What’s your favourite Fantastic Four movie? Is it 2005’s Fantastic Four? Maybe you really like its sequel, Rise of the Silver Surfer? Or perhaps you’re the type of person who secretly loves Josh Trank’s darker take on the team? Whatever you choose we’re willing to bet you didn’t choose the ’90s movie.
Yep, you read that right. There was a Fantastic Four movie made in the ’90s. The superhero movie tells the origin story of Marvel’s first family, including how they got their powers and their first encounter with the deadly Doctor Doom. The whole thing ends with the team defeating Doom, and then Reed Richards and Sue Storm get married.
The science fiction movie entered production in 1992 and was finished by early 1993, with a premiere planned for 1994 at Minnesota’s Mall of America. Unfortunately, before the film could be screened, the premiere was cancelled, and it soon became clear that the Marvel movie would never be officially released. So what happened? Well, it’s a long story.
Stan Lee claimed in 2005 that the film had been made to ensure that producer Bernd Eichinger retained the Fantastic Four movie rights. In a 2005 interview, Lee told Los Angeles Magazine that Eichinger never intended to release the film.
“That movie was never supposed to be shown to anyone,” he said. “[Eichinger] has the rights to do a Fantastic Four movie for, like 15 years, and finally the option was due to lapse,” he explained. “Do you aww? It was never supposed to be seen by any living human beings?”
Now, Eichinger disputes Lee’s version of events. “No, that’s not true,” he told Los Angeles Magazine during the same interview. “It’s definitely not true. It was not our [original] intention to make a B-movie, that’s for sure, but when the movie was there, we wanted to release it.”
It certainly seems like the original plan was to release the film as money was spent promoting it, it got a trailer, and the cast even went to Comic-Con to get fans excited. However, the film, to be blunt, had been made extremely cheaply. The reported budget was just one million dollars, and it was shot in the space of just twenty days.
As a result, what was supposed to be an action movie looked hilariously amateurish, with the special effects being comparable to that of a student movie. Worst of all, the film’s big final sequence, where the Human Torch transforms into a living flame, was done by having him turn into what basically amounted to a cartoon character.
It was, to be frank, going to make the Fantastic Four look bad and damage the IP brand were it ever released. This, more than anything, is what probably led to the film’s cancellation. In fact, it’s what made Avi Arad, then a Marvel executive, reportedly step in to shelve the film.
Eichinger claims Arad gave him a call and basically told him that while he appreciated the hard work and enthusiasm that he’d shown, he wanted to do a deal. “He really didn’t like the idea that a small movie was coming out and maybe ruining the franchise,” Eichinger explained. “So he says to me that he wants to give me back the money that we spent on the movie and that we should not release it.”
Unfortuantely when the film was shelved, no one thought to tellthe cast or crew, who was understandably devastated by the news. Now the film exists as a cinematic curio, kept alive by bootleg copies online.
Marvel Studio is set to reboot the Fantastic Four once again soon, so we’re hoping whoever directs gives the original cast a cameo as a fun Easter egg. If you want to know more about the upcoming MCU movie check out our Fantastic Four MCU guide here.