When Fantastic Four was announced I was eagerly anticipating it. Up until that point I had enjoyed, for the most part, all of the Marvel feature films that had been released so far (aside from the first and third Blade and The Punisher). The casting choices didn’t deter me at all and then my hope for the film fell flat when I saw the trailer. Not only were the special effects a bit on the cheap side, but the dialogue (“Let’s not fight.” “No. Let’s.”) made me not want to go near the film. The bad reviews poured in along with the trickle of good ones and I was ultimately deterred from seeing it in the theater. Even after the film arrived on DVD I stayed away from it and opted to join the massive waiting list my library had for it. When the copy finally came in for me to go pick up, I still held off watching it until a day or two before it was due back.
Perhaps it’s because I expected the absolute worst from this film that I walked away pleasantly surprised. Sure, Fantastic Four won’t win an Oscar for anything, but it can’t be denied that the movie had some charm, in both the story and the characters. Fantastic Four is one of those films that starts to fall apart when you begin to over analyze it, something I have a tendency to do (after all of these movie reviews, it’s kind of hard not to), but if you take it at face value and expect nothing more than a summer popcorn action flick, then you’ll be pleasantly entertained, I think.
I hadn’t watched the film since that initial viewing and when I popped in the Fantastic Four: Extended Edition I again found myself with a feeling that I may not enjoy the film—knowing that there were shortcomings, I expected to have them pop out at me even more alarmingly this time around, but instead I found the extended edition to actually up the story and character progression throughout. Not While some scenes feel tacked on (Johnny in the elevator with the women) and others repetitious (the planetarium sequence with Reed and Sue), others are worthy additions to the film that strengthen the characters interaction with one another (the new opening montage by itself is remarkable and well worth watching—I absolutely loved it). While the storage room scene with Reed and Sue appears unfinished (in addition to very rough looking CGI for Reed, the video quality takes a noticeable dip on the DVD), it just adds another layer to Sue and Reed’s relationship, although admittedly we see that Reed keeps memoirs from their relationship around with the photo book. Still, the scenes ultimately add more depth to the film and I’m glad they made this extended cut.
One thing that still bothers me about the film is how fast Ben was able to revert back into The Thing. His original transformation took days to occur and with Victor no longer powering the machine, one would think that he’d be hit with the same level, if not lower, of energy that he needed to revert. Having Victor just sucking the power and KOing Thing would’ve been easier and sped up the final confrontation I think, but hey, I guess it was nice for the audience to be reminded that Michael Chiklis was still behind the rock. On top of that is the obvious product placement throughout the entire film, but hey—marketing makes the world go round, as my marketing teacher taught me.
Also something I noticed this time around was John Ottman’s fantastic score. While it is reminiscent of X-Men, it stands on its own relatively well and it was a real treat to hear in DVD quality (especially with the DTS track—talk about clarity!). The score could easily outshine the movie by itself if it were to stand alone, but we’re given enjoyable action sequences to go along with it, thankfully. The music that plays during the final Doom confrontation is perfect and Johnny going supernova was made all the more powerful by it.
While this film is just an origin story in general, the characters are so well sculpted in what we see in the film that it’s easy to jump right into the film. Before we even see Johnny, we know he’s trouble and before we even see Reed and Sue alone in a scene together, we know they have a messy past. While Tim Story doesn’t do a magically wonderful job of directing (nothing really stood out to me in terms of setups and imagery), he does keep the flow of the movie rather steady. Oddly enough, despite enjoying the Extended Cut more, I have to admit it has a more disjointed way of telling the story. Lucky for those who buy the new two-disc set, they’ll get both cuts of the film so they don’t have to be too concerned about keeping the original release.
Still, even with its shortcomings, Fantastic Four is an entertaining film that you can easily sit down with and not have to worry about overanalyzing it. While it may be one of the weakest films to come out of Marvel’s library so far, it is faithful to the source material so the corniness of “It’s Clobberin’ Time!” can easily be dismissed because, quite simply, the line is corny, no matter how you deliver it.
While the original single disc release was nothing to snuff your nose at, it was well known at the time of its release that the Region 2 release of Fantastic Four came with a second disc with extra features we didn’t get on the Region 1 release. With this new two-disc set, not only do we get both versions of the film, with two separate commentaries (cast on the theatrical and the director, producers and screenwriters on the extended cut), a preview of the new film (with some background on the Silver Surfer for those who don’t know of his origin), deleted scenes (all of which are in the extended cut) and TV spots and trailers on the first disc, but hours of extras on the second disc as well.
I don’t have the original release to compare the extras to, so I can’t judge if the deleted scenes were the same on the original as well, but I imagine they are. These scenes aren’t worth watching at all if you watched the extended cut, as they’re all in there. It’s worth noting that the storage room scene is as unfinished and sketchy in video quality as it is in the film itself—you’d think they’d have tried to clean it up a bit.
The commentaries are both informative, with the cast commentary being noticeably fluffier in content than the directors and producers. I find that there’s a great balance on commentary tracks between amusing interaction from the actors to behind-the-scenes notes from the director/producers (the Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang commentary is a prime example of this), so it’s a shame the actors couldn’t join the Extended Cuts commentary. Either way, both of the commentaries are entertaining, but if you aren’t interested in hearing the actors pal around, then the director/producer commentary has more production notes and is all around more entertaining.
On the second disc we’re greeted with a wholly different menu layout from the first disc. On this disc we get a more laid back, comic book style appearance. Divided into film and comic universe featurettes, we get a wealth of Fantastic Four knowledge on this set. Not only is there an over hour and a half documentary on the film, covering each of the big five characters (the Fantastic Four and Dr. Doom) as well as some production notes and behind the scenes shots relevant to each of the characters.
While you’d think that would be enough to delve into with the film, the special features don’t stop there. For the film we still have the Baxter Building as well as a “From Comic Book to Film” featurette, which, as it sounds, covers the films evolution from comic panels to the movie screen. Once you’re done with the films extras, there is a wealth of featurettes in the comic area. These featurettes are so in-depth, covering the writers and artists of the book over the eras and years that I don’t think you could get more complete. After the hour long look at the history of the book, you get an over sixty-minute documentary on the comic legend Jack Kirby. Quite frankly after watching all of this I found more wealth in this second disc than the first, if only from a historical comic’s aspect. Multi-Angle Scene Studies, still galleries and a few short featurettes that focus on the merchandise round out the second disc.
While the release is packaged in a rather calm DVD cover (no movie quotes and only a sticker advertising the sequel adorn the covers otherwise pleasant art), the audio tracks are anything but calm. Combined with the superb video transfer (aside from the aforementioned compressed/grainy storage room scene), the film sounds absolutely stunning. There are a few great sequences which get some decent use out of the rear channels and the subwoofer channel is so active throughout the movie that I don’t think my room was without a rumble for more than ten minutes at a time. Whenever the machine Reed built to restore them to their original human states, the room would rumble and the final battle with Johnny going supernova shook the room as well. While the Dolby 5.1 track is nothing to scoff at the DTS track is admittedly cleaner sounding, as can be expected.
I’m surprised not only by the new cut of the film but also the amount of special features on this release. While it’s a shame they couldn’t have released this film with such a robust DVD the first time around, this two-disc is a worthy upgrade, even if you own the previous release. On top of the fantastic (I’m running out of words to describe this set, I had to resort to using that one) special features, the DVD comes with a ticket to the new film, so either way you can’t go wrong. You can easily pick this release up without hesitating and it joins Fox’s recent double dipping extended editions of That Thing You Do! and Big as worthwhile upgrades to the previous editions. Without a doubt, this release comes Highly Recommended.
Fantastic Four: Extended Edition is now available on DVD.