starts shooting out lightning and exploding, neither of them stop typing. Reed keeps yelling for Victor to leave, while Victor attempts to become the movie’s tragic hero by repeatedly shouting, “I WILL NOT FAIL!”
But he does. The experiment blows up, he is electrocuted in a manner usually reserved for Wile E. Coyote, where it goes body / skeleton / body / skeleton, and he dies. Reed cries.
Don’t worry, he’s not actually dead. Some European guy steals his body and “saves him before it is too late.” Whatever that means.
It is now ten years later, which you can tell because Reed looks exactly the same, except now has baby powder rubbed into the hair next to his ears. Apparently Reed finally finished the experiment he was working on (ten years later? some genius…) so he convinces his friend Ben Grimm (the dumb guy from the opening scene) to be his pilot to outer space.
I never actually caught what the experiment was actually about, but now they’re flying into space, so I assume it has to do with that.
Then, one of the best scenes in motion picture history happens. Ben and Reed go to the house where little Susan and Johnny live. Ben asks their mom, “Hi Mrs. Storm, can Johnny and Susan go to outer space with us?” in a voice that I would never have expected from a man of his dimensions, while he and Mrs. Storm share 7th Heaven expressions while laughing like utter buffoons. Even Reed is uncomfortable by their level of Americana, judging by his expression.
We then learn that Johnny has grown up into a cackling twit, and Susan has grown into an attractive thirty year old. Somehow, she managed to age about twenty years in the ten years that has passed, but I assume that is just to catch up with Reed’s appearance, which hasn’t changed a bit in the last decade.
Their mom tells Reed, “Don’t let anything happen to my babies.” Well, maybe if you don’t want anything to happen to your babies, you shouldn’t let them go on an experimental rocket ship ride into space. But that’s just me. She then exclaims, “Look at you, the Fantastic Four!” Remember? That’s the name of the movie! Oh, it’s all falling into place perfectly.
In the next two scenes, two new characters are introduced. The first is a brief scene that introduces Dr. Doom, which is Victor in a suit of armor and a green cloak. I assume they’re going to turn that into a dramatic scene later in the movie, but I didn’t feel like having to dance around that fact.
The other character introduced is The Jeweler, a rodent looking man who crawls through tunnels stealing jewels. Yup, this is the level of villainy that the Fantastic Four face. Since they obviously didn’t have the budget for Galactus, once Dr. Doom is used, the caliber of evil drops off rather sharply.
I actually thought the Jeweler was a different Fantastic Four villain, The Moleman, who is another villain who runs around underground. Fantastic.
I’m probably going to do that a lot, ending paragraphs with just that word. It serves two purposes: adding a proper amount of sarcasm, and keeping the movie theme going. Which is, as you probably already guessed, “Fantastic”.
Next, comes a scene that is impossible to not laugh at, but after laughing, it is impossible to ignore the fact that you are going directly to hell for laughing. Ben is walking upstairs, and manages to lay a full on hip check into a blind woman, who drops a statue she made, smashing it into pieces. He then picks her up over his head while apologizing, then they share a look straight from the covers of Genovese romantic novels. Well, I guess they don’t share a look, but you get the point.
Reed then starts talking about scientific stuff, while whining about Victor’s death, and explaining why they’re using a diamond the size of a human head to power the experiment. Meanwhile, the Jeweler watches the blind woman sculpting a bust, which is presumably of Ben, since she felt up his face. After this, he goes and steals the giant diamond, and replaces it with a replica. Dr. Doom is watching all of this for some reason, and is incredibly pleased.
The next day, the four launch into space, discover the diamond is fake, and freak out. Bright lights flash, and they all make pained faces while Gregorian chant music plays.
Somehow, they have landed on Earth (what the hell?) through what I guess were escape pods, although it just showed the ship exploding, with nothing coming out. Reed discovers that something is amiss when the ship has exploded, yet all of them are unharmed. Johnny sneezes and lights a bush on fire, Susan starts speaking while invisible, then fades in with some of the best blue screen effects I have ever seen. It looks like the set from Teletubbies.
This is the start of the amazing special effects budget kicking in. Reed stretches to catch a falling Susan, while his outstretching arm looks like one of those boxing glove on a stick things that would shoot out and hit people.
We also now see that Dr. Doom lives in a giant castle, and has people working for him. How this came about, I have no idea. Also, the Jeweler kidnaps the blind woman.
The army finally locates the four, and comes to rescue them. We then learn that, shockingly, Ben Grimm has transformed into Ron Perlman. His voice has changed completely, which seemed stupid at first, but I guess it sort of makes sense. Maybe his vocal chords and such turned to stone as well. The greatest part about him turning into the Thing is that every time he talks, it looks exactly like the Ninja Turtles in the first movie crossed with Terrence and Philip.
The four are then interviewed by this creepy looking doctor. You can tell he’s a doctor because he’s wearing one of those things on his head. This scene is the birth of the Human Torch’s incredibly stupid tagline, “Flame on.” It turns out that it makes sense that the doctor was so creepy, since he is working for Dr. Doom.
I must admit, for how bad everything in this movie looks, Doom’s costume is quite good. The one awkward thing is that his mouth parts don’t move, but I don’t know why they would. In the comic, the mouth moved once in a while, to convey some sort of emotion (98% of the time being anger,) but that was always one of those “suspensions of belief” things, like when Spider Man would squint.
The group dresses up like a pack of condoms and escapes from the hospital room (oh yeah, they weren’t allowed to leave the hospital,) and finally meet up with Dr. Doom. Nothing interesting happens, except another catchphrase is introduced, the Thing’s “It’s clobbering time.” There is a big fight scene, but like I said, nothing interesting happens. With the Human Torch’s power, it seems they have moved from using terrible CG to outright cartoon animation.
Next, we learn why each member got their specific powers, when the Invisible Woman makes an off the cuff remark about her always being shy. Reed then jumps into monologue mode, saying that she turns invisible because she is shy, the Human Torch is a hot head, Reed stretches himself too thin, and that Ben is the Thing because he has always had a habit of being ugly.
Susan designs costumes for the group, and I don’t know if they look so terrible because they are home made, or because the costume budget was so small. She claims Johnny’s suit is flame retardant, although flame retardant and flame proof are two very different things. She also doesn’t explain how Reed’s costume is able to stretch along with him. Also, I have been calling him Reed instead of Mr. Fantastic, because Reed has a lot less letters.
Ben runs away, hangs out with the Jeweler, and Reed realizes that Victor is alive. Meanwhile, Dr. Doom breaks into the Jeweler’s place to steal the diamond. During this scene, a genuinely funny dialogue takes place:
Jeweler (gesturing with gun to the blind woman): “Touch me and she dies.”
Dr. Doom: “So?”
The Thing tries to save the blind woman, who tells him that she loves him, despite the fact that besides that time when they met, they have never spoken. Hearing this, the Thing reverts into plain old Ben Grimm, so he has to run away, but then turns right back into the Thing. Although later in the movie, when he and the blind woman are together again, this never happens again. So I don’t know what Ben’s reverting to human form was supposed to show.
Dr. Doom tells the group that he has built the laser from the Death Star, although not in so many words. On the topic of Doom, he has this really annoying habit of talking with his hands; every single sentence involves dramatic gesture after gesture.
The group then gets into their flying car (huh?) and goes to Doom’s castle. He captures them, then attempts to steal their powers. Reed uses his magic foot stretching to kick Doom’s laser away and escape, and another fight scene begins. This time, both the Human Torch and the Thing use their catch phrases, so it is doubly annoying.
Reed fights Doom, punches him repeatedly, which hurts Doom, despite the fact that Reed is punching a suit of armor. Reed also does that stupid movie hero thing where he is punching someone and saying, “This is for (insert person’s name here), this is for (insert other name), and this is for (etc.)” Like Sgt. Slaughter in the GI Joe Movie.. Reed then punches Doom over the side of his castle, Doom clings to a brick, makes fun of Reed, and then jumps to his death. Johnny, who somehow has learned to fly, defeats Doom’s Death Star laser (this scene includes some amazing special effects, as you can see from the screen cap, which surprisingly wasn’t taken from a “Super Friends” episode.) So everything is good, it seems. Then Reed and Susan get married. In their Fantastic Four costumes.
And that’s it.