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FANTASTIC FOUR: THE RISE OF THE SILVER SURFER
The Power Cosmic Edition

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Ioan Gruffudd, Jessica Alba, Michael Chiklis, Chris Evans, Julian McMahon, Kerry Washington, Andre Braugher, Doug Jones, voice of Laurence Fishburne
Director:  Tim Story
Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio:  20th Century Fox
Features:  See Review
Length:  92 Minutes
Release Date:  October 2, 2007

“You’re on fire!”

“YOU THINK?!?”

Film **

When The Fantastic Four came out, I appeared to be one of the few critics who stepped up to bat and defended it against the onslaught of panning.  I thought it was a good, fun, superhero origin movie with some good effects, good action, and promising characters.  I even openly hoped for a sequel, and welcomed the news that there would be one.

Unfortunately, The Rise of the Silver Surfer didn’t meet my expectations.  Despite the arrival of one of Marvel Comics’ most memorable characters in the otherworldly Surfer (Jones, voiced by Fishburne), the second installment was just silly from beginning to end.

As the story opens, Reed Richards (Gruffudd), aka Mr. Fantastic and Sue Storm (Alba), aka the Invisible Woman, are trying once again to tie the knot.  But the arrival of the metallic skinned visitor from afar creates havoc on our planet and on our heroes impending nuptials.  His very presence brings a cosmic radiation that causes strange atmospheric phenomenon.  It even has a bizarre effect on Johnny Storm (Evans), aka The Human Torch, whose encounter leads him to a state of instability, allowing him to swap powers with his other team members.  In addition, the Surfer also inadvertently wakes the long-hibernating Dr. Doom (McMahon).

The Surfer is a servant; he has come ahead at the behest of an intergalactic evil who feeds on entire worlds and devours their energies, both thermal and organic, in order to survive.  It lives, but the worlds it consumes cease to be.  And Earth is the next target.

At the behest of the military, the Four find themselves reluctantly paired with Dr. Doom in order to find the solution to the problem that threatens our very existence.  But can the evil Dr. Doom be trusted when the world is at stake?  Or is he merely biding his time with some nefarious plans of his own?  One guess.

I had assumed the sequel, since it got past the origin story, would flesh out the characters a little more.  If anything, they are more singularly defined and two-dimensional:  Reed the eternal nerd, Ben Grimm (Chiklis) aka The Thing ever rough and gruff, Johnny the reckless hothead, and Sue…well, in a thankless role seeming more distraught over the little things that spoil her wedding day, like the extinction of our planet and all humanity.  I wanted to see some fleshing out, but instead, all we got was more scaling down.

The film felt like it was thrown together quickly…special effects, even ones as simple as a helicopter, seem unnatural and forced.  Action sequences tend to unfold haphazardly and without rhythm or a chance to build into or out of anything.  The Four quibble and argue so much about inconsequential things that you feel like the fate of the world is in the hands of the Breakfast Club or something. 

The Surfer himself is quite cool, and comes across as a powerful yet enigmatically sad being, but again, I wished more attention was paid into what he could have been instead of just giving us a hint and a taste. 

The actors are all well-equipped for their roles, particularly the perfect casting of Michael Chiklis as The Thing, but they’re given half-hearted barbs of broken wit to bandy about at one another.  None seem too enthusiastic this time around, and I can’t say that I blame them.

So maybe I was wrong.  Maybe I saw more in the original movie than was actually there and my brethren in criticism were right.  It wouldn’t be the first time.  I can’t conclude this review the way I did before, in saying that I’m looking forward to another installment.  In mathematical terms, maybe two Fours were one too many.

Video ***

The anamorphic transfer from Fox is mostly good, but not quite up to their usual standards.  Images are well detailed, but there’s noticeable flicker here and there, particularly in the darker scenes, and some apparent grain here and there.

Audio ***

The 5.1 mix is dynamic and frequently lively, but again, a little below excellent, as certain stretches sounded a bit thin to me…like the sound had been unduly compressed from time to time.

Features ***1/2

The first disc features a pair of commentaries, one by director Tim Story, and the other by the producers and writer.  None by the cast this time around.

Disc Two contains a 46 minute making-of documentary, plus 5 deleted or extended scenes with optional Tim Story commentary, 5 production featurettes on the Fantasticar, the comic book origins, the scoring and others, plus a trailer gallery.

Summary:

The Rise of the Silver Surfer is a bit of a wipeout…not a complete waste of time, but enough to definitely make me wonder if there was anything quite so special about The Fantastic Four on the big screen in the first place.

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