Blu-ray and DVD Reviews

Fantastic Four

Reviewed by: Scott Chitwood
Movie Rating:
7 out of 10
Extras Rating:
8 out of 10
Movie Details:
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Rating: PG-13

Starring:
Ioan Gruffudd as Reed Richards/Mr. Fantastic
Michael Chiklis as Ben Grimm/The Thing
Jessica Alba as Susan Storm/The Invisible Woman
Chris Evans as Johnny Storm/The Human Torch
Julian McMahon as Victor Von Doom/Doctor Doom
Kerry Washington as Alicia Masters
Stan Lee as Mailman Willie Lumpkin
Maria Menounos as Nurse

Special Features:
Theatrical trailer

Cast Commentary

3 Deleted Scenes

Exclusive Look Behind-the-Scenes with the Fantastic 4 Cast

Making of Fantastic Four

Fox Movie Channel Presents Fantastic Four Casting Session and Making a Scene

Music Videos: Everything Burns, Come On Come In, & Music Soundtrack Spot

Inside Look: Exclusive and First Look at X-Men 3!

Marvel Avengers Trailer

Other Info:
Widescreen (2.35:1)
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
DTS 5.1 Surround Sound
French and Spanish Language
Running Time: 105 Minutes

Synopsis:
Fantastic Four is based on the long running comic book from Marvel.

Looking to investigate a cosmic phenomenon approaching Earth, scientist Reed Richards and his colleagues set up their experiments at a space station owned by industrialist Victor Von Doom. Accompanying Richards are pilot and astronaut Ben Grimm, geneticist and Von Doom executive Sue Storm, her brother and pilot Johnny Storm, and Victor Von Doom himself. However, the crew is accidentally irradiated by the mysterious cosmic storm and they find their DNA altered. They are also given strange new powers.

Reed Richards finds that his body has become elastic and can stretch in impossible ways. Sue Storm gains the ability to turn invisible and generate force fields. Johnny Storm becomes the Human Torch and can manipulate fire and fly. Unfortunately, Ben Grimm is turned into the monstrous Thing. He is super strong, but his body is turned rocky and orange. But how was Victor Von Doom transformed by the accident?

Through a series of accidents, Reed and the team become celebrities and the media dubs them the Fantastic Four. But despite their newfound fame as superheroes, this oddball family has its fair share of problems. Reed can't pay his bills. Sue is frustrated by Reed's inability to express his love for her. Johnny gets swept away by his celebrity status. Ben desperately pushes Reed to find a way to cure him. Meanwhile, Victor Von Doom uses this discord to tear his former colleagues apart and get revenge for the failure of his corporation. Will the Fantastic Four survive his scheming?

The Fantastic Four is rated PG-13 for sequences of intense action, and some suggestive content.

The Movie:
I've been a Fantastic Four fan for over 25 years. I've read a majority of the FF comics and I've long had a mental image of what I was looking for in an FF movie. The good news is that this Fantastic Four film manages to capture a lot of what made the comics appealing. The bad news is that the final product isn't quite as good as it could have been.

The movie does take a number of liberties with the comic in order to bring it to the big screen. Their origin is different, their powers are tweaked, Alicia Masters is black, Von Doom woos Sue Storm, etc etc etc. However, most of these changes are relatively minor and the true spirit of the comic is still here. It's kind of a mix of the classic Fantastic Four comics and the new Ultimate FF comics (which are re-imagined versions of the original tales). For example, they tie the origin of Doctor Doom in with the origin of the FF. They also make Doctor Doom into an organic / metallic character that can shoot lightning rather than just making him a burned guy in a suit of armor. Despite this, they still give him his trademark mask, make him a character from Latveria, etc. It's still generally faithful to the comics.

One of the things they nailed perfectly with this movie is the interaction between The Thing and Johnny Storm. The rivalry and horseplay between the two is straight from the comics. Johnny mercilessly plays jokes on Ben and makes fun of him. I particularly liked a scene where Johnny harasses Thing with an action figure of himself. These moments are the true highlights of the film.

I think the casting of the FF movie was very well done. Chris Evans is probably best of all as Johnny Storm/The Human Torch. He's cocky, immature, and a real daredevil just like in the comics. Evans perfectly portrays that spirit of the character. And when he finally jumps off a building and yells "Flame On", it's one of those geek moments that comic fans will love. It also happens to be one of the best action scenes in the entire film as he tries to outrace a heat seeking missile. Michael Chiklis is also great as Ben Grimm/The Thing. I have to admit that I always thought The Thing should be CG, but the makeup works pretty effectively in the movie. Chiklis brings the perfect attitude and surliness to the character. You sympathize with him as he has to adjust to life with his new rocky body. He breaks cups, bites off forks, and generally has a lot of problems that make him miserable. Ioan Gruffudd makes a good Reed Richards/Mr. Fantastic. They do a few fun tricks with his elastic powers like squashing his face on a keyboard, changing his facial features, and other things. They also do trademark tricks like having him wrap up Thing to restrain him and acting like a slingshot. You also have Jessica Alba as Susan Storm/The Invisible Woman. She wasn't my first choice for the role, but I thought she did a good job. She has multiple roles in the film as the mother of the team, Johnny Storm's sister, and a love interest for Richards. Alba handles them all well. Finally, there's Julian McMahon as Victor Von Doom/Doctor Doom. He's handsome as Victor and his smooth voice coming from the evil looking mask makes him all the more intimidating. Also be sure to look for another cameo by Stan Lee as Mailman Willie Lumpkin.

In the end I found Fantastic Four to be entertaining, but not quite as good as it could have been. I desperately want to see more Fantastic Four movies, but I'm not sure this one is going to be strong enough to get more sequels off the ground.

Ironically, one of the greatest strengths of Fantastic Four is its greatest weakness. Humor has always been a trademark of the comic and the movie does its best to capture that. When it does it, like in the case of the horseplay between Thing and Torch, it does it well. But there are times where it ventures well into the realm of camp. For example, as a fire truck nears certain doom, a Dalmatian in the cab covers its eyes with its paw. Ugh. In another scene, a pigeon poops on The Thing. In another scene, Thing burps after a big meal. The only thing missing was a fart joke. This kind of stuff drags the movie down.

Another major problem was a whole subplot with Ben Grimm and his fiancée. After being transformed into Thing, he goes home to meet her. She runs out into the street to see him…in her lingerie. Huh? A short time later she shows up at the scene of a major accident on the Brooklyn Bridge in order to give Thing a ring back…which she lays on the ground where he can't pick it up. Huh again? It was silly without trying to be.

Parts of the plot were also kind of weak. For example, Ben Grimm spends the entire movie desperately wanting to be turned human again, but when Reed offers to change him back at the end, he says something like, "Awww…don't worry about it." It didn't make sense. There are a number of other plot holes throughout the film, but you get the point.

I have to mention that I didn't care for the music by John Ottman. There was no discernable FF theme in the movie and it frequently sounded like a score from a TV show. The soundtrack was very weak. The special effects were also a mixed bag. The Human Torch looked wonderful, but the shots around the space station and during the final battle didn't look quite as impressive. Against other summer films, the FF effects don't hold up.

Fantastic Four is not the comic book movie that fans have been waiting for, but it is still somewhat entertaining. While the overall product could have been better, they still manage to catch a lot of the magic from the comics.

The Extras:
Here are the highlights of the bonus features:

Cast Commentary – Jessica Alba, Michael Chiklis, and Ioan Gruffudd team up for this commentary. While it would have been nice to have had everyone in the cast join in, these guys are more than capable of keeping the discussion rolling. They mention everything from a run-in with an extra to all the improvisations by Chris Evans. It ends up being a pretty entertaining and informative commentary.

3 Deleted Scenes – In one deleted scene, Mr. Fantastic puts a plant in his cosmic ray device and tests it out. After bombarding it with rays, it turns grotesque and large. In another deleted scene, Mr. Fantastic's face turns into that of Hugh Jackman/Wolverine rather than a large chinned version of himself. It was funny, but out of place. The final deleted scene shows Reed and Sue on a date at a local planetarium reminiscing about their past. It's sweet but totally unnecessary.

Exclusive Look Behind-the-Scenes with the Fantastic 4 Cast – Jessica Alba actually took a video camera along with her while doing press for Fantastic Four. You see the trip through her eyes as they travel to Sydney, New York, and other locations to promote the movie. It's a unique look at the tedium and excitement of traveling the world to promote a movie. While it's a little long, it's interesting to see Alba actually record and produce this video (along with help from friends and fellow cast members).

Making of Fantastic Four – This is your standard "making of" video featuring clips from the movie, interviews with cast and crew, and behind the scenes footage. If you're interested in the special effects, this is the main place you'll find discussion of them. There should have been more.

Fox Movie Channel Presents Fantastic Four Casting Session and Making a Scene – These two short shows are from the Fox Channel (as you probably already guessed). The first discusses the casting of the movie and how everyone was brought on board. Stan Lee even joins in on the discussions of the cast. The second show discusses the making of the bridge crash scene in the middle of the movie. They show the bridge set in Vancouver, how they made the truck crash when Thing hits it, and more. It ends up being one of the more interesting features.

Music Videos: Everything Burns, Come On Come In – Everything Burns is an interesting music video as it incorporates comic images into the video. The song isn't bad either. Unfortunately, Come On Come In takes a similar approach and uses FF comic art for backgrounds, too. The similar approach seems redundant when placed side by side.

Inside Look: Exclusive and First Look at X-Men 3 – Avi Arad hosts this preview of X3. They show storyboards of Magneto breaking prisoners free and destroying the Golden Gate Bridge. We also hear talk of Wolverine and his role in the film. It's not an extensive look at the making of the movie, but it's better than nothing.

Marvel Avengers Trailer – This is a look at the Ultimate Avengers movie based on the Ulimates comic from Marvel.

The Bottom Line:
Fantastic Four features a fun cast and some great humor, but plot holes and occasional campiness keep it from being the movie comic fans have been waiting for. It's still entertaining and well worth checking out, though.

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