On History: Doomed Review

By | Tuesday, January 24, 2017 1 comment
Up until this Doomed! documentary was released, I was probably one of the top 10 or 20 people who were most knowledgeable about the never-released Fantastic Four movie produced by Roger Corman in the mid-1990s. Having been a long-time fan of the Fantastic Four, I ran an FF fan site for a decade or so beginning a year or two after that movie was made. I had loads of spare time and devoured every tidbit I could about it... which, frankly, wasn't all that much. But I was so excited about the prospect -- keep in mind that this was back when Marvel's biggest box office success was Howard the Duck -- that I even bought a copy of Corman's Jurassic Park knock-off, Carnosaur, just so I could watch the trailer they made.

This Fantastic Four movie, if you didn't know, was basically thrown together in about a month for the express purpose of holding on to the character license. Neue Constantin had the rights, but if they didn't start a movie by the end of 1992, they'd lapse. So they calculated that it was cheaper to make a low-budget movie with zero intention of actually releasing it than to pay for an extension. The whole thing got sub-contracted to Corman and he produced an hour and half film for a million dollars. The film got bought back, and was canned. It's only been seen in multi-generational bootleg copies.

Doomed! then examines how the movie was put together, pretty much from start to finish. The executive producer is Mark Sikes, who worked on the original movie, and was about as geeked as anyone could be regarding it. He's very much an old school fanboy, and his love for the characters shines through in this documentary. And with a comic collector mentality, he still has many of the production notes from back in the day, allowing for a level of detail that elevates the movie from a series of anecdotes into a documentary in the best sense of the word.

Despite being two decades since the original movie's production, the cast and crew are all still around. They were able to round up the entire cast and just about everybody who worked on the film in any significant capacity. Which is great because they have a lot of first-hand accounts from pretty much all aspects of the production, both in front of and behind the camera, as well as behind the money. Collected with that data mentioned above, this is by far the most comprehensive look at the film and done so in a way that showcases the passion everyone put into it.

Probably the biggest challenge they faced in making this was trying to make it visually interesting. They had some tricky legal challenges in getting this pulled together, so there's very little footage of the original movie itself. My best guess is that they were limited to promotional still shots and what little footage had made its way into the aforementioned trailer. I didn't keep super-close watch, but I think there's more home movie style footage of stuntman Carl Ciarfalio testing his Thing costume than actual movie. So Doomed! is probably a little heavy in the talking heads department when it comes to visuals, but it's not overwhelming, I think, in part to the passion and energy everyone still seems to carry for the film.

Even by mid-1990s standards, the effects of the movie weren't great. The sets are often sparse, and the story itself has more than a few problems. The whole production was clearly very rushed. But, as a long-time fan of the FF myself, I've always felt this movie came the closest to capturing the spirit of the Fantastic Four and seeing this documentary shows why. I think any fan of the Fantastic Four would enjoy seeing this, particularly if they're already familiar with the unreleased movie. And I think it'd also be interesting to fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe to see the challenges and obstacles Marvel faced in getting movies done before Blade and X-Men started opening up some possibilities.

You can purchase the movie on Amazon here. Or you can check out the movie website here. (Minor note of full disclosure: the Fantastic Four style font used throughout the film is the Fantasti-Font, designed by me back in 1995 based off the classic FF logo. Also, I believe the shots of the Film Threat article used in here were ones provided by myself as well, but I can't confirm that.)
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Matt K said...

Appreciate the review of this.

I have wondered a little, ever since I learned that this movie was essentially fake, about the Marvel Age story promoting it.

I presume that it was not written, and certainly not published, without awareness that the movie was a dummy which would never be released. I suppose that, realistically, indulging in some BSing was just something one got used to at an embedded company journal like Marvel Age.