If you really want a good cinematic version of the Fantastic Four, you have to do yourself a huge favor and pick up the entire John Byrne run on the book. It spans issues #232 – #295, from July 1981 – October 1986. This is a real treat and it cements Mr. Byrne’s legendary role as both an artist and writer of epic comics.
Today at the Quantum Multiverse (Not So Secret) Headquarters, we are screening the 1994 film by Roger Corman. Fantastic Four. It’s a movie that wasn’t meant to be seen by the general public. Marvel, supposedly, bought the film out and tried to erase it from history. This was after that horrible attempt at Thor in the Hulk TV movie, The Incredible Hulk Returns and the poor showing of the first Captain America movie.
You see, comic book movies filled with self-loathing superheroes just suck. If you have to change a property so much that you can’t recognize it from the source material then you may as well come up with something original. Well, perhaps that is far too much to be asking. If those who produce a film have nothing but disdain for its origins then how can anybody possibly enjoy the outcome. Not everybody has gotten the memo yet… It’s the age of the Geek and Geeks HAVE inherited the earth.
Mr. Corman’s movie doesn’t take itself to seriously and it has a very comic book feel to it. It is like a fan film love letter addressed to all fans, everywhere. I first was exposed to this film via Wizard Magazine, waaaay back when. It seemed like a great idea. I was a bit hung up on the outfits and the Thing. You see, my true fandom for the first family of Marvel comics was in the 6th grade (1981 – 1982) during John Byrne’s run as the artist and writer of the title. It was incredible. I used to watch the cartoon with the Human Torch replacement robot, H.E.R.B.I.E. As a kid, it was ok. I didn’t see the old Fantastic Four cartoon from the 60’s until later in my 6th grade year and I really liked that as well. I found out that many of the episodes had their origins in Jack Kirby & Stan Lee stories.
I digress. Where were we? Ah, yes… Fantastic 1994. Well, it wasn’t until 1998 or 1999 when, at a Comic Book Convention in Sacramento (CA), I purchased my first bootleg copy of this movie on VHS. The quality wasn’t all that great and the effects were very unpolished. I had the snooty fan-boy blinders on and made my mind up that it was a crappy film. It embarasses me to think about how shallow I was. Instead of celebrating something, that I never thought would be live action, for its high points.
This brings me to today. Here, in my livingroom… err, I mean HEADQUATERS, watching this movie again for the fourth or fifth time. It really is the most faithful live-action adaptation of the material. Mr. Corman walks the fine line between presenting his vision and staying true to the spirit of the comics.
If you have not seen this film yet, I would recommend it. Don’t just dismiss it outright because of the images, rumors or what some angry nerd told you at the comic book shop, once. Sure, The effects are not really the best, Johnny doesn’t go full Torch until the end (and when he does… well… it isn’t that bad for 1994), Ben is in a rubber suit that utilised TMNT tech to animate the face, and Ben does turn back into his flesh and blood form when Alicia Masters professes her love for him. Get over all of that, and whatever else. Victor Von Doom is right out of the comics and there are so many other awesome things that this film has to offer.