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Marvel Comics' longest running comic book series, which has well earned its distinction as "the greatest comic in the world", finally gets its big screen comeuppance. But unfortunately in today's over-saturated comic-book-to-big-screen market, Fantastic Four will certainly be overlooked. And by doing so, you won't miss much.

The film's makers claim that for self-evident reasons, bringing Fantastic Four to the big screen required four times the special effects computing power of any previous comic-to-film epic. That's a bit ironic because the special effects in Fantastic Four actually give the film a skimpy, dated look. It feels as if it was made before big budget computing technology came to the disposal of filmmakers. Does it take modern day technology to give a film a low-budget feel?

Special effects aside, I'd be a bit more forgiving if what the film lacked in visual panache were made up for with snappy dialogue, good acting or even decent storytelling. But Fantastic Four is just a campy, goofy film with nothing new to say. Plain and simple.

Astronaut/inventor Dr. Reed Richards (Ioan Gruffudd) is organizing a scientific space trip in hopes that he can study an approaching cosmic storm. If successful, his experiment might unlock the human genetic codes for the benefit of all humanity.

Going into space with Richards are his best friend and astronaut Ben Grimm (Michael Chiklis); and brother/sister team made up of geneticist Sue Storm (Jessica Alba) and hot shot pilot Johnny Storm (Chris Evans). Funding the entire project and tagging along for the ride is billionaire industrialist Victor Von Doom (Julian McMahon).

The mission goes as planned until the cosmic event arrives sooner than expected and showers the entire crew with some sort of mystical space dust that unknowingly alters their genetic makeup.

Once the crew arrives back on Earth, the effects of their mishap become all too evident. Johnny (The Human Torch) learns that he can fly and burst into flames. Sue (The Invisible Woman) can make herself invisible and project impenetrable force fields. Ben (The Thing) becomes a geologist's dream when he turns into a super-strong, hulking mass of orange stone. And Dr. Richards (Mr. Fantastic) learns that he can twist and stretch all parts of his body.

As the four try to come to grips with their newly acquired super powers, they realize that they will be called upon to utilize their strengths in hopes of defeating the evil plans of Von Doom, who morphs into a steel-clad, robot-like nemesis.

Despite the film's anemic execution, credit must go to director Tim Story and writers Michael France and Mark Frost for having their thoughts and intentions in the right place. They missed, but at least they realized that too many effects-heavy films today tend to over-emphasize the visual aspects at the expense of the human side of the story. Knowing that the film would have to be loyal to the comic books, they also realized they needed to humanize the characters to give them a certain amount of gravitas with the audience. By far, the most successful of Story's characters is Chicklis' The Thing.

As Ben Grimm, Chicklis is a strong, self-sufficient personality. Yet after his transformation, he's faced with a true dilemma. We sympathize with his genuine desires to shun his hero persona and to just become Ben again. Alba, Evans, Gruffudd and McMahon look good on screen, but unfortunately we don't care about their characters any deeper than their voluptuous and beefcake external skins.

Fantastic Four is sure to make a moderately successful box-office splash. But since it doesn't bring anything new to the table and with such successful comic-to-big-screen conversions as Batman Begins, Spider-Man 2 and Sin City, you'd better do more than just look good.


DVD Details:

Screen formats: Widescreen Anamorphic 2.35:1; Full Screen 1.33:1

Subtitles: English; Spanish; French; Closed Captioned

Language and Sound: English: DTS 5.1 Surround; English: Dolby Digital 5.1; Spanish: Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround; French: Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround

Other Features: Color; interactive menus; scene access; trailer; making-of featurette; cast and crew interview.

* Commentary; With Jessica Alba, Michael Chiklis, and Ioan Gruffudd
* Featurette:
o Making-of Featurette (5 mins.)
o Fantastic Four: Making a Scene (8 mins.) Looks at the making of the Brooklyn Bridge scene.
o Fantastic Four: Video Diary (20 mins.) Explores some of the film's promotional appearances.
o Fantastic Four: Casting Session - Looks at the casting of the film.
* Deleted Scenes: For a total of 3 minutes of additional cuts.
* Featurettes:
o Breaking Down Walls: The Stunts of Sky High - 7-minute look at the extensive wire-work that went into the making of the film.
o Welcome to Sky High - 15-minute cast and crew interview
* Trailers - Two original theatrical trailers for Fantastic Four.
* Music Video.

Number of discs: - 1 - Keepcase packaging.