DVD Review: Fantastic Four - Rise of the Silver Surfer (The Power Cosmic Edition, 2-Disc Set)
Release Date: October 2, 2007
Distributor: 20th Century Fox
· Tim Story
· Ioan Gruffudd
· Jessica Alba
· Chris Evans
· Michael Chiklis
· Julian McMahon
· Kerry Washington
· Doug Jones
· Laurence Fishburne
· IMDb: Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer
by R.J. Carter
Published: September 30, 2007
When I read the novelization for "Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer," I admittedly didn't have much hope based on the story. And so I held back on seeing it in the theaters, choosing to wait until the DVD arrived. And while seeing the film now for the first time doesn't make me question the wisdom of that decision at all, seeing the characters in action make the story a little better. A little.
The trick to enjoying "Rise of the Silver Surfer" is to realize that it's not an action movie -- it's an action/comedy. It's intended to be full of moments that are either over the top or just plain silly, from seeing Reed Richards stretch his limits on the dance floor to Johnny asking the Thing about how he and his girlfriend consummate their relationship.
The film opens with Reed (Ioan Gruffudd) and Sue (Jessica Alba) planning their wedding -- for the fourth time. It seems every chance they've had to tie the knot has been postponed due to some life-threatening emergency. This time, Reed vows that nothing is going to distract him from going through with the ceremony.
Which is, naturally, when the Army needs him to track down the energy signature of an alien being who's been leaving craters all over the world, accompanied by bizarre transmutations of matter at the molecular level. Reed builds the device, of course, and starts it up right before his pending nuptials. But the alien doesn't want to be tracked, and crashes the wedding party. This sets the stage for a special-effects laden extravaganza as Johnny (Chris Evans) goes into his Human Torch mode and flies off after the cosmically powered Silver Surfer (portrayed in body by Doug Jones, with a voiceover by Laurence Fishburne). The encounter leaves Johnny wiped out, and with a bizarre twist in his abilities -- whenever he touches another member of the Fantastic Four, he swaps powers with them (creating yet another opportunity for the Invisible Woman Sue Storm to end up naked in public when she torches up, incinerating the clothes she was wearing.)
Close Encounter. The Human Torch finally "catches" up to
the Silver Surfer. (L-R: Evans, Jones)
The show crosses the lines from comedy into farce on a number of occassions, almost always during times of forced product placement. Johnny enters the room with a Dodge logo emblazoned across his torso, and when Reed later unveils the new Fantasticar he designed and built, it too bears the Ram emblem (and Reed confirms to Johnny that it does, indeed, have a Hemi.)
Julian McMahon returns as Victor Von Doom, continuing to portray the Marvel arch-villain in the same vein as Kevin Spacey did Lex Luthor in "Superman Returns" -- which is to say, not all that convincingly. He's just wrong for this part. However, if I'm comparing this film to "Superman Returns," I may as well state that "Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer" beats it, hands down, mishandlings and all.
Probably the biggest fault of the film is that -- like the comic book -- it tries to blend comedic moments with scenes of high adventure. Unlike the comic book, it doesn't make those transitions believably, partly because director Tim Story lets each member of the foursome be a comedian, which runs contrary to their established characteristics. For decades of comics, Ben Grimm (the only truly perfect casting in this film, played by Michael Chiklis) and Johnny Storm have been the long-established cut-ups, while Sue's sense of humor is more subdued and Reed's is nearly non-existent, making it all the more humanizing of him when he does show a rare glimpse of it. There is a nice throwaway reference to the fans in the audience however, as we are introduced to Frankie Raye (played by Beau Garrett) whom Surfer fans will recall later becomes a herald of Galactus herself. Vanessa Minillo also returns to the franchise in a bit part as Johnny's date at the wedding of Sue and Reed, which finally is allowed to happen.
The first disc of this two-disc edition is double-sided, featuring both widescreen and full-screen versions of the feature presentation. Both contain two optional commentary tracks, one with Story, the other with producer Avi Arad, writer Don Payne, and editors Peter S. Elliot and William Hoy.
The second disc of the set contains a number of bonus featurettes, starting with nearly ten minutes of raw footage of extended and deleted scenes (with optional commentary by Tim Story.) This is worth watching just to see Johnny and Ben help Reed out by running errands to prepare for the wedding.
The second feature weighs in at over forty-five minutes. "Family Bonds: The Making of 'Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer'" starts out at a snail's pace, as we get to see the exciting world of staff meetings! However, things pick up in post-production, where we get to see cameo star (and rejected wedding guest) Stan Lee chumming it up with Evans and Story, as well as scenes of Alba in a skintight suit working the flying wires to create her Human Torch scene.
Fantastic Finale. The world is safe again.
(L-R: Evans, Gruffudd, Alba, Chiklis)
The "Interactive Fantasticar" is a bit of a letdown. It's twelve pieces of concept artwork, and the interactive bit is that you can pick which of the twelve you want to look at from a horizontal scrollbar. The Fantasticar is then featured in another mini-documentary, the ten minute "The Fantasticar: State of the Art" where Gruffudd, concept artist Tim Flattery, and Charlie Zurian and Mark Demlin from TransFX show how the car was designed. Marvel in awe of the impressive Gantt charts.
"The Power Cosmic" is a fifteen minute feature hosted by John Kilkenny, Senior VP of VFX at 20th Century Fox. Kilkenny talks of starting with several of the iconic poses of the Surfer as drawn by Jack Kirby, then working with the folks at WETA and Doug Jones to do all the motion-capture, as well as toning down exactly how mirrored the Surfer's surface was, for aesthetic reasons.
The big kahuna of all the featurettes is the forty minute "Sentinel of the Spaceways: Comic Book Origins of the Silver Surfer." Here, Stan Lee talks about working with Jack Kirby on the Fantastic Four comic book as they came up with the story of Galactus. According to Lee, when he got the pages back from Kirby, Kirby had come up with and added in the character of the Silver Surfer all on his lonesome -- and people say Lee's a credit hog! Other Silver Surfer writers from years past are also interviewed, including Jim Starlin, Ron Marz, Steve Englehart, and J.M. DeMatteis, as they discuss using the character of the Surfer to address social issues, turning him into a sort of "Christ on a surfboard" before finally taking him back into space to encounter other alien creations of the Marvel universe.
"Character Design with Spectral Motion" is a twelve minute look at the creation of The Thing, and how the FX department enhanced his look from the original film. A good deal of this is narrated by Michael Chiklis while he's having the face and torso applied. He does some "Thinglander" fashion poses for us, and demonstrates that the voice of his character isn't electronically modified at all, but one of his own natural voices.
Wrapping up the documentaries is a four minute segment with composer John Ottman and conductor Damon Intrabartolo, in "Scoring the Fantastic."
The last bonus feature is a set of still galleries, containing twenty-five "Behind the Scenes" shots, forty-five "Character" shots, and thirty pieces of "Concept Art."
Audio for the feature presentation can be set to English 5.1 Dolby Digital, French Dolby Surround, or Spanish Dolby Surround, with optional subtitling in English or Spanish.
Previews on this disc include "The Simpsons Movie" and "Live Free or Die Hard."