'Fantastic Four - Rise of the Silver Surfer: SE'
(Ioan Gruffudd, Michael Chiklis, Jessica Alba, Chris Evans, et al / DVD / PG / 2007 / 20th Century Fox)
Overview: Catch a wave of "terrific adventure" and "non-stop action" (CBS-TV) in this fun and fantastically entertaining smash-hit! "Invisible Woman: Sue Storm and "Mr. Fantastic" Dr. Reed Richards are about to be married when a mysterious alien... the Silver Surfer... crashes the proceedings and heralds Earth's impending destruction. With time running out, the Fantastic Four reluctantly teams up with the nefarious Dr. Doom in a thrilling effort to save our planet!
DVD Verdict: Whether it is because the first FANTASTIC FOUR movie was so bad that anything else would look great by comparison or because I was just in the mood for a superhero movie or that it actually was pretty decent, I really enjoyed watching this movie. I suppose it doesn't hold up well when compared with the best of the superhero movies like SPIDER-MAN 2 or HELLBOY or BATMAN BEGINS, but all in all this was a fun movie. I'm not a comic book fundamentalist (you know, the people who stomp out of a movie because it deviates in the slightest from a plot detail in issue 114 in the series) so I don't get too worked up if a film departs from the traditional depiction. I will confess that I was afraid that they were going to botch the Silver Surfer. Anyone who even casually follows the Marvel universe knows that the Silver Surfer is one of the best - if not the best - characters they have ever created. He is wonderfully complex and manages to be both an enormously sympathetic character while remaining unalterably alien.
The great news about this film is that the Surfer is marvelously done and I personally am very excited about the forthcoming Silver Surfer movie that is due to come hope hopefully in 2009. Laurence Fishburne voiced the Surfer while his CGI body was performed by Doug Jones, who is building a quite impressive resume. I'm not quite sure what you call Jones. Originally he was a mime, but he has carved a career out of performing characters that demand a unique command of their bodily movements. The earliest role most will know him for is as one of the main Gentlemen in the classic BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER episode "Hush." To this day the Gentlemen remain the most haunting characters to ever appear not merely on BUFFY but on all of TV. He went on to portray Abe Sapien in HELLBOY and more recently the fawn and the pale monster in PAN'S LABYRINTH. The CGI was just great and visually the Surfer was as compelling as one could hope. I think the physical presentation of the Surfer in the movie was, in short, a great success.
The problem in the movie is the Fantastic Four. There seems to be little or no chemistry between the four comprising the famous quartet. I love Jessica Alba, but she just doesn't seem quite right for this role. Am I the only one who finds Jessica with blonde hair and blue eyes in contrast with her dark olive skin to be, well, weird? With dark hair and her dark eyes I think she is arguably the most beautiful woman in the world today, but I just can't buy her as a blonde. Ioan Gruffudd is terribly uncharismatic as Reed Richards, but to be honest this isn't entirely his fault. Richards is hands down one of the most boring of all the Marvel characters. Michael Chiklis is a great actor and he probably does as good a job as is possible of playing Ben Grimm as is possible, but there simply may not be a way of rendering a prosthetic costume to where it looks completely convincing. Grimm just looks like a cartoon character under any circumstances. I don't know if it is Chris Evans fault that he is so unappealing as Johnny Storm or if the problem is with the writing. As it stands, however, he seems like a knock off of a hundred other celebrity playboys. I'm not quite sure what they could have done to make him a stronger character, but I think the producers, writers, and director should have been honest enough to admit that Johnny was a terribly one dimensional character either due to writing or casting. The fundamental problem is that these four simply aren't fantastic.
The story was kept to bare bones specifications. There is an A plot and two B plots. The A plot is the Silver Surfer arriving on earth, where due to the demands of Galactus he is forced to drain the planet of all its energy to sate Galactus's needs. The first B plot is the marriage of Reed and Sue and the second B plot concerns Victor von Doom's inadvertent release by the Surfer and Doom's attempt to capture his board. There are a couple of C plots but, well, who cares?
Ultimately, the movie is all about the Surfer. Narratively the movie doesn't break any new ground, but I was satisfied merely that they made one of the greatest Marvel superheroes - in the minds of some perhaps the greatest of all cartoon superheroes - convincingly. While most of the film failed to be especially interesting, every shot of the Surfer was riveting. So, regardless of the credits, the real stars of the film were Doug Jones, Laurence Fishburne, and the CGI team that created the Silver Surfer. At the end of the film I was left feeling that I couldn't care less whether there is ever another Fantastic Four movie, but I'm really, really interested in seeing a Silver Surfer standalone. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
Extended / Deleted Scenes (with optional commentary by director Tim Story)
Family Bonds: The Making of Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer documentary
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
Interactive FantastiCar concept images gallery
Still Galleries (Behind the Scenes / Characters / Concept Art)