I’m apparently one of the easier comic book fans to please (I loved Daredevil, and thoroughly enjoyed Ghost Rider), so I’m not sure how much validity my impressions of these films should hold. Sure, I certainly haven’t been a fan of every decision made with these films (nipples on the Batsuit, Superman IV, Kirsten Dunst), but, for me, as long as the movie captures the essence of the character(s) and is competently made, I’m usually pretty much satisfied or, at worst, mildly entertained. It’s just that there have been remarkably few triumphs in terms of truly successful comics-to-film adaptations that I’m happy when a film isn’t a total disaster, which is why I was probably so impressed by Fantastic Four: The Rise of the Silver Surfer.
First off, let me just say I’ve never been a big fan of the casting of Jessica Alba as Sue Storm. I’ve never understood the logic in casting an olive-skinned, exotic looking brunette as what is essentially a white bread blonde character, and I understand it less now, seeing as how the producers have gone out of their way to make her appear more like Sue’s comic book self. Now Alba is distracting for all the wrong reasons, looking like some sort of albino Jennifer Lopez, with ice-blue contact lenses, bleached blonde hair, and powdery white skin that looks as though it were airbrushed in during post. I know I wasn’t the only person thinking this, as the couple sitting in front of me kept whispering about how freakish she looked. Her performance, however, is…well…vintage Alba, meaning she looks good in a tight suit. The rest of the cast, especially Chris Evans and Michael Chiklis, have settled into their roles quite nicely, while Ioan Gruffold’s Reed Richards has developed some of the intellectual swagger of his four color counterpart that was lacking in the first film.
In ROTSS, the Fantastic Four we are introduced to the Silver Surfer, a chrome-skinned extraterrestrial who has been leaving a trail of interstellar destruction in his wake. His arrival on Earth interrupts one of the most eagerly anticipated celebrity weddings of the year – that of the lovely Sue Storm and Reed Richards; one half of the Fantastic Four (and current tabloid sensation), who are then drawn into an end-of-the-world scenario that introduces one new enemy while seeing the return of an old “favorite” (who, I’m sure it comes as no surprise to tell you, is Doctor Doom – aka “Nip/Tuck” star, Julian McMahon).
Fans of the comics know that the Surfer isn’t really a villain at all, but, rather, the emissary of the world-eating entity known as Galactus (who, in the comics, is a really huge guy in purple armor. Here he’s not much more than a massive weather disturbance). Voiced by Laurence Fishburne and embodied by green screen mime, Doug Jones, the Surfer’s aerial acrobatics provide some of the film’s most eye-popping moments, despite the fact that the whole “chrome” thing doesn’t look any better or worse than it did back when it was used in 1991’s Terminator 2. I guess you can only do so much with shiny things. Still, it all looks pretty spiffy, and there’s some really fun visual stuff done with a running gag that sees our heroes absorbing each other’s powers.
My biggest complaint about this film still revolves around the casting, not just of Alba, but of McMahon as Doom. While he was fine as the “human” Victor in the first film, he just didn’t do it for me as the masked maniacal Doctor. His voice just seemed all wrong, with a whispery, creepy delivery better suited to a rapist in the bushes than a super villain of this caliber. Mercifully, his part here is a small one, but, if this film is a success, he promises to be a thorn in my side for sequels to come.
Rise of the Silver Surfer isn’t just a Marvel movie; it’s a marvel in efficiency, as well (groan!), managing to cram all sorts of stuff into its lean 90-minute running time, proving that an effective superhero flick need not be an epic one, nor does it need to be all that “deep”. This is a family picture through and through, with an easily digestible storyline suitable for all ages, and certainly one that won’t put much of a strain on the ol’ cerebrum.
Love it or hate it, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer looks downright incredible. This is reference disc material all the way, with a gorgeous, almost three-dimensional transfer that handles the film’s vibrant color palette and abundant special effects sequences magnificently. Really, though, you only need to remember these three words: Hi Def Alba.
The uncompressed audio track is perfectly balanced, with only the slightest drop off in volume during the quieter, dialogue heavy bits (of which there are mercifully few). The rest of the film is all thunderous booms, big bangs, and lots and lots o’ clobberin’, all perfectly recreated here in cinema quality sound.
Blu-ray fans will rejoice at the smattering of BD-specific extras presented here, including a pair of fairly advanced games, an HD stills gallery, and HD trailers for this and several other FOX releases. The rest of the abundant features are culled from the 2-DVD set, and presented in standard definition, including several featurettes, deleted scenes, and two feature-length commentary tracks, the first featuring Tim Story, and the second with producer Avi Arad, writer Don Payne, and editors Peter Elliot and William Hoy. This release also features some of the spiffiest Blu-ray menus I’ve seen to date.
Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer is a light-hearted and innocent super-hero flick that will certainly please younger audiences, and entertain casual viewers, but Tim Story’s second attempt at a Fantastic Four film won’t win him any fans in hardcore comic book aficionados. Blu-ray owners, however, have to at least give this one a rent, as this is easily one of the best looking releases available on the medium today.