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Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007)

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
DVD Released: 10/2/2007

All Ratings out of
Movie: 1/2
Audio: 1/2
Extras: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 9/26/2007

Despite the fact that the medium has endured for decades and that Hollywood has certainly profited from it, for some reason, comic books are still seen as second-class. This view most likely originates from individuals who have no experience with comics. If they did, they would know that the writing in many comics is very detailed and long-running books have highly detailed and convoluted histories. (Comics are very similar to soap operas in the ways in which stories go on and on.) A good example is 2005's Fantastic Four movie where the complicated back-story of the group comprised most of the film. Therefore, there was much room for a story. Hopefully, this issue can be avoided in the sequel Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer.

This second film opens some time after the original. The Fantastic Four have become well-known super-heroes and they are very successful. Reed Richards/Mr. Fantastic (Ioan Gruffudd) and Sue Storm/Invisible Woman (Jessica Alba) are planning a wedding and the media is obsessed with the couple. Johnny Storm/The Human Torch (Chris Evans) is still a cocky playboy and he's convinced that the group should accept corporate endorsements and wear the logos on their uniforms. Ben Grimm/The Thing (Michael Chiklis) has become more comfortable with his rock-like appearance, and his relationship with Alicia (Kerry Washington) is going well.

A mysterious comet-like object is seen orbiting the Earth and this is accompanied by mysterious changes in the environment. Reed notes that the comet is linked to shifts in cosmic power on Earth, and he's approached by military General Hager (Andre Braugher) to monitor this. On the day of Reed and Sue's wedding, the comet passes through New York. Johnny pursues it and finds that the comet is actually a silver humanoid figure astride what appears to be a surfboard. Johnny chases the Silver Surfer, who quickly defeats Johnny. When it's learned that the Surfer is creating huge craters around the world, Hager enlists the Fantastic Four to stop the creature. They soon learn that the Silver Surfer isn't the true threat. Meanwhile, Victor Von Doom (Julian McMahon) is revived by the Surfer's cosmic power and is soon once again a bane to Reed Richards.

If you look back at Fantastic Four, you'll remember that there are two big action scenes in the movie -- one on the bridge and the finale. At the end of each of these sequences, the Fantastic Four are hailed as heroes. But, further inspection reveals that the Fantastic Four caused the messes which they were eventually celebrated for fixing. This really bothered me. Fortunately, in Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer the group gets a chance to be actual heroes. Also, as noted above, much of Fantastic Four was devoted to introducing the characters. Now that we know that, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer can be off and running.

Having prior knowledge of comic book stories and characters can be a burden when watching any film based on a comic, because you know what the filmmakers have gotten wrong. But, given my limited knowledge of Fantastic Four (I always found the comic to be a little too squeaky-clean.), Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer seems to have gotten a lot of things right. Of course, they got Galactus all wrong, but that should only bother the true fan-boys.

Given the gritty approach to super hero movies like Batman Begins and Spider-man, it's a leap to have a movie where the heroes are battling entities from space, but this film pulls off that part with little difficulty. The script by Don Payne and Mark Frost (who has worked with David Lynch in the past) has the story unfold in a fairly logical manner and even the re-birth of Dr. Doom makes sense (sort of). The Silver Surfer is portrayed as a conflicted individual and the voice performance by Laurence Fishburne helps to bring the character to life.

Despite these positive story-points, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer just doesn't measure up to its more serious comic book brethren. The movie is rated PG and perhaps it was this more "family friendly" approach which hurt the film. (Although, as a parent, I'm not opposed to "family friendly" films). The film constantly comes off as cheesy and the characters are simply too goofy. Anyone familiar with the comic knows that Reed Richards is a stoic character and despite some obvious attempts, he's more of a buffoon here. The dialogue here is also quite clunky. The action scenes here are impressive, but they are few and far between -- again, is this an attempt to keep the PG? And I hate to cry hypocrisy, one character meets a rather grisly fate which didn't feel PG at all.

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer is definitely an improvement over the first movie. The story is tight, the comic references are fairly accurate, and the Silver Surfer effects look great. The action scenes are well-done and the Silver Surfer/Human Torch chase is very good. But, the film's bouncy, cheery demeanor doesn't gel with the global destruction storyline and it's difficult to take the character's seriously. There's nothing wrong with a "family friendly" super-hero movie, but let's hope that if there's a third Fantastic Four film, it will have a better balance.

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer flies across space onto DVD courtesy of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. The DVD contains both the widescreen and the full-frame versions of the film. For the purposes of this review, only the widescreen version was viewed. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The transfer is quite impressive, as the image is very sharp and clear. The image shows no distracting grain and no defects from the source material. The colors look very good, most notably the blues and greens. Other than some slight pixellation (most likely unique to the preview disc I watched), I didn't notice any major issues with the transfer. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track, but no DTS like the DVDs for Fantastic Four. This track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. This is a powerful track, as it supplies a great deal of surround sound and stereo effects during the action sequences. I was especially impressed with the subwoofer action, as it's been a while since my walls have shaken like that.

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer comes to DVD in two separate releases -- one-disc or two-disc. The one-disc version contains two AUDIO COMMENTARIES. The first features director Tim Story who brings us a bland talk. He says "of course" a lot (as if we'd heard this commentary before) and for the most part, he simply points out what's on screen. There are a few moments where he describes certain story points or shooting decisions. He also alludes to deleted scenes which aren't included on this DVD. The other commentary features producer Avi Arad, writer Don Payne, and editors Peter S. Elliot & Wiliam Hoy. Arad and Payne were recorded separately, while Elliot and Hoy are together, so we get a patchwork commentary. Payne gets the most air-time, as he describes the evolution of the script, detailing elements taken from the comic and ideas which were left out. A third commentary featuring the cast was advertised, but isn't on this disc.

The two-disc set contains an additional second disc of extras. The DVD contains 5 DELETED & EXTENDED SCENES which run about 10 minutes, and can be viewed with optional commentary by Tim Story. In unique move, the new footage is in color, while the footage that we've already seen is in black and white. In all, there's only a few minutes of new stuff here, and save for a bizarre montage with Johnny and Ben, most of it is incidental. "Family Bonds: The Making of Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer" is a 48-minute featurette comprised solely of behind-the-scenes video. It's split into two sections, "Pre-production", where we sit in on meetings, location scouting, and FX tests, and "Production", where we get a first-hand look at the shooting of the film. "Interactive Fantasticar" allows us to look at concept art for the machine from 12 different angles. "The Fantasticar: State of the Art" (11 minutes) shows the process of designing the car, building a scale model, building the finished product, and then using it for production. We get a detailed look at the design and creation of the Silver Surfer in "The Power Cosmic" (15 minutes). "Sentinel of the Spaceways: Comic Book Origins of the Silver Surfer" (39 minutes) features interviews with comic greats Stan Lee, Jim Starlin, Ron Marz, and others as they talk about the history of the Surfer. We get a close-up look at The Thing costume in "Character Design with Spectral Motion" (12 minutes). Composer John Ottman is profiled in "Scoring the Fantastic" (5 minutes). The extras are rounded out by three STILL GALLERIES (Behind the Scenes, Characters, and Concept Art) and two TRAILERS for the film.

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer also arrives on Blu-ray Disc. The disc features a 1080p HD AVC transfer which is letterboxed at 2.35:1. The image looks very good here, as it is incredibly sharp and clear. One must look very closely to see the fine amount of grain on the image. The image is very detailed and the picture has a very nice depth to it. The colors look fantastic, most notably the blues and greens. The Silver Surfer effects look notably fine. A close examination reveals no distortion or video noise on the image. The only complaint here is that the fleshtones are a tad too shiny, given the amount of detail in the image. The Blu-ray Disc has DTS HD 5.1 master lossless audio track. This track runs at 1.5 Mbps. The audio is very sharp and clear. There is a noticeable improvement in not only the clarity of the sound when compared to the DVD, but the various amount of detailed sounds which can be heard. The stereo and surround sound effects are great, and for a good example of this, simply visit the scene where Johnny first encounters the Silver Surfer. The bass response is good, but it also feels somewhat weak at times, say in the scene where the Army fires on the Surfer. Still, the technical presentation here is impressive. Save for some set-top games, the extras on the Blu-ray are identical to the 2-disc DVD.

Review Copyright 2007 by Mike Long