Fantastic Four appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Don’t expect too many problems to mar this excellent presentation.
The only minor distraction came from some light edge enhancement, as I noted occasional signs of haloes. These failed to affect sharpness, however, as the movie consistently appeared crisp and detailed. It presented a nicely tight image at all times and lacked any indications of lessened definition. No concerns with jagged edges or shimmering developed, and I also didn’t notice any form of source defect.
Usually a film of this sort would go with basic “comic book” colors or hyper-stylized hues. Surprisingly, Four chose a somewhat golden, subdued palette. It tended toward the quiet but natural side of things and always looked nice. The tones were consistently clear and well-rendered. Blacks appeared dark and firm, while low-light shots offered good definition and vividness. Ultimately I found this to be a very appealing transfer.
Like many Fox DVDs, Fantastic Four came with both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 soundtracks. Like many DVDs that offer this choice, I couldn’t tell a significant difference between the two options. The DTS track was slightly louder, but when I compensated for that, I felt the pair sounded identical.
Not that I’ll complain about that, as both mixes provided very good auditory experiences. A big comic book film with a big comic book soundfield, the tracks opened up the imagery well. The variety of action sequences really kicked the elements into high gear. The mixes first established their identities during the space sequences, and then all the fights and similar pieces functioned just as well. The tracks used all five channels in an effective and convincing manner.
Happily, audio quality also seemed very good. Effects pounded us with aggressive but accurate sounds. Those elements were always loud and detailed, and they also presented strong bass response. Music got a little buried in the mixes, but the score still came across as bright and dynamic. Speech was consistently natural and crisp, and I noticed no edginess or issues with intelligibility. All told, Four presented terrific auditory options.
The DVD’s extras start with an audio commentary from actors Jessica Alba, Michael Chiklis and Ioan Gruffudd. All three sit together for this running, screen-specific chat. Based on prior actor commentaries, I went into this one with low expectations. Happily, it turned out to be a pretty enjoyable discussion.
Logically, topics looked at the production from the performer’s point of view. We get notes about characters and story, issues related to their takes on the roles, working in an effects-heavy environment and connected problems, and various bits of trivia. They also allude to a sequel, though they don’t give us real specifics.
Chiklis bears the brunt of the load and is largely the reason it ends up as a good commentary. He’s lively, funny and informative. Gruffudd tends to be quiet, while Alba falls in-between the two guys. She chirps “remember that?” too often but she adds enough nice tidbits to make her remarks worthwhile. There’s too much happy talk, and it’s a disappointment fellow actor Chris Evans doesn’t appear, but I think this track stands as enjoyable and reasonably useful.
Next we find three Deleted Scenes. Viewed together, they last two minutes and 27 seconds. We get “Reed Tests Plants”, “Reed and Sue in Planetarium” and “Reed and Sue Walk and Talk: Wolverine Insert”. The latter sounds intriguing but is just a goof; when Reed alters his fave to emulate a manly man, here he makes himself look like the X-Men hero. “Plants” shows one of Reed’s initial attempts to replicate the cosmic storm and feels like an outtake from the Fly. “Planetarium” is the only one that seems mildly useful, as it adds some depth to the Reed/Sue relationship. It’s an alternate version of an existing scene, though, so it’s not anything remarkable.
The Fantastic Four Video Diary runs 19 minutes and 46 seconds. It starts on June 4, 2005 and follows Alba on the movie’s press tour. We see plenty of the other actors as well, but Alba remains the focus; she even shoots some of it on a small camcorder. I like the idea of this piece and think it gives us a decent idea of how busy the actors are during these activities. However, it all runs together quickly. It’s mostly a lot of smiling and goofing for the camera, so don’t expect a great look behind the scenes.
After this we locate the five-minute and 10-second Making of Fantastic Four. It features movie clips, behind the scenes shots, and comments from Alba, Chiklis, Gruffudd, producers Ralph Winter and Avi Arad, director Tim Story, visual effects producer Kurt Williams, visual effects supervisors Allan Maglid and Peter Oberdorfer, and actors Chris Evans and Julian McMahon. This program does little more than discuss the characters and story; we get a quick glance at the effects but nothing remotely substantial. It exists as pure promotion and nothing else.
Up next comes a eight-minute and three-second featurette entitled Making a Scene. Aired on the Fox Movie Channel, this looks at the film’s bridge sequence and includes remarks from Story, Winter, Williams, writer Mark Frost, associate producer David Gorder, and production designer Bill Boes. It covers the scene’s development and technical issues. Despite a few fluffy moments at the start, this one turns into a reasonably deep and informative piece.
Fantastic Four: Casting Session goes for eight minutes and six seconds. It presents notes from Frost, Evans, Alba, Story, McMahon, Gruffudd, Winter, Chiklis and creator/executive producer Stan Lee. They give us some basic notes about the actors and their roles. This comes as a disappointment since I thought we’d get a glimpse of audition tapes. Instead, we simply find a whole lot of promotional nonsense.
Two music videos appear. We get “Everything Burns” by Ben Moody featuring Anastacia and “Come On, Come In” by Velvet Revolver. “Burns” isn’t a good song, but it’s a more interesting video than usual as it integrates film clips and performance in a comic book setting. “On” is a much more enjoyable song. The clip uses some comic book pretenses but usually sticks with a boring combination of lip-synch and movie snippets. A soundtrack spot advertises that release.
In addition to both the teaser and theatrical trailers for Four, we get a promo for the animated Avengers flick. Finally, Inside Look offers a preview of X-Men III. We hear from producer Avi Arad as he gives us some clues as to what we’ll get from the new flick. We don’t see any film footage, though, so this piece is a tease.
Given my affection for Marvel superheroes, I hope that the second Fantastic Four movie improves upon this one. I doubt it can be worse than this dull, thin dud. The film lacks spark or excitement. The DVD presents very strong picture and sound and comes with a few extras highlighted by a good audio commentary.
Unless you’re absolutely nuts about this film, I can’t recommend the DVD, and not just because I didn’t like Four. Clearly I wouldn’t push new viewers to get it, but even if you know you want to own it, Fox’s track record says you might want to wait. When the put out a pretty simple single-disc DVD for a big flick like this, it’s very likely they’ll produce a more extensive two-disc version before too long. I can’t guarantee this’ll happen, but it seems probable. I’d encourage fans should hold out and see if this occurs.