The SmarK DVD Rant for Fantastic Four: Volume One

The SmarK DVD Rant for The Fantastic Four – Volume 1

I didn’t even know about this series until I got sent a review copy of it, which I asked for because I assumed that it was the first season of the show. However, what it turned out to be was four episodes, which is all they’re apparently releasing at the moment. Weird. Anyway, this is not the grotesque 90s version of the Fantastic Four cartoon, it’s an all-new grotesque version of the Fantastic Four cartoon, done in a bizarre combination of American and anime styles and acting as a spinoff of the not-quite-hit movie from 2005. The lesson here: Marvel will license ANYTHING. Now, I really loved the Ultimate Avengers movies that came out recently, which showed that Marvel could actually find a way to not have their properties suck ass, but this one is an acquired taste, to say the least.

The Show

First up, you’ll notice that it’s done in a weird faux-anime style that leaves everyone looking all angular, with really bad lip-syncing because of dubbing issues. And every time they launch into a fight sequence, it goes all Dragon Ball Z, with seizure-inducing backgrounds and bizarre whip-pans that leave you wondering what the hell just happened. I hate that style of animation, but if you’re into it, more power to you. As noted, it’s four episodes, shown out of order, and they’re as follows:

“Doomed” You’d think they’d start with the pilot, but no, it’s the second episode. And we just right into comic book weirdness with Dr. Doom somehow managing to switch bodies with Reed Richards in one of those “don’t think about it and you’ll enjoy it more” plots. Seriously, they put no effort into explaining it, it just happens. This leaves Reed trapped in a prison and Doom running wild in a stretchy body. Meanwhile Johnny Storm has to deal with reality TV. Sadly, it turns out that Doom’s biggest evil power is CUTTING REMARKS. Oh, snap, did he just call the Thing ugly? Shocking. Reed, meanwhile, fits right into the arrogant role of a supervillain, casually quipping “Yes. Yes I am.” when a cab driver asks him if he’s Iron Man. And of course when Reed insists that he’s not Doom but is actually Reed trapped in his body, they all just accept that and we get a big fight scene before they LET DOOM GO. Good lord. The dialogue here is beyond awful, although it would improve as we go along.

“Hard Knocks” Things pick up a bit as Hulk visits, and immediately starts kicking ass. Hulk and Thing smash and clobber while Johnny provides some really funny comic relief, and the show seems to get into a good entertaining groove by focusing on their internal bickering rather than the overblown melodrama of most superhero cartoons. The usual exposition every time Hulk appears on a show is stapled on in ham-fisted manner, with Bruce Banner explaining yet again that you wouldn’t like him when he’s angry and he did experiments with gamma radiation and all that shit. You’d think the guy would just get a medic alert bracelet telling people that stuff. “Allergic to penicillin and vitally important not to anger.” But they DO make him angry, thanks to Thing’s mama joke prowess (“Stupid rock man make fun of Hulk’s mama!”) and they’re friends and then they’re enemies and then they’re friends again and Hulk beats the crap out of government agents and none of it makes a lick of sense but it’s all pretty entertaining anyway. Seriously, though, if you’re looking for a plot, go elsewhere.

“World’s Tiniest Heroes” Reed is playing with technology that shrinks things, and you’re probably already 17 steps ahead of the plot already, and you’d be right. And again, it’s more silliness, as the Four are shrinking into the Fantastic Four-millionths Of An Inch and the computer system is more concerned with exterminating what it perceives to be rodents infested the building. Luckily, Ant-Man bails them out with his amazing flying ants, and Reed saves the day with a sub-atomic deus ex machina. In a nice touch, when they try to explain it with eye-roll-inducing technobabble, Johnny Storm just calls them nerds to wrap it up. And I don’t even know what was up with the flying dog. Note to writers: It’s called PLOTTING, look into it.

“De-Mole-Lition” In the ultimate example of the light-hearted spirit of this volume, Sue just wants some quality time for the team that doesn’t involve fighting giant robots from Dr. Doom or smashing up the city, so of course a huge mole creature gets sent to destroy the city. This gives us a battle scene reminiscent of the cover of Fantastic Four #1, which I really hope was a deliberate homage on the part of the creators and not just a fluke. However, the team basically pays the impending destruction no mind, shrugging off the threat and squabbling with themselves the whole time while casually stopping the monster. And then it’s off to Subterreana to solve the mystery, which gives us Mole Man, the lamest supervillain in a long line of lame ones. And there’s more stupid non-plot stuff with a plan to destroy the world with mole eggs or some nonsense, but the running joke with Johnny Storm waiting for delivery of a new car is far more entertaining, as is Reed’s overriding concern with being able to scratch his nose while trapped by the Mole Man rather than escape. This one was nicely tongue-in-cheek, but felt like they had to go back and edit it later to add peril or something silly like that.

And that’s volume one, at a whopping 90 minutes total.

The Video

A very nice transfer, although it’s full screen only and the opening credits are in widescreen, which makes me think we’re getting hosed here. Colors are bright and vivid, however, and I didn’t notice any of the usual transfer and compression problems that generally plague animated DVDs. That’s probably because the DVD was so short that they could transfer it at a very high bitrate.

The Audio

Only option here is Dolby Digital 5.1, and it actually makes use of it quite frequently, although in limited fashion. The fight scenes whoosh back and forth into the surrounds, but there’s no ambient noise in the rear channels otherwise. It’s pretty much all front-loaded until it’s time for a plane to fly overhead or a fight to break out, and then it’s loud in the back before going silent again. I didn’t notice any significant usage of the subwoofer, either. Still, dialogue is the main focus here, and it’s clear enough to hear.

The Extras

Perhaps Dr. Doom kidnapped them.

The Ratings

The Show: **
The Video: ****
The Audio: **1/2
The Extras: DUD

The Inside Pulse
Really, I can only see two audiences for this DVD: HUGE fans of the FF and people who can find this thing dirt cheap and don’t mind the total reinvention and rape of the franchise to squeeze another buck out of it. There’s some funny lines in there and the occasional bit of good mindless entertainment, but it’s no Justice League, or even Ultimate Avengers. Cartoon Network has seemingly pulled the show before the first season was even finished airing, and it’s not hard to see why. Recommendation to avoid.

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