Fantastic Four: Extended Edition – DVD Review

Available at Amazon.com

Directed by:
Tim Story

Written by:
Mark Frost & Michael France

Cast:
Ioan Gruffudd Reed Richards
Jessica Alba Sue Storm
Chris Evans Johnny Storm
Michael Chiklis Ben Grimm
Julian McMahon Victor Von Doom

The Film:
Hollywood has always been fascinated with comic books. Turning paper superheroes into big screen characters seems natural, as movies are often about larger than life characters, what’s more larger than life than a superhero? Here we’re not dealing with just one superhero; we have four — THE FANTASTIC FOUR!

The Fantastic Four is based on a series of comic books created by industry legends Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in 1961. Unlike other series, this one doesn’t deal with a single hero but a quartet, three guys and one girl. Reed Richards, Sue Storm, Johnny Storm and Ben Grimm, a group of scientists and astronauts took off into outer space for a research mission, sponsored and accompanied by billionaire Victor Von Doom. Their spaceship is hit by cosmic clouds which vast amounts of energy into all five. This causes them to mutate and each one develops a unique ability. Richards can stretch his body like rubber, Sue can turn invisible, Johnny flies and produces fire and Ben turns into “The Thing”, a rock-like creature with enormous physical strength. Victor turns into a unique organic metal and can absorb and create energy, but unlike the others, he chooses to use his powers for evil rather than good and challenges the foursome in order to gain more power.

Many comic book heroes share a common thread of the hero having to face not only the challenge of accepting himself, but also being accepted by society. While acceptance by society is relatively easy for most superheroes, and in this case, for three of the four, Ben has the toughest time as he no longer looks human. Even his wife leaves him. This transformation is not the only thing that sets The Fantastic Four from other superhero movies. Usually the hero is all alone, facing the world on his own or with one sidekick, and keeps his true identity secret. Here we have a group of four heroes that can only succeed when they work together. Each of them has a very specific yet limited power, so neither can truly stand alone. In addition, they don’t have secret identities and turn into celebrities, again unlike most superheroes.

The movie itself, as expected, is heavy on the visual effects side. Whether in outer space or one Earth, seems like there are special effects in almost every shot. The problem is that they sometime overshadow the story. The plot takes a backseat and it’s clear that it wasn’t the main thing when the movie was created. The actors are not A-list, with the biggest name being young Hollywood hottie Jessica Alba and TV stars Michael Chiklis and Julian McMahon. In its original cut, the movie was relatively short, running approx. 100 minutes, but this DVD release also includes an extended cut with extra 20 minutes. In this case the short version (Also available on the DVD) is preferred since the extended cut often feels dragged. The lesson is that when the script isn’t the main thing, it should be kept short.

This DVD release should also be noted because while it is loaded with extra features (More on that later), its raison d’etre is to promote the release of its sequel that came out earlier this summer. This is a trend we’re seeing more and more, as movie studios release the same movie time and time again, each time with new packaging and extra features, in order to promote other studio releases. It’s one thing to re-release catalog movies that came out with bare-bone editions when DVD just started getting popular, but it’s another story when a movie that had a perfectly adequate DVD release less than two years ago gets a new edition. If this trend gets any stronger, audiences may become reluctant to but original releases of movies, opting instead to wait until the new and improved edition that will inevitably come out, just a thought for studio execs.

The DVD:
A two disc edition, that comes in a single Keep Case and an outside cardboard sleeve. There’s also a leaflet with background on the comic book and the movie.

The Video:
Excellent transfer, no complaints, but it wasn’t really a problem to begin with, as these kind of movies are now shot in advance with the DVD release in mind.

The Audio:
Same with the video, a superb sound quality. DTS and Dolby Digital are available in English and Dolby Surround in Spanish.

The Extras:
Now we’re talking. The release justifies itself with tons of extra features. The first disc has two audio commentaries. The first is a cast commentary with Ioan Gruffudd, Jessica Alba and Michael Chiklis and the second features the director, producers and writers. I preferred the second commentary track, seemed more insightful. The extra scenes from the extended edition are also available on their own for those who watch the theatrical version. This disc also has trailers and preview of the sequel Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer.

The second disc is just loaded with great extra features. It’s divided to three sections — Production, The Comic Book and Still Galleries.

In “Production”, you can find a behind the scenes feature. Yes, it’s a feature and not featurette because it’s almost 100 minutes long and covers in details every aspect of the making the movie, even the smallest ones. The Baxter Building, where the four live and work gets its own featurette, detailing its design and construction. The coolest extra in the section is a multi-angle animatic to scene study. It takes several clips of the movie and shows how they were done via computer graphics and animation, and you can switch between the computer sketch and the final version using the “angle” button on your remote.

“The Comic Book” has a sixty minutes feature on the history The Fantastic Four, from the very first issue. It includes interviews with Stan Lee, Marvel executives and artists who’ve been working on the books. We get the background on the series, each character’s history, the villains and all the changes the books have gone through over the years. Another hour-long feature is dedicated to Jack Kirby, the series’ co-creator, and his legacy in the comic book industry. “Collectibles” is dedicated to various merchandise and collectible items associated with the series since the sixties, and includes a video visit of the Stately Ross Museum and a still gallery of various items. The last extra in this section is “From Comic Book to Film” which intertwines scenes from the original FF comic book with scenes from the movie, showing how the story was transferred from paper to video.

“Still galleries” have exactly what the title says — a collection of still images from different aspects of the movie and its production.

The extra features on this disc really make this release a must-have for fans of The Fantastic Four and general comic book addicts. They’re comprehensive, interesting and offer hours of new features. However, if you’re just a casual fan who already got the original release, you can stick with it.

The DVD Lounge’s Ratings for Fantastic Four — Extended Edition
CATEGORY
RATING
(OUT OF 10)
THE MOVIE

7
THE VIDEO

9
THE AUDIO

9
THE EXTRAS

10
REPLAY VALUE

8
OVERALL
8
(NOT AN AVERAGE)

The Inside Pulse
The movie itself is not the best comic book adaptation in recent history, but the extra features make this release a must-have for any self respecting comic book fan, or even for people who wish to learn more about the comic book industry, its history and legends.