Growing up, The Fantastic Four was my favorite comic book. I’m not sure why I liked The Fantastic Four more than any of the other superheroes out there; maybe it had something to do with the fact that these characters seemed to be the most human, flawed and approachable of anyone saving the world while wearing tights. Anyway… as I grew older, I maintained my fondness for The Fantastic Four and wondered if these classic Marvel superheroes would ever reach the silver screen as did Superman and Batman had during the seventies, eighties and nineties… Sure, I recognized the technical difficulties that surrounded bringing this particular group of superheroes into the realm of a live action film, but I continued to hope anyway.
After all the decades of waiting, 2005’s FANTASTIC FOUR ($30) finally brings those marvelous Marvel superheroes to the screen. As a childhood fan of the comic book, I was delighted that the filmmakers got everything just right in their transcription of the character’s powers from the printed page to live action cinema. Now while the visuals were on the money, the movie itself has some flaws… The biggest problem with FANTASTIC FOUR is the screenplay and the fact that it’s bogged down in exposition. Plot-wise, the origin story of how The Fantastic Four gained their superpowers after being exposed to cosmic rays in outer space takes up so much of the film’s running time that number of potential the action sequences are limited. This means that FANTASTIC FOUR is kind of slow to start. Fortunately, the movie picks up momentum in its second half and finishes off rather nicely. Going forward, the proposed sequel should offer a more consistent level of action and hopefully a little more character development in the screenplay, since all that nasty exposition is now out of the way.
To the film’s credit the cast members do a good job of fleshing out their somewhat underwritten characters. Ioan Gruffudd brings the right introspective quality to Reed Richards, the brainy, reluctant leader of The Fantastic Four, who as Mr. Fantastic develops elastic abilities. Jessica Alba adds a great deal of sex appeal to Sue Storm, The Invisible Woman, who can not only disappear, but also generate invisible, impenetrable barriers with her mind. Chris Evans adds plenty of bravado to the team’s young hotshot, Johnny Storm, who, as The Human Torch can fly and generate supernova caliber heard with his incendiary powers. Of course, Michael Chiklis steals the show as Ben Grimm, AKA the ever lovin’ blue eyed Thing, whose rocky exterior, super strength and gruff personality hide the most insecure member of the team- Chiklis is really great in the role, which couldn’t have been easy since he is buried under a ton prosthetic latex makeup. Finally, Julian McMahon adds a good deal of personality to egomaniacal industrialist Victor Von Doom, who becomes super villain Dr. Doom as a result of the same scientific mishap that imbued The Fantastic Four with their powers.
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has made FANTASTIC FOUR available on DVD in a 2.35:1 widescreen presentation that has been enhanced for playback on 16:9 displays. This is a pretty sweet looking transfer that provides terrific, clarity sharpness and detail. Colors are vibrant and the flesh tones are highly appealing. Blacks are deep and true, while the whites are clean and crisp. Contrast is very smooth and the image produces terrific shadow detail. Digital compression artifacts are very nicely contained.
FANTASTIC FOUR features 5.1 channel soundtracks in the flavors of Dolby Digital and DTS. Both tracks kick some serious butt and certainly its clobberin’ time for the downstairs neighbors, if one plays either track at more than modest listening levels. The sound mix is fairly aggressive and makes great use of the outlying channels for both localized and traveling sound effects. Fidelity is fairly excellent, although DTS outshines the standard bearer in the area of warmth and sonic purity. The bass channel is quite punchy and is certain to rock one’s listening room. Dialogue usually sounds natural and maintains complete intelligibility. A Spanish language track is also encoded onto the DVD, as are English and Spanish subtitles.
Full motion video, animation and sound serve to enhance the DVD's interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to standard scene selection and set up features, as well as some nice extras. Actors Jessica Alba, Michael Chiklis and Ioan Gruffudd are on hand to provide an enjoyable, if somewhat fluffy running commentary. Next up are three Deleted Scenes; interesting stuff, but only one of the scenes comes across as too good for the cutting room floor. The Fantastic Four Video Diary runs nineteen minutes and follows Jessica Alba and other cast members on a press tour for the film. Making Of Fantastic Four is a very brief five-minute look behind-the-scenes. Fantastic Four: Making a Scene clocks in at eight minutes and provides an overview of the difficulty of recreating the Brooklyn Bridge for one of the film’s biggest action set pieces. Fantastic Four: Casting Session provides a fluffy eight minutes with the actors talking about their roles, with additional comments from the production team and The Fantastic Four co-creator Stan Lee. Two Music Videos and two Theatrical Trailers close out the extras.
While the plot is bogged down in exposition, FANTASTIC FOUR offers genre buffs more than enough superhero fun, plus this movie successfully lays the groundwork for bigger and more action oriented sequels. The Fox DVD looks and sounds great and is certain to please fans. Recommended for fans and worth a peek for non-fans.
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