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20th Century Fox presents
Fantastic 4 (2005)

"You guys look like an '80s rock band!"
- Ben Grimm (Michael Chiklis)

Review By: Dan Heaton   
Published: November 30, 2005

Stars: Ioan Gruffudd, Jessica Alba, Chris Evans, Michael Chiklis, Julian McMahon
Other Stars: Kerry Washington, Harrish Linklater, Laurie Holden, David Parker, Kevin McNulty, Maria Menounos, Stan Lee
Director: Tim Story

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sequences of intense action and some suggestive content
Run Time: 01h:45m:48s
Release Date: December 06, 2005
UPC: 024543196037
Genre: action


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
C CAA B

DVD Review

Legions of kids and adults alike have idolized Mr. Fantastic, Invisible Woman, the Human Torch, and the Thing and wondered how they would respond to gaining super powers. Known more commonly as the Fantastic Four, this band of heroes battled evil in many forms on the pages of Marvel comic books. The anticipation for a big-budget, feature film version was very high, especially following the remarkable achievements of the recent Spider-Man films. Avoiding any major stars but still utilizing a budget of 100 million dollars, this movie promised to offer thrills and gripping battles with an over-the-top villain. Unfortunately, money and large expectations are not enough to craft an interesting script, which leads to a dull, by-the-numbers action picture.

Fantastic Four presents the story of how the superheroes initially gained their powers during a space expedition. Dr. Reed Richards (Ioan Gruffodd), Sue Storm (Jessica Alba), her brother Johnny (Chris Evans), and Ben Grimm (Michael Chiklis) join the wealthy Victor Von Doom (Julian McMahon) to study a strange anomaly in space that could be enlightening and profitable. An unfortunate accident ruins the mission, but at first everyone seems totally fine. All five participants quickly begin to realize that their space encounter would change their lives forever. Reed's limbs can stretch and shift in crazy directions, Sue can turn invisible and create a force shield, and Johnny can fly and set himself on fire. The most drastic change occurs to Ben, who develops into a strange mass of rocks that look much different than his former appearance. While these four people work together to find a cure, Victor embraces the changes and seeks greater power for himself. His body shifts into a metal structure and makes him virtually invulnerable, which provides opportunities for his evil plans.

One primary difference between these figures and Spider-Man or Batman is that the Fantastic Four's identities are immediately revealed to the public. This societal knowledge of their existence presents intriguing possibilities for character exploration, but instead it simply provides a minor nuisance to them in the manner of typical celebrities. The only member with significant depth or internal turmoil is Chiklis' The Thing, who must deal with becoming a monster in the eyes of his fiancée. Although he sits under loads of makeup, Chiklis (The Shield) makes Grimm's dilemma believable and does not overplay the situation. One drawback is his extremely quick relationship with the blind Alicia Masters (Kerry Washington), who will probably receive more screen time in the future. Their brief scene is predictable and goes nowhere, but it somehow leads to love off-screen by the story's end.

The eventual conflict between Dr. Doom and the Fantastic Four is barely worth mentioning, as it appears only during the picture's final act. Much of the running time portrays the heroes learning about their powers and dealing with them, which becomes tedious fairly quickly. Chris Evans is especially grating as the fun-loving Johnny Storm, who embraces his powers and uses them to attract fame and girls. The actor gives it a good try, but his character reveals little depth or moments of interest. Ioan Gruffodd's Mr. Fantastic spends considerable time trying to reverse the changes while stumbling amid the attentions of the always-stunning Jessica Alba as Sue Storm. He performs adequately with difficult material, and she smiles a lot while sporting cute outfits. In one deplorable moment, Alba's strips to her underwear for no reason other than showcasing her attractive physique. She tries to make the situation silly, but the whole moment falls completely flat.

Fantastic Four is directed by Tim Story, who most recently helmed the awful Jimmy Fallon vehicle Taxi . He does a competent job in presenting the numerous CGI effects during the action scenes but rarely achieves any moments of emotional significance. Much of this failure is due to the lackluster script from Mark Frost (Twin Peaks) and Michael France (The Punisher), who understand the Fantastic Four's powers but never stray from offering a conventional tale. Although it achieved success at the box office, this fast-paced picture will probably disappear in the long run. The creators aimed to achieve an entertaining ride, but instead they just crafted a bombastic, frenetic mess.

Rating for Style: C
Rating for Substance: C

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: Fantastic 4 utilizes an impressive 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer that is virtually free of defects. The numerous computer-generated scenes shine brightly throughout the film and offer some colorful moments. The outer-space scenes are especially memorable and help this transfer to overcome some less-than-stellar effects during the later sequences.

Image Transfer Grade: A

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Spanishno
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishno
DTSEnglishno


Audio Transfer Review: This disc offers viewers a choice between two powerful audio tracks: a 5.1-channel Dolby Digital version and a more complex DTS track. Both options offer an immersive experience and make considerable use of the rear speakers. The major car crashes and explosions of the Brooklyn Bridge sequence blare from the sound field and crank up the intensity. The clear audio transfers can't save the overall product, but they do add energy to the over-the-top action scenes.

Audio Transfer Grade: A

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 32 cues
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Rebound, Ultimate Avengers: The Movie
1 TV Spots/Teasers
3 Deleted Scenes
1 Documentaries
3 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Ioan Gruffudd, Jessica Alba, and Michael Chiklis
Packaging: generic plastic keepcase
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Music Videos
  2. Inside Look at X3 by Avi Arad
Extras Review: Fantastic 4 includes a solid collection of extras that give us an acceptable overview of the production. The featurettes could be better and veer into the promotional area, but they include a few interesting tidbits. The important element that's lacking is material on the original comic book and its relation to the completed script. Stan Lee appears on this disc, so his comments on the story's origins would have been enjoyable. The individual features are described in the sections below:

Commentaries
Michael Chiklis, Jessica Alba, and Ioan Gruffodd provide an entertaining commentary that showcases a fun camraderie between the actors. Chiklis does the most talking and conveys genuine enthusiasm for the project, which was a childhood dream for him. He excels in this type of setting and makes the track interesting even when the screen action is lacking. Alba and Gruffodd also offer good material that should please fans of the picture. She deserves credit for understanding the ludicrous nature of the underwear scene, which was added after Alba agreed to play the role.

Deleted Scenes
This disc includes three deleted scenes that would have added little to the final product. The throwaway moments run for a little more than two minutes and focus mostly on different versions of the heart-to-heart between Richards and Storm. The other scene shows Richards testing the machine on plants, which was probably cut due to pacing issues.

Video Diary
Shot on home video by the actors, this behind-the-scenes look at the press tour shows the cast having fun and working endlessly to market the picture. They begin at Comedy Central and the MTV Movie Awards and then venture overseas to charm the Australian audience. Jessica Alba occupies much of the screen time and joins her castmates for all types of appearances. The overall result isn't anything groundbreaking, but it does provide more interesting material than the other promotional features.

Making of Fantastic Four
This five-minute promotional featurette basically serves as a long trailer mixed with a few conversations with the actors and actors. Most of the information is plot summary, but a few quick looks at the visual effects appear in the end.

Casting Session
Creator Stan Lee introduces this Fox Movie Channel overview of each primary cast member and expresses considerable enthusiasm for the actors chosen. Michael Chiklis discusses his desire to play the Thing and his move to the large screen, which is the most interest aspect of this straightforward promotional feature.

Making a Scene
The second Fox Movie Channel featurette focuses on the Brooklyn Bridge action sequence, which involves numerous vehicles crashing into one another. The crew built a section of the bridge for filming in a Vancouver parking lot, and the finished version is believable. The completed sequence involved mostly CG effects to create the illusion of a dire situation.

Music Videos
The soundtrack for this film is not one of its stronger points, and the two included videos are bland songs following the typical alternative format. Everything Burns by Ben Moody featuring Anastacia includes comic-book stills mirrored after the events of the film over the mediocre sounds. Slightly more effective is Velvet Revolver's Come on, Come In, but it also feels pretty generic. This area also contains a brief commercial for the soundtrack album, which includes 20 songs.

Trailers
This section includes both the full trailer and the brief teaser, which focuses more on the action scenes. The lengthier preview offers a more straightforward look at the story and gives away too many key events. This section also includes a brief commercial for Ultimate Avengers: The Movie, which arrives on DVD shelves in February 2006. Previews for Mr. and Mrs. Smith and Rebound appear prior to the menus.

An Inside Look at X3
Producer Avi Arad describes a few basic aspects of the upcoming sequel in this very brief feature. Along with his comments, we're able to view a few quick effects shots and concept art from the picture.

Extras Grade: B

 

Final Comments

Studio executives are certainly excited about the long-term franchise opportunities for Fantastic Four, which did surprisingly well at the box office this past summer. Hopefully the sequels will introduce more depth to the characters and provide a more notable conflict. I won't be holding my breath waiting for that wish to come true.

 


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