With the release of Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer just around the corner, it’s no surprise to see the studio rolling out a double-dip of the first film. Fantastic 4 – Extended Edition revisits the film with an extra 20 minutes of footage, and a second disc full of special features. But is it a worthy acquisition for your collection?
First, a bit about the film for the uninitiated. This is the Fantastic Four’s origin story, including how they came to have their super powers, and who Dr… Doom, their first super-villain nemesis, was. And that’s enough about that.
The film had a lackluster theatrical run, and is largely considered to be an average comic book-to-film adaptation. In other words, much worse than Spider-Man, but a lot better than Batman & Robin. It’s good points include solid special effects, some exciting action sequences and comedy relief from Michael Chiklis (The Shield), who plays Ben Grimm, a.k.a. The Thing. On the flipside, the film suffers from stiff acting, awkward writing and a screenplay full of holes. Hey, you can’t win ‘em all.
The bad news is, the new extended cut offers no saving grace. The additional or extended scenes are just more of the same, with redundant character development and a couple of lame gags. While fans might appreciate the opportunity to view these scenes, I doubt they’ll be satisfied in the end.
As for the good news, this 2-disc release offers both the original theatrical cut and the extended edition, as well as the choice to view the extra footage separately. It’s the best of two uninspiring worlds, and with all of the extras on disc two it means any fan should view this as the all-in-one Fantastic 4 DVD solution. Not bad for a double-dip.
Fantastic 4 – Extended Edition is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, preserving the aspect ratio of its original theatrical run. It looks good, but not fantastic – pardon the pun. Overall, the picture is sharp and the transfer is clean, but colours are a bit inconsistent in a few scenes, such as parts of the sequence on the space station. It’s a minor issue, but enough to hurt the general quality of the video.
As you’d expect, menus are animated and scored.
Audio is offered in English in DTS 5.1 and 5.1 Dolby Digital. Neither will disappoint, but definitely opt for the DTS track if your system allows. Generally, superhero comic book adaptations are the type of film that really lets your audio setup show off. Fantastic 4 is no exception, as the bass pounds, effects are all over the spectrum and the score sounds alive. Definitely a satisfying listen.
These tracks are the same as on the original DVD release, as is the Dolby Digital 2.0 Spanish audio. As for subtitles, they’re available in English and Spanish.
Fantastic 4 – Extended Edition does not disappoint in the bonus materials department. While a few features are repeats from the previous release, there’s plenty of fresh stuff to sink your teeth into, including an excellent documentary about the development of the Fantastic Four comics, which kicked off a golden age of Marvel superheroes. Here’s the full rundown:
- Two audio commentaries: one by Ioan Gruffudd, Jessica Alba, Chris Evans, Michael Chiklis and Julian McMahon, which is a repeat from the previous release. The second features director Tim Story, producers Avi Arad and Kevin Feige, and screenwriters Michael France and Mark Frost. Both are interesting, but the latter offers much more perspective on the creative and business processes.
- Extended and deleted scenes: these allow you to view the roughly 20 minutes of extra footage without having to skim through the full extended cut. I recommend going this route, as the new footage only makes the film drag.
- Rise of the Silver Surfer (sneak peek): disc one holds the trailer for this upcoming sequel, as well as a featurette about the Silver Surfer. You may notice that this featurette has been pulled directly from one of the documentaries on disc two, which is a bit of a shame.
- Heroes are Born – The Making of Fantastic 4: this feature-length documentary goes into a lot of detail about the film’s production, with a focus on each of the superhero characters and the villain, Dr. Doom. There’s enough here to satisfy any fan.
- The Baxter Building: Declassified: a 12-minute featurette on Fantastic Four H.Q., including what went in to building it, and – of course – a tour around the premises.
- The World’s Greatest Comic: wow, this is one great documentary! I admit I knew very little about the Fantastic Four going into this film. Having viewed this fascinating piece not only do I know a lot more, but I’m actually feeling nostalgic about an era and hobby I never experienced the first time around. As far as DVD special features go, this one is tops.
- Jack Kirby – Storyteller: the artist who co-created the Fantastic Four with Stan Lee, Jack Kirby left quite the legacy in comic books and even a broader category of popular art. We learn here that his style is very much an acquired taste, but that few deny the impact Kirby had on the world of comics. Great stuff.
- Visiting the Stately Ross Museum: this one is basically window-shopping for the comics merchandise collectors, as it explores the wide range of Fantastic Four memorabilia created over the years, from detailed and rare to mass-produced and mundane.
- From Comic Book to Film: this one offers a side-by-side comparison of some shots from the final film with scenes from past Fantastic Four comics. Interesting, I suppose, but while it shows the similarity between the film and the comics, I’m sure fans would have appreciated more exact representations of classic panels.
- Multi-angle scene studies: if you enjoy animatics and the multi-angle tool, then I guess these are for you. Me, I’ve never much cared for these features, especially when they’ve been covered in great detail in the above making-of documentary.
- Photo galleries: these are galleries…that contain photos. It’s like looking through the director’s picture album, except not.
While the extended cut does nothing to raise Fantastic 4 from comic book-to-film mediocrity, the bountiful special features more than qualify this 2-disc set as the best double-dip I’ve seen in a long time. It’s also your best choice if you wish to own this movie on DVD. Recommended for fans.
Special Features List
- Two audio commentaries
- Extended and deleted scenes
- Two versions of the film: extended and original theatrical
- Rise of the Silver Surfer, sneak peek
- Heroes are Born – The Making of Fantastic 4
- The Baxter Building: Declassified
- The World’s Greatest Comic
- Jack Kirby – Storyteller
- Visiting the Stately Ross Museum
- From Comic Book to Film
- Multi-angle scene studies
- Photo galleries