Fantastic Four Blu-ray Review
AKA Fantastic Four: The Studio Cut
You might start off wondering "what's all the fuss about, it isn't that bad" but by the end of this 90 minute mess you'll realise something went seriously wrong with the Fantastic Four.Even despite the near-universal criticisms, and the significant Box Office failure (barely recouping its budget, before sizeable advertising costs), with the rights about to revert to Marvel, we may still get a sequel to this unholy product of Studio manipulation and directorial frustration, although it would be hard to see how they could recover from this. Unlike the mess made behind the scenes on Ant-Man, which arguably survived better in-tact as part of the bigger Marvel Cinematic Universe whole, this fast-tracked Fantastic Four reboot had no such fan support. Indeed it was already struggling against comic book apathy and fan disdain as a result of its too-soon-for-a-reboot Studio-rights-driven production formula (and you saw how that worked out for Spider-Man) even before things started to go so horribly wrong. Getting the acclaimed writer/director of Chronicle on-board was a good step to getting some support, and casting Chronicle star Michael B. Jordan, Whiplash standout Miles Teller and Billy Elliott himself, Jamie Bell, alongside the increasingly-favoured-over-her-sister-Rooney, Kate Mara, only furthered the positive interest.Unfortunately, most of the talent on this project falls wasted. Whilst a first act is dedicated to building characters and a foundation for later events, the middle act is flawed by a random year-long time lapse, a series of woeful montages and some truly stupid jumps in narrative, all of which reach a climax that feels like it ought to be a middle-act set-piece rather than a grand conclusion, and brings the whole film to a grinding halt before it's even gotten started. Only about half of it feels like Trank's work, and the rest feels utterly derivative, with the actors barely getting room to breathe beneath. There are sparks of genius - genuinely creepy body horror themes keep popping up, leaving Reed Richards more Cronenberg than Claymation in design; and Doom's Terminator-esque corridor sequence actually elicits genuine chills and tension within a PG-13 universe (the Genisys filmmakers could have done with watching that) - and the darker, more Chronicle-esque take on this normally more colourful comic-book quartet is a welcome approach, but the end result still feels like a shadow of whatever the director had in mind. And, unfortunately, we'll likely never see that.
Picture QualityThe Fantastic Four reboot looks good in HD.
Promoted with a strong 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition video presentation in the movie's original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.40:1 widescreen, Fantastic Four occasionally impresses but won't quite sweep you off your feet. Despite the money thrown at the project, there's a clear internal struggle between the more gritty approach of the filmmaker and the glossier sheen of an inherent blockbuster-in-the-making here, and the results aren't always resoundingly good. Detail remains strong - frequently standout - although the image isn't without its share of unexpected flaws. The small-scale start has a very organic feel to it, however as effects start getting thrown at the screen things get increasingly disjointed (some effects sequences don't work at all; the CG clumsily blended in with the rest of the proceedings, like when the vortex is pulling the ground up besides a queue of traffic and fleeing bystanders). The core effects of the main characters remain strong, and the colour scheme suitably restrained to follow the tone of the grittier, darker comic book piece, whilst black levels sometimes struggle under the weight of impinging crush and banding. It's far from a bad presentation - and indeed often good enough to knock on the door of demo quality - but its conversely far from perfect too, and arguably that's what you'd expect from this kind of superhero blockbuster franchise flagship vehicle.
Sound QualityAt least the audio track remains almost impossible to fault.
Unlike the content, and arguably the video, the DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track is a great offering, providing a suitably engaging, engulfing accompaniment which is frequently more immersive than the story itself. The dialogue remains precisely delivered, cleanly and clearly, predominantly across the frontal array, whilst the score pervades the surrounds and sweeps you up into the proceedings. Effects are wonderfully observed, from the early backyard science experiments that will rock your neighbourhood, to the latter trans-dimensional leaps, with each fantastic power given its own signature, and disseminated with precision across the surrounds. The LFE channel lends welcome support to each and every element, grounding the piece with palpable weight, and overall this easily makes for demo material at least on the aural front.
Steelbook ExtrasA series of Featurettes dominate the extras package, with Powering Up: Superpowers of the Fantastic Four providing the meat in the form of a 20 minute Making-of Documentary, supported by a 10 minute The Quantum Gates and an 8 minute Planet Zero, which look behind key effects-driven elements in the piece, and The Score rounding out the proceedings with a 5 minute look at this important element. There's not enough from Trank here, and nothing particularly revealing with regard to the flawed production history, nor any specific snippets allowing you insight into what could have been, but the cast and crew interview soundbites and behind the scenes footage should still give fans something to chew on. A Concept Art gallery completes the disc, but for some Trailers.
Fans interested in continuing their Marvel Steelbook collection will need to look towards HMV's exclusive.
For those interested in continuing their Marvel steelbook collection (not their Marvel Studios collection, but their collection of steelbooks of Marvel comic characters) should consider HMV's impressive release as being an excellent addition. With a shiny gloss finish, the iconic design - dominated by the signature 4 - has some loving debossing work to give the design further texture. Whatever you may think of the film, this is one of the most distinctive steelbooks of the year.
Blu-ray VerdictFar from the worst movie you'll see this year, unfortunately we will also likely never get to see the movie that this should have been.
Given the cast and crew involved, it's easy to lay the blame for all the mistakes in this reboot on the doorsteps of the interfering Studio execs who wanted control of this potential franchise re-starter. History has shown that this wouldn't be the first time for a film to have been ruined by such interference, and even Marvel Studios' own productions have occasionally been beset by similar problems. Unfortunately, whether Trank or Fox are ultimately to blame - separately or equally - the end result is that the fans suffer, and will likely never know what could have been.
Fantastic Four has honest intentions, and strives to provide a darker, more gritty origin story than its colourful predecessor from little over a decade ago, but ends up being so flagrantly flawed that - for sheer mindless enjoyment - many may turn to those previous incarnations for a quick Fantastic fix. Certainly, for all the improvements this new adaptation makes - whilst its heart may be in the right place - 2015's Fantastic Four doesn't herald the beginning of a new franchise, but more likely the nail in the coffin for Fox's incarnation of these colourful characters. With the best will in the world, unless somebody really wants to take a risky gamble, a sequel would ultimately be a bad idea - and likely, throwing good money after bad - leaving Marvel Studios to hopefully finally set the record straight once the dust has settled.
In the meantime fans have a decent enough Blu-ray release on the table here, with solid video, excellent audio and an average - if not particularly revealing - extras package, all of which is made sweeter for collectors by HMV's impressive exclusive steelbook release.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £14.99
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