As you may have heard, 20th Century Fox is currently cooking up a grittier, younger reboot of The Fantastic Four, because that worked out so well with Spider-Man. Yeah, the fans aren't exactly optimistic about that one. It's a good thing, then, that there's already a kick-ass Fantastic Four movie out there -- and no, we don't mean one of the "Jessica Alba in a wig" ones. Come on, we're not crazy. We're talking about the one that was made in 1994 by the producer of Sharktopus and then never released.

Constantin Film
Pretty sure Human Torch is wearing the same wig as Alba.

No, seriously. Now that we've got your attention, let's examine why the upcoming version will have a hard time measuring up to a 20-year-old movie that was made for no money, with no famous actors, and then instantly tossed in a trash can ...

4
Why Were Each of These Movies Made?

The 2015 Version:

Very simple: because they have to. The rights to make Fantastic Four (and X-Men) films currently belong to 20th Century Fox, with the "Monkey's Paw"-esque catch that if they want to keep the rights they have to keep making more of them. Even if they suck. Hence, you know ...

20th Century Fox
Since when does The Thing have a beer belly, and where the hell are his freaking rings?

And hence the new one. We're talking about the same studio that decided Galactus should be a cloud taking the franchise for a new spin because of the possibility that at some point in the future they might make another reboot that doesn't suck. Of course, they won't openly admit it -- just like Marvel themselves won't admit that their sudden cancellation of the 53-year-old Fantastic Four comic, right before the new movie comes out, is awfully convenient.

The 1994 Version:

The original movie is better than the new ones even at being a shameless cash grab. Back in the '90s, the Fantastic Four movie rights belonged to Constantin Film but were set to expire at the end of 1992, at which time they would return to Marvel. Unwilling to let that happen, and without Fox's deep pockets, Constantin decided to bring in B-movie legend (and accidental creator of modern Hollywood) Roger Corman to produce a movie extremely on the cheap. And that he did.

Constantin Film
"The Human Torch guy is still getting skin grafts."

However, all they had to do to keep the rights was make a movie, not release it, so they didn't bother with that second part. According to Stan Lee, the cast and crew was not informed that the film "was never supposed to be seen by any living human beings" -- so be warned that if you ever find a bootleg copy on VHS, a Japanese girl might crawl out of your TV in seven days and kill you.

Winner: No One

Alright, so neither has much in the way of a glorious origin story. Machiavellian studio machinations mean little to the average moviegoer at the end of the day, so let's move on to ...

3
Which Movie Cares More About the Comics?

The 2015 Version:

[inject-module]

If you believe the person playing the role of a superhero shouldn't be required to be an expert on the subject at hand, you'll be relieved to know that Kate Mara, the new Invisible Woman, has never read a comic in her life. Not even one of those pamphlets that come in airplanes, apparently. To her credit, she says she intended to research her character, but director Josh Trank told her not to waste her time with that horseshit: "Well, actually he told us that we shouldn't do it because the plot won't be based on any history of anything already published," she said.

Marvel Comics
"More like Wack Kirby, am I right?"

Well, that's reassuring. As for Trank himself, his first movie was Chronicle, the story of a bunch of unkempt millennials who get awesome powers yet retain their innate ability to whine. While this probably gives him a serviceable action/superhero resume, from his comments it's looking likely that he'd rather play the role of iconoclast than pay homage to the canon of a storied franchise. On the other hand ...

The 1994 Version:

Corman's choice for director, Oley Sassone, had less nerd-cred than Trank: his work experience consisted primarily of Wang Chung and Mr. Mister videos. But, go figure, the man knew his comics: "I went back and read every single issue of the Fantastic Four Marvel Masterworks series before I went to bed, just to re-familiarize myself with these characters," he said. He also put the focus squarely on character development, not just because the budget he had to work with was on par with the catering bill for a Shriners convention but because he thought it was important to "touch people on an emotional level, whether it's The Fantastic Four or On the Waterfront."

Constantin Film, Columbia Pictures
"Or the 30-chapter fan-fiction crossover I wrote between the two."

Winner: 1994 Version

OK, that On the Waterfront comparison might have been a bit of a stretch, but at least Sassone had his heart in the right place. You can tell there's no way he'd ever do something ridiculous like, say, change Dr. Doom from "megalomaniacal dictator" into "disgruntled blogger." Unfortunately, that doesn't go for everyone ...

2
Whose Characters Are Closer to the Comics?

The 2015 Version:

Just for reference, this is how The Fantastic Four and their arch-nemesis, Dr. Doom, appear in the comics:

Marvel Comics

And this is the look they're going for in the re-remake:

20th Century Fox
"We're still trying to find a way to make the invisibility dark and gritty, too."

Those are not a cave troll and a minion of Sauron from the new Hobbit movie -- on the left is The Thing, and the wispy, Little Corpse Riding Hood on the right is supposed to be Dr. Doom. Maybe it's a little unfair to judge things in their unfinished state, but we can at least assume, going by all that green in the background, that they plan on going heavy with the CGI. That's probably good news for Jamie Bell, who's playing The Thing's gruff, Brooklyn-born human identity, since Bell can be accurately described as "a skinny, unimposing English guy with a background in dance." And if you think the guy who played Reed Richards in 1994 looks a little young, brace yourself: the new guy, Miles Teller, is only 27.

Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images, Marvel Comics
World-renowned expert in engineering, chemistry, physics, and Ariana Grande trivia.

And we weren't shitting you about the Dr. Doom changes. He's now Victor Domashev, an antisocial programmer who refers to himself on blogging sites as "Doom" (Doom666, Doom69 and Doom420 were all taken). Yeah, when you take all these things into account it makes the casting of a black actor, Michael B. Jordan, to play Johnny Storm the least controversial decision so far.

Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
Hopefully he'll get a better franchise out of this, like the last guy.

The 1994 Version:

Constantin Film

That's ... pretty good, actually. Again, Mr. Fantastic looks a little younger and more Bronson Pinchot-like than we imagine, but the others are dead on.

Winner: 1994 Version

All right, so far we've talked about the behind-the-scenes stuff, the players involved, and the aesthetics. But all of that could be considered secondary, just so long as a movie adaptation is able to successfully capture the spirit of the original creative vision. So ...

1
Which Film Is More True to The Fantastic Four's Tone?

The 2015 Version:

Fantastic Four is a comic in which a family of superheroes fights mole people, evil puppeteers, and giant aliens who eat solar systems. That's the entire point of the comic -- thinking of the craziest shit possible and contrasting it with petty conflicts and realistic personalities. Now, here's how Jordan, the new Johnny Storm, describes the movie:

"It's a new look. We are all in containment suits. ... It's gritty. It's a gritty film"

By the way, the movie is gonna be gritty, in case that hasn't been mentioned. Jordan goes on to dole out the requisite positive spin, but he reveals something ... alarming:

"You really get a chance to grow with these characters. It's an origin story. You get to discover these abilities -- these disabilities, rather -- and grow with them."

Marvel Animation
He's handi-capable, goddammit.

Emphasis ours. This kinda gels with what screenwriter Simon Kinberg has been saying:

"We're approaching it in a much more realistic, grounded, science rather than science-fiction way. The playfulness or goofiness of those other movies is very, very different from what we're trying to do."

Ah yes, the "science" is definitely important when you're talking about people who got superpowers from cosmic fucking rays. And, finally, here's the new Mr. Fantastic himself:

"People wanted it to be taken more seriously than the kind of Dick Tracy, kitschy, overly comic-book world."

Cathy Yeulet/Hemera/Getty Images
We do?

Granted, the film adaptation of Dick Tracy was a Madonna-induced abortion, but have people ever looked at The Fantastic Four and thought, "Hmm. This is nice and all, but we wish they made the anthropomorphic brick and the rubber guy more grounded"? We'd ask why they'd even bother calling them "Fantastic Four" in that case ... but, you know, gotta keep those movie rights from lapsing.

The 1994 Version:

Constantin Film
"H.E.R.B.I.E., Doom has escaped; find me fantastic people with attitude."

Sure, the effects are cheesy as hell, but remember: they shot this for 1/130th of Rise of the Silver Surfer's budget, and that doesn't matter anyway, because they're perfectly appropriate to the spirit of the comic. The greatest achievement of Corman's team is that, while caring more about this movie than anyone would reasonably expect, at no point does it look like they're taking themselves too seriously. And if you still have any doubts about that, we leave you with this:

Constantin Film

Winner: 1994 Version. Clearly.


For more regrettable adventures of The Fantastic Four, check out The 6 Worst Marvel Cartoons of All Time and 5 Absurd Ways Comic Books Have Resurrected Dead Superheroes.

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