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MOVIE INFO

Director:
Mark Steven Johnson
Cast:
Ioan Gruffudd, Jessica Alba, Chris Evans, Michael Chiklis, Julian McMahon, Hamish Linklater, Kerry Washington, Laurie Holden, David Parker
Writing Credits:
Mark Frost, Michael France, Stan Lee (Marvel comic book), Jack Kirby (Marvel comic book)

Tagline:
Prepare for the fantastic.

Synopsis:
Jessica Alba, Chris Evans and Michael Chiklis head a sexy, star-powered cast in this explosive adventure about a quartet of flawed, ordinary human beings who suddenly find themselves with extraordinary abilities.

After exposure to cosmic radiation, four astronauts become the most remarkable, if dysfunctional, superheroes of all time. Unfortunately, the mission's sponsor has also been transformed into the world's most lethal supervillain setting the stage for a confrontation of epic proportions. Packed with nonstop action, big laughs and awesome special effects, Fantastic 4 is "powerful fun" (The Baltimore Sun) from start to finish!

Box Office:
Budget
$100 million.
Opening Weekend
$56.061 million on 3602 screens.
Domestic Gross
$154.637 million.

MPAA:
Rated PG-13

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English DTS 5.1
Spanish Dolby 2.0
Subtitles:
English
Spanish
Closed-captioned

Runtime: 106 min.
Price: $29.98
Release Date: 12/6/2005

Bonus:
• Audio Commentary with Actors Jessica Alba, Michael Chiklis and Ioan Gruffudd
• Deleted Scenes
• “Video Diary”
• “Making Fantastic Four” Featurette
• “Making a Scene” Featurette
• “Casting Sessions” Featurette
• Trailers
• Music Videos
• “Inside Look”


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RELATED REVIEWS


Fantastic Four (2005)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 22, 2005)

Fox enjoyed a heck of a good summer in 2005. They started with a sure thing: Revenge of the Sith, the final installment in the Star Wars series. Even though everyone knew it’d do well, it still managed to exceed many expectations with a gross of $380 million. That fell short of the $431 million take of 1999’s Phantom Menace but it easily bettered 2002’s Attack of the Clones and its $310 million gross. Given all the animosity engendered by Menace and Clones, Sith’s earnings proved pretty remarkable.

From there Fox continued to chug along through the summer. In June, capitalized on the heat surrounding stars Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt on its way to a sizable $186 million take. A few weeks later, Fantastic Four came along and raked in $154 million on its own. It capped a positive summer for the studio.

Too bad it was easily the worst of the three movies. I love good comic book flicks and looked forward to this one. Unfortunately, Four in no way resembled a good comic book flick.

Brilliant scientist Reed Richards (Ioan Gruffudd) needs financing for an ambitious project to study the effects of cosmic rays. When he can’t get the bucks anywhere else, he comes hat in hand to the door of his old college rival, billionaire Victor Von Doom (Julian McMahon). This becomes doubly humiliating when we meet Victor’s head of genetic research: Reed’s old love Sue Storm (Jessica Alba).

After he negotiates a tidy potential profit for himself, Victor agrees to finance Reed’s experiment and let Richards use Von Doom’s space station. However, he does insist that he and Sue go along and also that her cocky brother Johnny (Chris Evans) flies the shuttle. This doesn’t sit well with Reed’s partner and pilot Ben Grimm (Michael Chiklis), especially since Johnny bombed out of NASA under Ben’s watch.

The mission runs into a problem when the solar storm hits the station way ahead of schedule. This finds all the involved parties unprepared and douses them in cosmic radiation. When they return to Earth, all initially seems fine, though the debacle causes Victor’s company to suffer a radical plummet on Wall Street.

Soon the participants discover side effects of their experiences. Johnny turns to flame without warning, and Sue can become invisible. Reed can stretch any party of his body to extremes, while Ben develops into a super-strong rock-like being. Finally, Victor begins to become metallic and he also gains serious electrical powers. The movie follows their attempts to deal with their changes and what they do with them, a subject that becomes more serious when Victor goes nutso and acts in evil ways.

How can a movie with so many cool characters and so much action end up so boring? That’s the main problem with Fantastic Four. It presents all sorts of potentially exciting scenarios but never does anything satisfying with them. It plods along with loosely connected situations and fails to tie them together in a cohesive or compelling manner.

Some of the problems stem from the requirements of this movie. Like all initial entries in comic book series, Four needs to act as an origin story. That becomes potentially clunky and complicated in any superhero movie, but when you have to deal with four good guys as well as a villain, it gets even more difficult to pull off with any panache.

I’m sure someone could succeed, but director Tim Story clearly couldn’t. Frankly, I can’t figure out why the suits at Fox thought he’d be a good choice to helm Four. Previously he directed the moderately successful comedy Barbershop and the action/comedy bomb Taxi. Does anyone else see those as good precursors for a big-budget superhero flick?

Of course, one could argue that Pee-wee’s Big Adventure and Beetlejuice didn’t make Tim Burton a likely candidate to direct Batman. At least Burton’s first two flicks were good and showed a lot of flair and potential. Nothing in Barbershop or Taxi signified a directorial talent with the skill to launch a comic book franchise.

The director’s name seems particularly ironic given his essential inability to actually tell a story. In truth, Four often feels like a really long trailer. It presents bits and pieces of narrative but rarely dallies long enough to explore them. We get snatches of plot at most, as the movie fails to develop anything to make it coherent.

Again, some of that stems from the fact that Four needs to introduce and establish five major characters. Attempts to make them full-blooded become tough. That said, I really believe they could have developed far beyond the one-dimensional status they maintain here. All five are so thin I doubt any of them can cast a shadow.

None of this excuses the exceedingly clumsy plot development even after the movie sets up its characters. We know Doom is upset that his company goes in the tank, blames Reed and wants revenge, but all of this simply turns into an excuse for mayhem. The action becomes gratuitous and oddly irrelevant, as the movie can’t tie together the pieces well enough to make us care.

As for our actors, only Evans and Chiklis make an impression. Alba certainly looks great, but she clearly lacks the presence and weight to make us accept her as a genetic researcher. It doesn’t help that at 24, she’s way too young for the role; she should be in the middle of grad school, not leading the way in her field.

Gruffudd is also surprisingly young for his part, but at least he looks older. I assumed he was around 40, but the actor was about a decade younger when they made Four. Though he looks the part, he seems lost in the role. Gruffudd is too busy wrangling his awkward American accent to actually act.

At least Evans fills out the role of cocky hotshot Johnny. He provides some of the movie’s few amusing moments with his arrogance and brashness, and he and Chiklis also demonstrate a nice chemistry. Chiklis is able to bring some humanity to his role, no mean feat given that he must do so through a thick layer of laytex.

Speaking of the Thing suit, I know others have criticized the decision not to make the character CG, but I think the costume works surprisingly well. Chiklis’ Thing sure looks better than the CG Hulk, and I feel the character is perfectly believable. The Thing outfit is one of the few successful elements on display here.

But a good costume and a couple of decent performances can’t redeem this dull movie. Fantastic Four certainly had a ton of potential, and perhaps its sequel will manage to become more satisfying. I sure can’t imagine the sequel will demonstrate a dip in quality, as this flick is a bore.


The DVD Grades: Picture A-/ Audio A-/ Bonus B-

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.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2.5882 Stars Number of Votes: 34
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