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 defects.
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.
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.
How did the picture and audio of this 2007 “Extended Edition” compare to those of the original 2005 DVD? I thought both releases seemed virtually identical. If any changes appeared, I didn’t detect them; both presentations looked and sounded great.
When we shift to the extras, however, we find plenty of new components. I’ll mark this package’s exclusives with an asterisk. If you don’t see a star, the component also appears on the old DVD.
Of course, the main attraction appears on DVD One: the extended cut of the film. This adds 20 minutes to the theatrical version’s 106-minute length. You can choose to watch either the original 2005 cut or this longer rendition. I’ll discuss the changes more fully when I get to the “Extended/Deleted Scenes” area of this disc, but I wanted to mention it on its own as well.
On DVD One, we open with two separate audio commentaries. For the theatrical cut only, we hear 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.
For the second chat, we get notes from *director Tim Story, producers Avi Arad and Kevin Feige, and screenwriters Michael France and Mark Frost. The director and producers sit together and offer a running, screen-specific chat, but both writers offer separate notes edited into the piece. The track looks at the adaptation of the original comic book material and various changes, character and story issues, alterations made for the extended cut, cast and performances, sets and locations, effects and visuals, and a few other production topics.
This commentary works best when we hear from the writers. I like their notes about how they worked with the material from the comics and the reasons they made their various choices. The elements with Story and the producers are less substantial. They give us some decent basics about the shoot but never become terribly informative. Nonetheless, the details from the writers help turn this into a pretty engaging chat.
By the way, if you hope to get some thoughts about what we’ll get from the flick’s sequel, you’ll leave this commentary disappointed. It’s obvious the remarks were recorded back in 2005, as no one has any idea what the sequel will bring. That’s not a real flaw, but it does sound odd to hear the participants view the sequel as a blank slate since the DVD hit the shelves less than two weeks before the second flick’s release.
Next we find 12 *Extended/Deleted Scenes. Viewed together, they last 26 minutes, 41 seconds. These include “Icy Reception” (3:35), “Fan 4 Wake-Up” (1:50), “Push Into Plant” (0:21), “Victor/Sue’s Dinner” (3:21), “Storage Room” (2:20), “Ben’s Birthday” (1:15), “Sue Cloaks Envelope” (1:08), “Reed Tests Plant” (1:19), “Planetarium With Kiss” (1:14), “Wolverine” (0:18), “Ben Finds Gallery/Johnny In Limo/Art Show” (7:19) and “Thing On a Bench/Johnny’s Bar Tricks” (2:38). “Tests”, “Wolverine” and “Planetarium” all appeared on the original DVD, but the other nine are exclusive to this set.
And all of them also show up in the extended cut of the flick. That means that if you watched the long version, you’ll already have seen the majority of the snippets. This creates some odd sequences. “Planetarium” and “Wolverine” present essentially the same emotional punch between Reed and Sue. It makes no sense for them to go back to back, especially since some of the dialogue is identical! Either one should be in the film, but not both.
As for the other bits, the “Gallery” segment stands as the most interesting. We see more development of the Ben/Alicia relationship, and we also watch Victor try to mess with the unity of the FF. Although it slows down the pacing a little too much, it’s still a good character piece. The limo part also helps explain where Johnny got the Thing action figure he shows to Ben.
“Bar” lets the film develop Johnny’s character a little. For the first time, he gets a negative response to the superficial way he uses his powers, and this causes him to reconsider his flashy lifestyle. Of all the deleted scenes, this is probably the one that might have best benefited the end result.
Some of the other snippets provide minor pads to scenes in the theatrical film. “Reception” and “Wake-Up” fall in that category, and many of the others just reiterate themes we already know pretty well. “Reception” does add a full set of opening credits, something not found in the original version. These bits can be interesting to see, but they don’t add to the film.
Or do they? I must say that though the pieces don’t seem to be substantial, perhaps the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. While the extended Fantastic Four doesn’t improve greatly on the theatrical version, I must say it gave me more entertainment than during my prior viewings. It remains an erratic and flawed movie, but I think the extended cut comes across as just a bit more involving.
Under Marketing, we find various ads. The disc includes both theatrical and teaser trailers. It also presents three *TV Spots.
DVD One ends with an *Inside Look. This includes a teaser for Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer as well as an eight-minute and two-second preview of that flick. I didn’t watch either since I want to go into Rise fresh, but I wanted to mention that they’re here. (Note that the 2005 DVD also included an “Inside Look”, but it was an advance view of X-Men 3. It fails to show up here for obvious reasons.)
As we move to DVD Two, we find extras in three different areas. Production starts with *Heroes Are Born: The Making of Fantastic Four. Clocking in at a lengthy one hour, 37 minutes and 30 seconds, this piece mixes movie clips, behind the scenes elements, and interviews. We hear from Story, Alba, Gruffudd, Chiklis, Arad, producer Ralph Winter, 1st assistant director Lee Cleary, Meteor Studios VFX supervisor Paul Nightingale, stunt coordinator John Branagan, 2nd unit special effects coordinator Clay Sheirer, associate producer Kurt Williams, Giant Killer Robots VFX supervisor Peter Oberdorfer, co-creator Stan Lee, space suit technician Randy Pike, costume designer Jose Fernandez, stunt double Garvin Cross, SW Digital VFX supervisors Randall Rosa and Jabbar N. Raisani, compositor Dave Franks, VFX animator Jeff Wolverton, motocross riders Cowboy Kenny, Lars Grant and Ronnie Renner, Giant Killer Robots lead animator Rich McBride, VFX coordinator Garv Thorp, Soho VFX supervisors Berj Bannayan and Allan Magled, Giant Killer Robots tech director Greg Gladstone, sound designer Charles Maynes, additional sound mixer Jim Bolt, and actors Chris Evans and Julian McMahon.
“Heroes” starts with a look at the creation of the Brooklyn Bridge sequence and proceeds through aspects of bringing the various characters to life. Those pieces examine performances, visual effects, and other elements related to the main roles. That emphasis makes the show’s title a little misleading, as “Heroes” doesn’t provide a great overall view of the production. It concentrates on characters and tells us little about story or the general processes.
Nonetheless, it works quite well, especially due to all the great footage from the set. “Heroes” shows many aspects of the shoot, and we get many nice insights from the participants as well. We find out a lot about a variety of important elements in this fine program.
Next we find *The Baxter Building: Declassified. This six-minute and 48-second featurette includes notes from Winter, production designer Bill Boes, computer graphics supervisor Gladys Tong and associate producer David Gorder. We learn a little about the comic’s version of the FF’s headquarters and see how the film recreates it. This offers a nice examination of the set, especially since we see bits we otherwise would probably miss.
“Production” concludes with a *Multi-Angle Animatic to Scene Study. It lasts five minutes, 31 seconds if you just watch it straight through via “Play All”. It allows us to see a variety of different movie sequences in two different ways. You can watch the animatics on their own or see them compared to the final film product in a split-screen. I like the presentation, especially since we get that option.
Within The Comic Book, we find *The World’s Greatest Comic Magazine. This 59-minute and nine-second documentary features Lee, inker (1962, 1965-81, 1986-89) Joe Sinnott, artist (1970-71) John Romita Sr., artist (1974-76, 1989) Rich Buckler, writer/editor (1978-80) Marv Wolfman, artist (1975-78) George Perez, writer (1977-78) Len Wein, artist (1980-81) Bill Sienkiewicz, writer (1987-89) Steve Englehart, editor (late 1980s-early 1990s, 2004-present) Ralph Macchio, writer/artist (1989-91) Walter Simonson, artist (1993) Alex Ross, writer/artist (1996-97) Jim Lee, writer Chris Claremont (1998-2000), Marvel editor-in-chief (2000-present) Joe Quesada, editor (2001-present) Tom Brevoort, artist – (2004-05) Adam Kubert, writer (2002-05) Mark Waid, and writer/inker (2002, 2004-05) Karl Kesel.
We learn a little about Marvel Comics in the early Sixties and the development of the Fantastic Four and its characters. We hear about the work of Lee and artist Jack Kirby, the addition of new characters like the Silver Surfer, Kirby’s departure from Marvel in 1970 and the influence of other writers and artists on the series, and changes over the decades. Like the “Heroes” documentary, “Greatest” doesn’t provide a concise overview of the comic book’s path from 1961 to date. However, it offers a lot of good glimpses of various story/character issues and important changes to personnel. We get a nice feel for the comics in this informative program.
For a look at the comic book’s original artist, we go to *Jack Kirby: Storyteller. It fills one hour, three minutes and 58 second with info from Simonson, Ross, Jim Lee, Romita, Wolfman, Wein, Stan Lee, artist/animation producer Bruce Timm, artist/inker Mike Thibodeaux, The Jack Kirby Collector publisher John Morrow, novelist Walter Mosley, writer/artist Barry Windsor-Smith, former Kirby assistant Steve Sherman, writer/former Kirby assistant Mark Evanier, daughter Lisa Kirby, son Neal Kirby, writer Jeph Loeb, graphic designer/comic book historian Arlen Schumer, artist/inker Mike Royer, and artists Neal Adams, Tim Sale, and Steve Rude.
“Storyteller” gives us a look at Kirby’s life and work as well as thoughts about his material and influence. The show nicely balances the personal and professional sides of Kirby to give us an excellent look at the man. When it ends, you leave with a fine impression of Kirby, and we hear many fun stories along the way as well as an evaluation of his art. The program doesn’t avoid problem areas, as it digs into problems in Kirby’s career. This is an affectionate and charming documentary.
*Collectibles splits into two pieces. “Visiting the Stately Ross Museum” runs two minutes, 59 seconds and shows Alex Ross’s collection of life-size sculptures he has in his house. It’s interesting though a bit of a disappointment since I thought we’d get a look at commercially available collectibles from over the decades.
A “Gallery” gives us that sort of material. Across 34 frames, we see toys, magazines and other products with the FF on them. It’s a fun little glimpse of those elements.
We finish this area with *From Comic Book to Film, a three-minute and 54-second featurette. It compares frames from various comic versions of the FF to shots from the flick. This becomes a marginally intriguing way to see how the art translates to the live-action screen.
In a separate domain, six *Still Galleries conclude DVD Two. These break down into “Behind the Scenes” (25 shots), “Character Sculpts” (13), “Characters” (58), “Concept Art” (31), “Costumes” (15) and “Human Torch Flame Tests” (10). These provide a nice view of the various materials, especially the planning pieces.
With all these materials, you wouldn’t think the set would lose anything from the original release. However, you’d be wrong. It drops almost 20 minutes of Jessica Alba’s “Video Diary”, a non-essential behind the scenes piece. We also lose a very promotional featurette and a pretty good “Making a Scene” program as well as eight minutes of fluff mislabeled as “Casting Sessions” and two music videos. I don’t consider any of these to be a big loss, though I really liked the Velvet Revolver song. Still, it’s odd that this packed release omits the old materials.
Given my affection for Marvel superheroes, I hope that the second Fantastic Four movie improves upon this one. The extended edition found here makes the movie a bit more entertaining, but it remains an average flick at best. The DVD presents very strong picture and sound and comes with a superb set of extras.
If you don’t have the original Fantastic Four release, then grab this one, as it offers an improved extended version of the flick. In addition, it stands as a good upgrade in terms of extras. Not only do we get that longer take of the film, but also it gives us many interesting supplements. This is a fine release.
To rate this film visit the original review of FANTASTIC FOUR