Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer
By Johnny Bray
Yes, it's true: Galactus is a giant cloud.
Whether or not the average film-watcher has any idea what we're talking about, the point of the statement is that they've really taken some liberties with the subject matter on this one. Simultaneously true to, and miles away from, the source comic books, Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer is nevertheless an action-filled romp that turns out to be a lot of fun.
With the impending wedding of Sue Storm and Reed Richards, the Fantastic Four are doing their best to juggle their private lives with their new-found superstardom. Tensions run much lower than in the last film, not at all hindered by the absence of trouble-making Dr. Doom. Furthermore, the team now realizes they need each other, and spend less time bickering.
It wouldn't be a very entertaining movie, however, if things stayed just like that. Oh no. Some really weird stuff starts happening, caused by some unknown force. Naturally, Reed Richards is enlisted to shed some light on the subject, much to the chagrin of his near-future bride.
It turns out the Silver Surfer has come to town, wreaking havoc and preparing the world for its ultimate demise.
And yes, Dr. Doom has escaped his prison. He's back, too.
That pretty much covers the first act. In a 92-minute feature, the first 25 minutes or so is kinda weak. But then it gets really good. The Surfer is appropriately awesome, and the action scenes are very well done (the Johnny Storm/Dr. Doom fight is one of the niftiest in recent memory).
It also appears as though the actors are a little more comfortable with their superpowers this time around. Ioan Gruffudd does an admirable job as Mr. Fantastic/Reed Richards, though we can't say we completely like how the character is written. Chris Evans is pretty much a spot-on Johnny Storm, and Michael Chiklis makes a good Thing. Mention must also be given to Laurence Fishburne and Doug Jones as the voice and body of the Surfer. The weak links are Jessica Alba (who is horribly miscast) and Julian McMahon (who can only do so much when his character is simply a huge jerk with some cool powers).
The Surfer's movie origin story is pretty close to the comic, but they've messed around with his powers a little bit. He still sports the Power Cosmic and all that jazz, but in a different way. The filmmakers seem to have taken the concept of his powers a bit more literally than the creator of the character. And just a side note to the filmmakers: Dr. Doom is one of the most menacing, don't-mess-with-this-guy super-villains in the history of comics. If you leave his voice sounding like a stuffy, quasi-charming British dude, it sort of loses its impact.
Despite some mild criticisms (which could just as likely be blamed on studio involvement), Rise of the Silver Surfer is a good ride. It would sink or sail based on how they fared with the Surfer, both visually and conceptually, and they manage to pull it off. As far as Galactus being a cloud, well.it actually makes a lot more sense than in the comic book, so suck it up and enjoy it.
Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer was, admittedly, the second Blu-ray disc I ever watched. It single-handedly made me a supporter. The epic 2.40:1 aspect ratio is presented in 1080p HD resolution and looks absolutely stunning. Colors are rich and vibrant; there is no dust or grain anywhere in sight; small skin details are visible where they aren't on the DVD (such as wrinkles, dimples, etc.), and the climax makes a perfect show-off for your system. This is definitely the most flawless video transfer I have seen.
The soundtrack, presented in dts HD 5.1 lossless audio, is also exceptional. Big explosions and energy beams and electrocutions actually seem to enter the room via the speakers, and there is never any trouble making out the dialogue (be it during the action or not). Very nice indeed.
The extras slate is hefty, but standard. Director Tim Story provides a commentary, as do the editors. There are some interactive games, deleted scenes, trailers, and a few featurettes. The good stuff, though, is the pair of documentaries. The first, "Family Bonds," is a generic but informative rundown of the production. "Sentinel of the Spaceways" delves into the origins and history of the Silver Surfer, and features interviews with former writers, artists, and Stan Lee. A must-see for any comic book nerd.
The movie may not be perfect, but the Blu-ray offering more than earns the moniker "Fantastic."
Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer, from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Jim Bray's columns are available from the TechnoFile Syndicate.