After all the flack the original Fantastic Four film got, I expected this one to get just as trashed. The first film wasn’t what I was expecting, nor did I think it did justice to the characters themselves. It was an alright film, but nothing special. However, the second film, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer changed all that. I found it to be a much better film than the original. Not great by any means, but just a fun movie from start to finish. With a bigger budget and some astonishing special effects, this is a comic book movie that’s not only suitable for all ages, but enjoyable for all ages, as well. Of course, with any comic book movie, this film was mired in controversy, which I’ll get into right after the synopsis.
The Fantastic Four meet their greatest challenge yet in Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, as the enigmatic, intergalactic herald, The Silver Surfer comes to Earth to prepare it for destruction. As he races around the globe wreaking havoc, Reed, Sue, Johnny and Ben must unravel the mystery before all hope is lost. Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer is the second installment of the live-action film series based on what fans around the globe known as “The World’s Greatest Comic Magazine.”
So let’s get the supposed controversy out of the way, shall we? For the unenlightened, the controversy surrounded the movie’s depiction of Galactus, the Devourer of Worlds. Comic fans know him as a lumbering giant with a big purple helmet and skirt. Once you get past the somewhat silly visual, he’s a great character, and one of the Fantastic Four’s biggest villains. He’s a fan-favorite, obviously. In the movie . . . well . . . he looks to be a big cloud. That’s an over-simplification, but he’s basically a huge cloud. At least, that’s what the majority of fans interpreted him as. Personally, I thought it was fairly obvious he was the Galactus we all know and love from the comics shrouded in said cloud. We see peeks at him here and there, but never a clear shot. We see the outline of his helmet, what looks to be his hand, and what looks to actually be him surrounded in very bright cosmic dust (?). If you’re a comic book fan who is very picky about how their favorite characters are portrayed on screen, you won’t like this. Personally, I had no problem with it. And that’s the whole controversy.
Does that make sense? Hopefully. And with that out of the way, let’s dive into the heart of the review, shall we? Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer is a pretty simple movie. There are no added layers or deep underlying character studies. What you see on the screen is, basically, what you get. And, for this movie, that’s actually not a bad thing. Thankfully, the movie also knows how to have some fun and not take itself too seriously. Many fans decried the rather light-hearted approach to the characters but, personally, I found it enjoyable. It’s handled better here. We know the characters, everything is established, and we can move on with the story. While the same approach didn’t really work for the first Fantastic Four movie, which had to introduce us to everything, it works here.
Yes, the characters are still pretty two-dimensional, and are moving as the script dictates. There doesn’t seem to be any real momentum to make the movie feel like it is naturally progressing. It just seems to go from scene to scene to scene. The brisk running time doesn’t really help, either, but, regardless, it doesn’t matter for this movie. It’s pure fluff from beginning to end. I movie where you can shut your brain off, look at the visuals, laugh at a few cheap jokes, and realize that even when things look their worst, all will be good by the end of the final reel. It’s a fun diversion.
Of course, there’s some damn nice eye-candy, too. And, it goes without saying, that the Silver Surfer looks amazing in this movie. The CGI work done on him, coupled with Doug Jones’s motion capture portrayal of his actions, looks great. There were times, in fact, when I couldn’t tell if some parts were CGI and other parts were real. It’s just that good at times. Sadly, there are scenes when the special effects don’t always work. Infact, said scenes seem to solely be with our favorite stretch-tastic leader, Reed Richards. The crew still can’t seem to nail down Mr. Fantastic’s powers right, as they come off looking awkward and just . . . weird. The rest of the four, Invisible Woman, The Human Torch, and The Thing, all seem to be represented pretty well.
Then there’s Doctor Doom. Fans cried about his lacking portrayal in the first, and they were right to. Here, they just seem to continue on with that. They touch upon his Latverian heritage more, but he still seems to come off as a snooty Norman Osborn-rip off, and seems really shoehorned into the scripted. He’s the bad guy when the script needs it, basically, and is disposed when his role is done. Rather ho-hum, but he does provide for some great visual effects and cool showdown between him and The Human Torch.
Overall, it’s a rather empty-headed movie, but a fun one. Don’t go in expecting a movie like Spider-Man 2 or Superman Returns. This movie is pure fluff fun with no underlying meaning or direction. It sets out to entertain with one-liners, funny situations, and great visual effects, and it does, generally. I found it much better than the first Fantastic Four flick, no question. The addition of The Silver Surfer was a smart movie and helped reenergize what could’ve been a meandering sequel. And, in the end, this is basically the Silver Surfer’s movie from start to finish. Yes, the Fantastic Four have a role to play, but, no question, this is his movie. And, thankfully, they really do him justice here.
And, with any big movie, comes the big DVD. And yes folks, this DVD is huge! Foregoing the double-dip, Fox has released Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer in three editions, including the Blu-Ray release. The first is the one-disc version containing just a handful of commentaries. The second is the two-disc “Power Cosmic Edition” that comes with a whole second disc full of extras. It goes without saying that, even if you didn’t like the movie, this is the version you’ll want.
So, what are all the bonus features? On the first disc we get two commentaries, one by director Tim Story and another with producer Avi Arad, writer Don Payne and film editors Peter S. Elliot and William Hoy. After that, we move onto the second disc!
Here, we find a host of extended and deleted scenes with optional commentary by director Tim Story. Following that is the documentary “Family Bonds: The Making of Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, the comic book-based “Sentinel of the Spaceways: Comic Book Origins of The Silver Surfer” featurette, “The FantastiCar: State of the Art” featurette, “The Power Cosmic Special Effects” featurette, “Character Design With Spectral Motion” featurette, “Scoring the Fantastic” featurette, an interactive FantastiCar concept images gallery, a plethora of theatrical trailers, and some still galleries. Overall, a nice pile of extra features to round out a pretty swell two-disc package.
Overall, for fans of the first film, I’d have to Recommend the two-disc release of Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. If you’re just a casual fan of the movie, then you may want to just check out the one-disc version instead. Like I said, the movie isn’t anything special, nor will it ever be mistaken for a work of art, but it is fun and much better than the original. If anything, the spectacle involving the Silver Surfer is very well handled, and worth the price of admission below. If you’re not a fan of the first flick, this movie won’t win you over to the franchise, but it does have some pretty spectacular scenes worth viewing. It’s a fun ride from start to finish, and the rare sequel that improves upon its’ predecessor.
Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer is now available on both single and dual-disc DVD releases and Blu-Ray.