The Fantastic Four (1993) (part 5 of 7)
So we’ve just had the fairly intense dramatic moment of Ben discovering he’s become more of a freak than any of the others. What can come next but a series of comic relief scenes where a doctor examines our heroes? Ben is first, and the doctor starts things off by laughing at his own joke that he’s not quite sure how he’s going to take a blood sample. Thankfully, Ben isn’t too amused. The doctor tells Ben to sit. Cue painfully out of place slapstick moment of a stool collapsing under him.
Next, Johnny explains his fire abilities, accidentally discovering that it works when he says “Flame on!” when his hand lights up. Why he didn’t have to say “Flame on” before is not explained, and for that matter, neither is why his shirt sleeve doesn’t look any worse for wear after the flames go out.
In Susan’s session with the doctor, she accidentally turns invisible. Then, for some reason, only her top half reappears behind the doctor, causing him to jump in surprise and accidentally jab himself in the hand with his needle. Oh, that’s hilarious.
When Reed comes in, the doctor keeps his distance and tells him to take his own blood, and Reed, appearing way too comfortable with his powers already, gives a jaunty “Ohhh-kay!” and stretches his arm across the room to take the needle.
Now we get an, er, epic establishing shot of Doom’s castle, with a pathetic lightning bolt effect thrown in. Inside, Doom is meeting with the very same doctor who examined the four, letting us know that our heroes aren’t really being held by the US Government, after all. The doctor tells Doom that the four are “medical miracles”, while Doom raps his fingers together Mr. Burns-style in the foreground. The doctor says that they might be able to harness their powers, and Doom caresses the doctor’s face in a way that seriously looks like he’s about to plant a big kiss on the guy. Maybe this is really the long-awaited live-action adaptation of the Ambiguously Gay Duo.
Doom asks if all their powers could be put into one man, and when the doctor filibusters a little, Doom picks him up by his throat and says, “Answer the question!” Well, if you really want him to talk, maybe it’s best not to cut off his air supply. But despite his situation, the doctor is able to speak normally. He says, “There’s no telling how powerful that man would become!” Well, I’d guess he’d have all the powers of the Fantastic Four, so that “no telling” part? Is just stupid.
Doom makes the somewhat odd statement that this is all “wonderfully interesting” and goes on a rant, waving his arms around like a kabuki actor. He finishes up this tirade by saying he’ll have to pay a little visit to the Penguin… damn! I mean, the Jeweler, because he needs the diamond. Man. I was really hoping we were done with that guy, but no such luck.
Doom’s two henchmen Beardy and Beardless prowl an alley, narrowly avoiding seeing a few of the Jeweler’s pals. Thankfully, the ripoff Lex Luthor theme is playing again to let us know how wacky and fun this all is. During a close-up of the two, there’s the sound of a gun cocking, and the camera pulls back to reveal they’re completely surrounded by bums with shotguns. Okay, I don’t care how sneaky they are, there’s no way this could happen without one of the henchmen seeing something. And where did a bunch of bums get that many guns in the first place?
Right Hand Man appears, talking with horribly overdone “crazy” inflections. One of the henchmen says they want to see the Jeweler, and Right Hand Man takes their guns, and in between Peter Lorre chuckles he says, “A bouquet of flowers would have been infinitely preferable!” Oh, quite the witty one, this guy. Eventually, they’re taken to the Jeweler, and we can thankfully move on.
Meanwhile, our heroes are now stuck in an examination room together. Johnny throws a few playing cards around, then goes on another half-hearted rant about how they should get out of there. Ben disagrees, and here we learn they’ve been told they’re contagious. Apparently none of them have wondered why they’re not catching each other’s powers then, or why the doctor didn’t seem too concerned about being in the same room with them. Reed and Susan voice their own misgivings, but Reed insists that whatever they do, they should all agree on it together. Somehow, this gets rid of all of Ben’s doubts, and he signs up with the escape plan.
Back in the Jeweler’s lair, Doom’s henchmen are finally meeting with the Jeweler. He refuses to hand over the diamond since it’s been promised to his queen (aw!). Doom’s henchmen note that said queen doesn’t seem too happy to have it, and they share a way-too-hearty laugh about this observation.
The Jeweler rants some more about being an outcast, and finally tells them to go. The henchmen drop some guns out of their sleeves, Desperado-style, apparently forgetting about all the well-armed goons that brought them here. Sure enough, they soon find themselves vastly outgunned and are forced to leave. The other bums all start spontaneously laughing. Because they’re crazy. Get it? The Jeweler has his Right Hand Man bring Alicia to his room, and we get yet another freaking shot from a blind person’s point of view.
Cut to static, briefly raising my hopes that the funds ran out and no more of the movie got finished. However, it soon fades and reveals Doom’s henchmen reporting on their miserable failure. Oh, and both of them are wearing Ray-Bans, which the short guy even dramatically flips off. The actor really thought this was going to be his big break, didn’t he?
Bizarrely, Doom is once again seen with only a sliver of light across his eye, even though we’ve already seen his face and there’s no reason at all to play coy like this anymore. Doom says he’ll take care of things himself. Hey, if you just did that in the first place, this piece of crap would be ten minutes shorter, you deadbeat!
Back in the lab, three guys wearing yellow jackets come into our heroes’ room and ask Ben for another blood sample. (Apparently, they did figure out how to take one from him.) Reed spins around in his chair, holding a card to his forehead for no apparent reason.
But then it starts to appear like we’re finally going to see the team kicking ass. Now things will get good (or at least, better), right? Well, they manage to screw up this part worse than perhaps anything else in the movie. Ben looks menacingly at the guards, and then, I kid you not, the image spins around Batman-style, with some punching sounds foleyed in, and when the spinning stops, the fight is over. I know they had a low budget, but how hard is it to show a simple fistfight? Even worse, later on we actually will see Ben lay the smackdown on other guards, so I don’t know why the heck they didn’t do it here.
Anyway, the three human-looking members of the team get into the guards’ uniforms, while Ben settles down to play cards with the unconscious guards. Hey, whatever floats your boat. Some lame suspense music starts up (though, at least they’re not blatantly ripping off the Jurassic Park score anymore) as Reed, Johnny, and Susan sneak around in the hall (though this would seem to go against the purpose of disguising themselves in the first place). Susan goes invisible and heads inside a room and decks a guard. (Again defeating the purpose of disguising themselves.) Of course, everyone knows women can’t really be that competent at punching, so when she becomes visible again she shakes her hand in pain.
The other two come into the room, with Johnny saying, “I guess all that fighting with me as a kid finally paid off!” Yep, attacking your siblings usually does yield good results. Reed turns on a computer and sees that everything is in some weird language that he finds somehow familiar. Johnny proves a lot more useful by opening a door so they can get out. Once they’re gone, the guard comes to and punches an alarm. Ben hears the alarm, so he decides to smash right through the door. The same door that the others had no problem opening just a few minutes ago. Yeah, if I had that kind of strength I think I’d use it all the time just to amuse myself, too.
The other three get to a cavernous room with a big laser, and Reed announces it runs off “some [long pause] some kind of atomic splitter”, like that’s supposed to mean anything to anyone. We hear Doom’s voice thanking Reed for praising his laser, revealing himself to be standing just on the other side of the room. Either that’s one eye-catching laser, or the Fantastic Four have less than fantastic peripheral vision.
He goes on to say, “My name is Doom!” Apparently, despite Reed recognizing the language on the computer, and learning this guy’s last name, it still isn’t enough to make him think of his old buddy Victor, since he shows no real reaction to this. In a bit that I admit made me laugh a little, Johnny replies, “Nice suit.” Doom gives a rather campy description of the country they’re in, including the line, “Come back for a vacation; bring the kids!”
Doom lectures them some more, even calling them “naughty children” for trying to run away after all he’s done for them. In a moment that had the potential to be amusing if my entertainment cells weren’t already exhausted, Johnny pipes up again, and Doom tells him, “Keep your…” He then pauses to think of what the kids are calling it these days, and comes up with “…cool.” Just as he tells them to head back to the examination room, Ben enters and says, “Miss anything?” with the camera at a rather unfortunate angle that makes it look like he’s talking directly to it.
Our heroes say they’re leaving, and Doom, in the grand tradition of comic book villains, leaves the room while some of his inept henchmen head in to finish them off. And hey, they’re all wearing copies of Doom’s cape, like they’re the Doommettes. These capes look like they’d really get in the way in a fight, but sadly, the filmmakers lack the cleverness to exploit even this. For the very first time, Ben shouts, “It’s clobberin’ time!” which proves to be a far lamer catchphrase on the screen. Somehow, Ben’s figured out that he’s impervious to bullets, and for a while holds off the guards all by himself. Meanwhile, Johnny shoots some kind of fire beam at the wall, in an incredibly cheap special effect that looks like it’s from the late ’70s instead of 1993.
As Ben easily pushes people around (confirming my suspicions about how cheap it would have been to show the earlier fight), Susan finds herself surrounded and disappears. The guards, not realizing at all that there might be, you know, a reason why she chose to use her power, fire at her and end up killing each other, whereupon it’s revealed that, yep, she ducked. Of course, even if she hadn’t ducked, they still would have ended up shooting and killing each other. So, quite the impressive power there.
Reed provides his own contribution to the fight by stretching his leg and tripping a bunch of guards, who obligingly just keep running into the leg long after the ones in back should have caught on. Reed suddenly decides it’s time to go, and Johnny stops burning the wall so Ben can bust through it. This isn’t the smartest choice dramatically, since it shoves it in the audience’s face that Johnny had no impact on the scene at all, and burning the wall was just a way to keep him busy so they wouldn’t have to set any of the actors playing guards on fire. We’ll be seeing a lot more of this type of uselessness from Johnny very soon.
Doom heads back in, surveys the aftermath, and gives a Team America-like “Huh.” Maybe this gag could have worked had it not been used to much greater effect earlier that year in Robin Hood: Men in Tights. Now comes one of the movie’s goofier moments, and yes I realize what a big statement that is, when we transition between scenes with a giant “4” flying at the screen. This is the only time this kind of scene transition is used, so your guess is as good as mine why they did it. Also, it turns out the next scene is back at the 4444 Building in “New York”, so they just completely skipped over how our heroes got back there from wherever Doom’s country is.