Review by Zach Demeter
Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer seemed to defy all the odds that were stacked against it. It was a sequel to a film that didn’t receive a ton of love from fans or critics and Rise of the Silver Surfer garnered itself a PG rating and had a runtime that was a half hour shorter than its predecessor. For all intents and purposes it seemed that this sequel would be a disaster and only compound the flaws the first film had.
But, it didn’t. While I enjoyed the first one (it wasn’t anything extremely remarkable, but it was an entertaining film all the same), the second one was a real treat to watch. The film was just flat out fun from beginning to end and the chemistry that the quartet formed by the end of the first film was in full force here and the introduction of the Silver Surfer character worked wonderfully for the film. Ignore what the critics (aside from me, of course) have to say about this one—it’s a film that, while it does nothing extremely fantastic, does manage to be thoroughly enjoyable on more than one level. Shocking for an superhero film that wasn’t slapped with a PG-13 film, it also manages to retain the same amount of action that we got from the first one.
In Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer a planet eating entity known as Galactus is on its way to Earth. In preparation for his arrival comes the Silver Surfer, an entity that begins boring monstrous holes in the Earth in an attempt for Galactus to gain easier access to the molten core below it. Once the Surfer begins wreaking havoc on Earth and the Fantastic Four immediately spring into action, but it isn’t until after they discover his weakness and capture him do they learn his secret: he enslaved himself to Galactus in an effort to spare his world and those he loved.
The key point in the film that those who watched the first one will notice early on is that the Fantastic Four are no longer living in poverty. In a newly renovated building and filled to the brim with funding for whatever project Mr. Fantastic wants to pursue, the Fantastic Four are living high and when Sue Storm (Jessica Alba) and Reed Richards (Ioan Gruffudd) begin planning their wedding it becomes an all out media blitz. Due to their job as superheroes the wedding is delayed over five times, with the sixth delay coming when the Silver Surfer arrives. Obviously this creates a heavy bit of tension between Sue and Reed early on which continues to progress throughout the film.
Another focal point in the film is the expansion of the bond that Johnny Storm (Chris Evans) and Ben Grimm (Michael Chikilis) share. While they’re constantly picking or making jokes at one another’s expense, they still share a bond and the bar scene halfway into the movie is a great evidence of that. Their scenes are always an enjoyable experience and it’s nice to see that relationship further explored rather than just focusing the movie on Sue and Reed.
Dr. Doom (Julian McMahon)’s return is also a slight surprise and while it works in a nice way in the film, I feel he was horribly underused in the film. He was used as the back-up for when Surfer turns good and it seems kind of a waste—if they had focused more on Galactus (and didn’t make him a giant cloud—more on that later) and less on returning Doom, Doom’s character could’ve been left in a frozen state. Not that I didn’t’ enjoy seeing him again—Mahon is great in the role, it just seems kind of a waste.
Now then, how about the Surfer himself? Having not seen the Surfer in another form of media (I’d read only a few of his comics), I don’t know how true he is to his comic self in the 90 minutes he was on the screen, but he looked and sounded great. Doug Jones did a great job at bringing him to life and Laurence Fishburne’s voice sounds great, even if it sucks that Jone’s vocal performance was once again recorded over (the prior time portraying Abe Sapien in Hellboy). Still, the body language as the Surfer is unmistakable and as great as the CGI mirror sheen looks, without Jones the Surfer would have no doubt looked a bit awkward in complete CGI. Even when it transitioned to the full on body paint, I didn’t realize it wasn’t CGI—that’s just how good the outfit was applied and how good Jones moved in it.
The actors in the film all did a magnificent job and John Ottman’s score once again sounded great. Really, the only downside to the film aside from the waste of Doom was the watering down of Galactus. While combining the CGI that he would have taken with Silver Surfer’s would’ve no doubt made the budget outrageous, making him a giant cloud was some seriously lame storytelling. At least they could’ve had his head in the cloud, but instead he’s turned into a big cloud that does nothing but stick out a murky hand.
Another minor downside of the film, which I didn’t notice until now, was the violence was a bit downplayed. The Fantastic Four, while on screen with each other a lot, didn’t have very many fight sequences all together. The ferris wheel sequence was really the only time we saw all of them in action, although the final fight between Doom and Johnny was rather awesome, with all of their powers coming out of one of the heroes. Great action and definitely one of the highlights of the film…alongside Stan Lee’s cameo of course, which I think was the best of his many Marvel film appearances yet.
Overall the film is, simply put, a lot of fun to watch. It won’t win any awards for writing, directing or acting, but it was simply a fun popcorn flick that I’ve no doubt a lot of families will enjoy. On top of that, they can enjoy it with their kids without anything too objectionable going on on-screen. Recommended.
So, did Fox skimp out on the extras for Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer like they did with the original films DVD release? Hell no! This DVD is packed to the brim with extras which begin on the first disc of this two-disc set. Starting out with just the packaging we already get a cool surprise—slip off the cardboard slip (complete with the fancy silver “2-Disc Set” sticker on the outside) and underneath is just the Silver Surfer/Human Torch image, sans the F4 logo and “The Power Cosmic Edition” written over the top. Awesome? Very much so. The cardboard slip feels justified this way. The rear cover remains the same, but still—at least the front cover is slightly different. Inside we have no insert, only the discs. Disc 1 is a flipper, one side is widescreen and the other full screen, while disc two has a similar “4” logo to the one on the cardboard slip. Very cool packaging and disc art on this release.
Menus for the film are laid out well and are easy to navigate. Plenty of fancy animation on the main menus and sub-menus feature static images. Video for the film is strong and clean throughout. There’s a minor bit of compression in some scenes, but for the most part it’s clean as a whistle and looks great. Audio for the film is extremely clear and features plenty of subwoofer activity when it’s called for on screen. Dialogue is clean and focused in the front channels and Ottman’s score comes through loud and clear. There is no DTS mix, which is curious, as Fox seems to like putting those on their DVD releases, even if they don’t sound that different from the 5.1 mixes.
Of course the lack of the DTS track may be attributed to the inclusion of two commentaries. The first commentary is attended only by Tim Story and is a great listen. While a lot of the material we hear is your run-of-the-mill behind-the-scenes knowledge, there are some cool stories he has to tell and overall is a solid track. The second commentary features producer Avi Arad, writer Don Payne and film editors Peter S. Elliot and William Hoy. This commentary is also worth listening to, although Arad frequently gets on my nerves. I don’t know what it is about the man, but ever since his comments on the director’s cut of the Daredevil DVD, I haven’t liked him. Still, it’s a decent track and fans will want to listen to both; despite the second track having more participants, I have to say I enjoyed Story’s more.
Switching over to disc two is where we find the wealth of the extras. First up are deleted scenes, all of which I would’ve loved to see put into the film. They all build on the characters and I honestly can’t see why they were cut and the accompanying commentary by director Tim Story doesn’t really state why they were cut either, he even stated that he hated cutting most of them. The only reasons he gave were so they could get to the rest of the film faster, but I really think they could have aided the film—it was only 92 minutes long.
Next up is an in-depth Making-of documentary for the film that is over forty minutes in length. While not as expansive as the one found on the first films two-disc Extended Cut edition, this making-of shows just enough detail and behind the scenes footage to let the viewer know what it was like to make the film. Plenty of interviews with cast and crew are included and like the film the extra is a lot of fun to watch.
Flipping over to the “Featurettes” section on the disc we get an array of options to choose from, the first of which is the Fantasticar. We’re shown how the car was designed, built and the actual model that was used for shooting in the film. While the car was nothing but a bit of more promotion, I’m a Dodge fanboy, so I wasn’t too upset to see the logos spread throughout the film. An accompanying “Fantasticar” photo gallery is included as well which features a fair number of shots detailing the car’s exterior and interior.
Next up is another lengthy extra, the “Comic Book Origins of The Silver Surfer” which features interviews with the crew of the film as well as the writers from the comic books and, of course, Stan Lee. This extra is also over forty minutes in length and goes into great detail about the Silver Surfer and Galactus. Those wanting to bone up on their Surfer knowledge after the film needs to look no further—this extra has all the basics you need without getting too intricately detailed and boring.
The “Power Cosmic” is a featurette on how the Silver Surfer was done in the film. Ranging from footage of Doug Jones in the suit to the CGI models the animators used in the film, we get a fair bit of knowledge in this fourteen minute extra and when combined with the “Character Design” which details the variations of The Thing’s new suit, makes for a thorough look into what Jones and Chikilis had to go through while wearing these suits.
An extra detailing Ottman’s scoring of the film is also included and we get to see a bit into how he decides what to do for each scene. It’s your typical scoring featurette, but it was nice to hear some of the score isolated in this extra, which his easily the shortest in the set.
Still galleries of behind-the-scenes, characters and concept art are also included. These are fun to page through and see, even if some of the shots were released by the studio to build press for the film prior to its launch. The final bit of extras are the trailers for the film, as well as a few upcoming releases, one of which is one for the Futurama Bender’s Big Score DVD coming out in November—they’re back, baby! I cannot wait for that one. I got overly exciting upon seeing this, so much so that I don’t object to the trailers being listed as special features.
Overall this two-disc special edition of Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer will be hard to pass up. The extras are packaged together nice and neat and they’re all a lot of fun to watch. The disc balances out the fine line between too much and just enough and does it perfectly—you can walk away from these two discs feeling that you know enough about the film while not feeling like you never want to watch it again. Highly Recommended.