What The MCU 'Fantastic Four' Can Learn From The 1994 Movie
No one really understands why we're getting a new Fantastic Four movie. You'd think that no one at Marvel, not even Mr. Fantastic himself, would want to touch this IP with a 10-foot outstretched arm after seeing 2015's Fantastic Four (you may better remember it as "Fant4stic") bomb so miserably. Maybe it's masochism, or maybe it's greed. Maybe 20+ successful superhero movie franchises aren't enough to print money with, and you need one more. Whatever the case, what we know for sure is that we're getting a new Fantastic Four movie.
I'm just hoping the writers at least take notes from the only Fantastic Four movie that's ever sort of worked. I'm talking, of course, about the 1994 version produced by Roger Corman. (The visionary filmmaker behind Attack of the 50 Foot Cheerleader.)
If you haven't seen Corman's The Fantastic Four, don't worry, you weren't supposed to have seen it. The movie was only made so that Constantin Film, a small studio that owned the Fantastic Four's film rights in the '90s, could keep them because apparently Hollywood law operates on the "use it or lose it" maxim. Constantin Film, however, wasn't required to release the movie to keep their IP, so they didn't, instead opting to produce something as cheaply as possible that could still technically be called a movie. That way, if any Marvel lawyers came sniffing around, Constantin Film could pop in a tape and say, "See, it's a movie," while having the added benefit of burning the retinas of any said Marvel lawyers who watched it. A classic win-win.
What no one expected was that Roger Corman would actually make Fantastic Four into a good movie. Okay, well, maybe calling it a good movie is a bit generous, but it's hard to be a good movie when 90% of your budget is spent animating The Thing's lips.
It'd be more accurate to call this simply the best live-action Fantastic Four movie to date. It's still a dogshit movie, but it's a fun dogshit movie. It doesn't take itself too seriously, and that's what Marvel needs to do going forward with the Fantastic Four franchise. The Fantastic Four movies of the 2000s failed for so many reasons, but I think the biggest among them was that they lacked a soul. They looked at Reed Richards and thought, "Oh, he's a scientist. The Fantastic Four must be about science. We have to write a story that feels scientific." So they went for grittiness and "realism" to make the movies feel scienc-y at the expense of any sort of joy. Take a look at Fan4stic's Doctor Doom:
That's not Doctor Doom. That's a Borg after having been left in the microwave. Now take at the 1994 version:
This is Doctor Doom! He's overwrought and dramatic and gesticulating wildly like he's auditioning for Hamlet. Is it ridiculous that he's outfitted himself with a metal faceplate despite surely having access to much more comfortable prosthetics? Of course, it is, but The Fantastic Four is a ridiculous franchise, even as far as superhero franchises go. You lost all chance at realism the moment you told us "von Doom" was a reasonable last name for a person to have.
Roger Corman's Fantastic Four isn't bogged down with concerns over realism or even with trying to make sense. It's too busy worrying about how to prop up an inflatable arm to make it look like Reed Richards is waving out of his sunroof.
And that's what it should be doing because comic book movies are meant to be fun, and that's especially true of The Fantastic Four. It's not a story about science. The science is beyond bogus. The science is just a vehicle to tell a story about teamwork and family and … maybe erotic lasers?
But don't get too bogged down with the details. Just hope that if Marvel is going to force another serving of Fantastic Four down our throats, then they at least make it as silly as the comics intended.
Top Image: New Horizon Studios