In 1994, Roger Corman began producing a live-action adapation of the "Fantastic Four" — a film that would never see the light of day. "Doomed!" looks to explore what went on during the production of the film with never-before-seen footage and brand new interviews from the cast and crew.
Roger Corman’s “Fantastic Four” has certainly become a cultural oddity becaus,e even though it has never been officially released, everyone has seen it. Everyone who’s been curious about it, at least, since it is probably one of the most bootlegged titles next to the “Star Wars Holiday Special”. Yet, somehow, even though everyone has seen it, nobody knows why it exists without a release. Everyone speculates that it was made for the sole purpose of a production company being able to hold onto the film rights, but no one knew with certainty. And because of that, it’s no surprise that a documentary about the doomed “Fantastic Four” film was made.
In all honesty, it seemed as though “Doomed!” had been talked about for so long that I thought it had suffered the same fate as its subject matter. So it was a bit of a shock to find a screener copy waiting for me from Uncork’d Entertainment. And now that I’ve watched it, I understand why it has taken this film so long to find its way out into the world — the sheer amount of material and footage that needed to be cleared is staggering. It’s just a shame that the same amount of effort wasn’t put towards giving “Doomed!” some actual depth.
To give the film some credit, I understand there are not a lot of places you can go with a documentary when it’s thesis is simply: “Why was this made if it wasn’t going to be released?” It’s even harder to explore that subject when the people who are responsible for those decisions refuse to take part in the movie (for obvious reasons), Even so, “Doomed!” quickly takes on the feeling of being nothing more than a featurette for the special features section on a DVD or blu-ray. While it is fun to hear the stories about the production and to hear from those involved in the project, it’s simply not that interesting.
What is interesting is how this entire movie was produced for no other reason than for a company to fleece money out of Marvel by forcing them to buyout the film rights to the “Fantastic Four”, and to make them buy this movie that wasn’t suppose to exist. Unfortunately that aspect is whittled down to just a few sentences at the end of the “Doomed!”. The rest of the runtime is composed of anecdotes from those who were involved in the movie — cast and crew — which is mixed in with the few remaining bits of documentation (photos, video, articles, etc.) during the production.
Which isn’t bad in its own right but there’s absolutely nothing that separates “Doomed!” from any other “behind-the-scenes” or “making-of” featurettes for other movies. And again, there are some enjoyable stories and bits of information — personally, I liked finding out “Fantastic Four” recycled sets from “Carnosaur” — but there’s absolutely no substance to “Doomed!”.
Actually, I will say there is something worthwhile in “Doomed!” and that’s the spotlight that the movie shines on those who work on these kind of movies. In general, people love to snub their noses at the world of low-budget filmmaking but the thing is that often (not always) the people who are involved in these kind of projects are workers. Workers who are trying to do the best they can with what they’ve got and there’s something respectable and admirable in that, regardless of the final product’s quality. It’s an especially important reminder these days when everyone treats everything with a sense of irony. For those of us who grew up on b-movies and have love for the independent and the low-budget, “Doomed!” is a reminder of why we genuinely love and adore those kind of movies.
It’s just a shame that this lesson is something that comes about indirectly as a result of the subject matter. Not because that was the intention of “Doomed!” and those who made it. Although, ironically, “Doomed!” also reminds us that the low-budget movies operate like any other business when one of the first interviews is with Lloyd Kaufman who states that he wouldn’t touch the project because there was no money to be made. And because “Fantastic Four” was produced so somebody could get money out of Marvel.
Again, “Doomed!” is not a bad movie and it was fun to watch and hear all the stories from cast and crew about what it was like making Roger Corman’s “Fantastic Four”. It was also nice to see that there was not any bitter resentment from these folks when it comes to the movie, even though they have every right to be. If anything, they seem to be just as confused about the movie’s existence as the rest of us are. The reason the documentary doesn’t work is because there’s nothing to it — “Doomed!” is exactly like every other “making-of” feature that’s out there. The one thing that makes Roger Corman’s “Fantastic Four” such an interesting anomaly is due to the reason it was made, that it was never released, yet everyone has seen it. However, that aspect is superficially explored and instead we get to hear the usual stories that come from film productions.
Note: No rating scores below for this one, as it's a documentary.