Wednesday, December 07, 2005

DVD Review: The Fantastic Four

You'd be forgiven for thinking that all I ever do is watch movies and work on my comic but you would be, in the whole, correct. I do find time to watch a lot of TV too though, and one of my favourite things to do is to combine watching movies and watching TV by...watching movies on TV. Most people seem to think that my DVD collection is rather large, but, personally, I'm always amazed at just how many films I don't have on DVD. I'm actually also amazed by the films that I do have too...for example, of all three Terminator films, the only one I actually own on DVD is Terminator 3. Some would see this as a travesty and I would tend to agree, but the problem is that a large proportion of the DVDs I own have actually been bought for me, or have been bought by my wife.

Anyway, enough of that, let's get on with the review. Actually, no, before that, as this is my first DVD review for this blog a quick note. I'll be breaking down DVD reviews into two sections - The Movie and Extras. Predictable but I thought I'd point it out. Oh, and I'll be limiting the reviews to movies seen at the cinema and new DVD purchases, because to extend it to movies seen on TV would just get rediculous (and besides, I just can't bring myself to write reviews for The Passion of the Christ and Mission Without Permission today [although I bet those two movies have never been mentioned in the same sentence before]).

The Movie

I'm sure that any readers of this blog out there (Hi Jeannine!) will be fairly familiar with the fact that I like comics, and it's pretty much impossible to like comics without at the very least being familiar with the basic premise of the Fantastic Four. Some years ago some lovely person (possibly the aforementioned Jeannine) bought me the first volume of the Marvel Masterworks series, which reprinted, recoloured and in hardback, the first issues of the Fantastic Four. It's classic Stan and Jack at their best but my comic book collecting focused on Iron Man and then the X-Men, so I haven't read a vast amount of Fantastic Four. The basic premise is, of course, that Reed Richards, his friend Ben Grimm, plus his girlfriend Sue Storm and her brother Johnny go into space where they are bombarded by cosmic rays which bestow upon them superhuman powers. Reed finds that his body can stretch like elastic, Sue can turn invisible and Johnny can burst into flame. All of these powers can be turned on and off at will. The real tragedy is that Ben is turned into a rocky monster....permanently. This is clear early evidence of the genius of Stan Lee, and what was to set Marvel Comics apart from their Distinguished Competition. Most super heroes up to that point had become heroes by choice, or at the very least were happy about the consequences of the freak accident that had left them super powered. Ben Grimm, aka The Thing, was not. The accident effectively ruins his life and he truly hates what he has become. It is only the strength of his friendship with his teammates which really keeps Ben going.

So, the comic book was genius, but is the film any good? Well, actually, yes. Widely criticised for not being as grim and gritty as other recent superhero movies (Daredevil, X-Men, Batman Begins), Fantastic Four is a lot more light hearted and just plain fun. However, this is exactly right for Marvel's first family. The tone of the Fantastic Four has always been a lot lighter than many of Marvel's other books, and a grimmer, grittier feel wouldn't have suited them at all. The performances are generally excellent, Jessica Alba is drop dead gorgeous as Sue Storm, the action is exciting and the effects are stunning. This movie is, above all, fun.

Perfect? No. Not by a long chalk. The Fantastic Four commits one of the worst comic book movie sins there is - tying the origins of the heroes and villains together for no good reason. In the comic book Victor Von Doom is not caught up in the same accident as the four heroes. Yes, he was at college with Reed, but his face was disfigured while he was dabbling in the occult (I seem to recall he was trying to contact his mother) and he creates a suit of armour to hide his hideous face. His powers are a combination of technological (his suit) and mystical (his occult powers). I gues this was deemed all too complicated for the American movie going public, and, besides, you can't have someone dabbling in the occult in a kids film, can you? So, while our four heroes are fairly spot on, we are left with a Doom who is not really Doom. One of Marvel's most iconic villains is reduced to a greedy, power-mad business man/scientist. This is not Doom (it's more like Norman Osbourne). This is a shame, because Doom should be a lot more scary than this. Of course, some might argue that George Lucas already did a much better screen version of Doctor Doom back in 1977.

There are a few other problems too, and I'm going to highlight two of them here. The first is Ben Grimm's fiance. Most reviewers seem to have referred to her as his wife but I noticed last night that it's an engagement ring she returns to him, not a wedding ring. Firstly, I'm not convinced she's necessary at all. I think we're all capable of understanding how hard it's going to be for Ben to fit in after his change without having to see him rejected by this woman. Besides, I don't buy that he would be with someone so shallow in the first place. Secondly, the way she just appears at the end of the action sequence on the bridge and throws the ring at him is just...odd. It doesn't work, it doesn't make ANY sense.

The other prolem an attempt to reverse the process that gave them powers Reed recreates the cosmic storm in his lab. If he's capable of this...why did they have to go into space in the first place? Now, that's a plot hole big enough to drive a truck through.

Despite some major flaws, it's still a good movie and is definitely worth watching.


As I said earlier, a lot of the DVDs I own are bought for me, and this is no exception. Therefore this is the one disc edition and not the two disc edition, so the extras are a bit sparse. I haven't listened to the commentary yet but I've read that it's very good. The only real other extra here is Jessica Alba's video diary of the FF press tour. Yes, that's right, the press tour. If it wasn't for the fact that she's so damn gorgeous this would be a perfect cure for insomnia. There is absolutely nothing of interest all. Lastly, there's the crushingly disappointing preview of X-Men 3 which doesn't include a single shot of the movie and really is of no interest to anyone other than, maybe, Avi Arad's close friends and family.

Rating: 7/10

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