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The Fantastic Four
(1993 Film)

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About This Film
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Alex Hyde-White as Reed Richards
Rebecca Staab as Susan Storm-Richards
Jay Underwood as Johnny Storm
Michael Bailey-Smith as Ben Grimm
Carl Ciarfalio as Ben Grimm in rock man form (The Thing)
Joseph Culp as Victor Von "Doctor" Doom
Kat Green as Alicia Masters
Ian Trigger as The Jeweller
Mercedes McNab as Young Susan Storm
Phillip Van Dyke as Young Johnny Storm
Annie Gagen as Mrs. Storm

Alex Hyde-White as Reed Richards:  He looked like Reed Richards and acted like the comic character.  He was fiercely intelligent, an intense individual, with dry wit, and a strong leadership quality from the start.  Reed is the glue that holds the team together.  I really enjoyed Alex Hyde-White as Reed Richards...he really seems most appropriate for the role.  It's just too bad that this movie wasn't officially released so the whole world could see that, too.  And that goes for the other actors in this film, too.  A really good cast was put together.

Rebecca Staab as Susan Storm:  In my opinion, she IS Susan Storm.  She looks the part and acts the part.  Kind of bubbly, but no nitwit.  And certainly capable.  She's a happy, optimistic character.  I always liked Invisible Woman in the comics.  I like her in this film, too!

Jay Underwood as Johnny Storm:  He's got the fast mouth and quick temper like his comic counterpart.  He looks like Johnny Storm both in build and hairstyle.  Definitely a twenty-something.  It's cool when he turns completely into flame near the end of the movie!  That part is computer-generated, obviously, but it looks so cool...or should I say hot?  And you get to see him in full flame from all different angles so it's not just a few cheap shots.

Michael Bailey-Smith/Carl Ciarfalio as Ben Grimm:  Michael Bailey-Smith looks like Ben Grimm (in human form) should.  He's big and muscular with a full head of hair.  I must say that I was kind of disappointed when Michael Chiklis was cast as Ben Grimm in the 2005 movie.  They went from Ben Grimm like he was supposed to be to a short, non-muscular, bald guy.  Why did they do that?  Anyway, Smith's version of Grimm matched the character as we've always known him:  brawny, brave, not overly bright in science matters, but not stupid.  He's a likeable guy who is most uncomfortable with his powers because his physical appearance changed so dramatically.

    I'm not sure why exactly Carl Ciarfalio played Ben Grimm in rock man form, only than the fact that Carl is a stuntman by trade, and not usually an actor in films (although he's done some).  The rock man form of Ben Grimm would obviously need a stuntman when he's throwing guys around, smashing through walls, and deflecting bullets from his chest.  Before seeing this movie, I thought the Thing was going to be really hokey to see because it's just a sculptured suit.  I found that out from the movie's expose article in "Film Threat" magazine where they just show it hanging up, not in use.  When a person's actually wearing it, it looks real!  The Thing's mouth moves, he can move and flex in all possible directions...it doesn't look fake at all!  They did a good job bringing the Thing to life.

Joseph Culp as Doctor Doom:  I like him as Doctor Doom.  He completely captures Doom's cocky, higher-than-thou, super-genius attitude.  The only bad thing with this movie is that Doctor Doom is always in shadows, and you can't ever get a really good look at his awesome costume.  We know he looks like he does in the comics, but you can only get glimpses.  His delivery as Doctor Doom is witty, very sinister, and very true to character.  Probably my favorite role he's played.

Kat Green as Alicia Masters:  She's pretty and nice, but we don't really get to see her do much in this movie.  That's okay, though, because the comic character was supplementary, too.  Alicia is a blind sculptor and Ben Grimm's love interest who first gets kidnapped by The Jeweler, and then by Doctor Doom.

Ian Trigger as The Jeweler:  He played his part well, but the whole concept of the character smacked of something like you'd see in the 1960s "Batman" TV series.  The Jeweller and his cult were all goofy, but I think it was good because it added levity to an otherwise serious show.  Plus, it was neat for the FF to have more than one major villain.

Mercedes McNab as Young Susan Storm:  I thought she was a really pretty thirteen-year-old girl and she made a convincing young Sue Storm; bright and bubbly.

Phillip Van Dyke as Young Johnny Storm:  He did a good job playing the spunky young version of the spunky superhero Johnny Storm.

Annie Gagen as Mrs. Storm:  We see her as a middle-aged mother, then as an elderly mother.  Although she didn't do much in the show, I thought she was a happy, likeable character.  She ran a boarding house, which is how Reed, Ben, Sue, and Johnny all got to know each other.  Victor Von Doom knew Reed and Ben from college.  Plus, she's important because she's the one who first dubbed them "The Fantastic Four" before their infamous accident.

The Fantastic Four (1993):  Definitely a family movie...one you can watch with the kids.  In 1993 I got an issue of a rare movie magazine called "Film Threat".  That issue's cover story was on the making of the upcoming Fantastic Four film.  After reading that article, I became very interested in the film and desperately wanted to see it.  To my disappointment, and to the disappointment of many people, this film was never released.  It became the stuff of rare-to-find bootlegs.  Actually, it was officially direct-to-video for one day, then copies of the movie were taken off of store shelves.  But for all intents and purposes, this movie was never released from the vaults.  Originally intended for a theatrical release, it wasn't even made available to buy on video.  The popular rumor is that this movie is so bad that nobody wanted any part of it.  That is not true.  The truth is, unbeknownst to the cast and crew, this movie was never intended to be released.  Why?  The studio who owned the rights to make a Fantastic Four movie would have lost the rights if they did not begin production by a certain date.  Where does this information come from?  In an interview with filmmaker Kevin Smith, legendary Marvel Comics creator Stan Lee revealed the scoop behind FF's shelving.

    What's really a shame is that this movie is quite good.  It is a low-budget film, but you can't hardly tell.  I think the filmmakers and the cast did extremely well for what they had to work with.  I enjoyed all the actors.  And what's really great is that it relies on a good story and good acting, and not primarily on special effects like most major motion pictures concerning superheroes.  Even at that, the special effects you see in this film are just frequent enough and well-realized.

    The movie starts out giving a background story on the characters who would become the Fantastic Four and their future enemy Victor Von Doom while he was still an ordinary, but intelligent human being.  Reed Richards and Victor Von Doom were best friends working on a scientific experiment that ultimately went wrong.  Victor's false calculations caused their project to fail, ultimately electrocuting the young scientist.  Ben Grimm, who just happened to be nearby, rushes in to save Victor from certain death.  He pushes him out of harm's way, but it's too late.  Victor is covered with burns and presumed dead.  Two mysterious men take Victor away, who is actually still alive.  It's not clearly explained who these men were or why they wanted to keep him alive, but you just have to go with it.  All we know is that they were spying on Reed and Victor's work, and wanted to exploit it somehow.  Reed, Ben, and the rest of the world is led to believe that Victor really died that night.

    Fast forward to ten years later.  Reed Richards, prematurely graying, is close to completing the work he and Victor started.  He has built a ship that will take him to the mysterious Colossus comet.  Ben Grimm has agreed to pilot the ship.  They bring on the now matured Susan Storm and her younger brother Johnny as crewmates.  What their qualifications are is unclear, but apparently they know their way around a spaceship so they're not completely ignorant to Reed's work.  A special diamond is important for powering their ship.  The insane, metal-clad Dr. Doom's men are assigned to steal the diamond, but another criminal known as The Jeweler steals it instead, replacing it with a fake diamond.  Doom allows this man to have the diamond, because he really only wants to sabotage the space mission and kill Reed Richards.

    Reed and his crew are up in space when they discover the diamond is fake.  The Colossus comet destroys the ship, sending them crashing down to Earth in the desert.  All four members survive, and none of them are hurt.  Upon realizing how strange this is, all four astronauts soon come to learn of their strange new powers.  Johnny realizes he can shoot fire blasts.  Susan discovers that she has powers of invisibility.  Reed learns he can stretch his limbs like elastic.  Last, but not least, Ben Grimm becomes a man of rock. 

    Throughout the movie, you NEVER hear these characters called by their comic book aliases Mr. Fantastic, Invisible Woman, Human Torch, or Thing.  They just simply call themselves by their real names.  I like this, actually, because they never went undercover and didn't need to have nicknames.  It's more believable how they did it.

    Doctor Doom's men, disguising themselves as an innocent-looking rescue team, takes them away.  Why does Doom want them alive?  He wants to steal their superpowers and endow himself with these incredible talents.  Doom's hired help detains the quartet, studying them.  Apparently, he holds them for some length of time, as they come to realize that they're being held as prisoners.  After an action-packed escape, they come to find out that their mysterious warden is a strange metal man called Doctor Doom.

    The foursome returns to Reed's skyscraper headquarters.  All this time, they are still learning about their powers and how they can use them.  Susan makes them their Fantastic Four uniforms (they look just like they do in the comics).  There is not much explanation for how or why she makes the uniforms.  Quite frankly, I think it was just something the filmmakers put in there because everybody familiar with the comic characters would be expecting it.  I bet they figured "Okay, let's give them the suits now".  They wouldn't have even needed to have the costumes for this to still be a good movie, but they are nice to see and it's good to know that the filmmakers were trying to be as faithful to the look of the characters as possible.  We do hear that Johnny's costume is fire retardent, which is a good thing for him.

    Reed realizes why they have the powers that they do.  Apparently, the Colossus comet reached into their psyche taking what they believed to be their greatest weaknesses and making them into their greatest strengths.  Reed stretches because he's always trying to stretch himself too thin; he's always too busy doing things all the time.  Susan is invisible because she is in love with Reed and too shy to admit it; making her feel unnoticed (i.e. invisible).  Johnny lights himself on fire because he always has a hot temper.  Ben is a rock man because he's always depended on brute strength to carry him through life.

    But no one knows why Ben is a rock man ALL the time.  Dejected, he leaves Reed's headquarters to try to go out on his own.  People shun him, and he takes to hiding out on the streets.  He crosses paths with The Jeweler and his cronies, who take in all kinds of outsiders and freaks into their cult.  Ben investigates the situation, and discovers that The Jeweler has kidnapped Alicia Masters, the blind woman he's been in love with.  Then in comes Doom who forcibly takes the diamond from the Jeweler and Alicia Masters as a hostage as well.  Alicia Masters reveals to Ben that she loves him, too, and this sensitivity is what allows him to temporarily become human again.  The now-human and vulnerable Ben flees for his life from Doom, but soon after becomes the rock man again.  He returns to the Fantastic Four headquarters building.

    Now a foursome again, they all plot to stop Doom and rescue Alicia Masters.  Doom's threat:  the Fantastic Four surrender themselves to him or he will destroy New York City with his destructor ray.  The diamond he stole is what powers the super-weapon.  For the first time they fight crime in their costumes.  As soon as they enter Doom's castle headquarters, they are trapped inside beams of light energy.  Of course, this is a movie where good guys win, so you know they escape.  Anyway, Ben Grimm does his thing with pummeling the bad guys while Susan Storm uses her invisibility to evade the men.  Doctor Doom fires his destructor ray which will destroy New York.  Johnny Storm finally makes his whole body a human torch and flies up into the air to prevent the deadly laser beam from reaching New York City.  Meanwhile, while he's doing that, Reed Richards faces off against Doctor Doom.  Ultimately, Doctor Doom meets his demise, but does he really die or will he return?  For the moment, the threat is over.  Ben Grimm rescues Alicia Masters and they formally introduce each other, because they hardly know each other, although there is a strong attraction.  And, of course, Johnny stops the destructor ray.

    The movie ends with a great big public wedding for Reed Richards and Susan Storm.  She's wearing a wedding gown.  The other team members are still in their Fantastic Four uniforms, for some reason.  Why wouldn't they wear tuxedos?  For one thing, it wouldn't look as cool.  And I think the people behind this film wanted to give us as much screen time of them in their costumes as possible.  At any rate, Reed and Susan drive off for their honeymoon while Johnny, Ben in rock man form again, and Alicia Masters look to the distance with the team's adoring public.  All in all, a good ending.

    I like it that they made this movie about the Fantastic Four's origin and first adventure.  This was a good thing to do, because a 90-minute film like this couldn't handle a really complicated, elaborate plot, especially since it's introductory.  The way they did things, I'm guessing they were really hoping to make a sequel.  It's too bad that this didn't happen.  If nothing else, this movie would have made an awesome TV pilot, perhaps leading into a regular weekly series.

    The whole cast was enjoyable; no one was offensive.