J.D. Lafrance
Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer: The Power Cosmic Edition DVD Review

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer: The Power Cosmic Edition

October 2, 0207

Director: Tim Story,
Starring: Ioan Gruffudd, Jessica Alba, Chris Evans, Michael Chiklis, Julian McMahon, Kerry Washington, Andre Braugher, Doug Jones, Laurence Fishburne, Beau Garrett,

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DVD Review

J.D. Lafrance

With the baffling box office success of the inept Fantastic Four (2005), a sequel was, unfortunately, inevitable. One would hope that the filmmakers would take the criticism leveled at the first film to heart but sadly, the weak screenplay rears its ugly head yet again, distracting from an otherwise, visually interesting effort.

After saving the world from Dr. Doom (McMahon) in the first film, the Fantastic Four settle down by preparing for the wedding of two of their own: Reed Richards aka Mr. Fantastic (Gruffudd) and Susan Storm aka the Invisible Woman (Alba). Her brother, Johnny aka the Human Torch (Evans) convinces Reed to attend a bachelor party along with their friend and fellow teammate, Ben Grimm aka The Thing (Chiklis). This gives the filmmakers an excuse to show Reed indulging in some stretchy breakdancing while hitting on several women complete with lame dialogue.

However, Reed and Sue’s wedding is rudely interrupted by a series of global disasters involving unnatural changes in climate occurring in select parts of the world and an unidentified fast moving object streaking through the sky. The unidentified object turns out to be the Silver Surfer (portrayed by Jones and voiced by Fishburne), an alien being who scouts planets for his master, Galactus, to devour. Upon their initial encounter, the Surfer not only easily bests the Human Torch, but manages to scramble his molecules so that anybody he touches gets his powers and vice versa, which, as you can imagine, wreaks havoc with the other members of the Fantastic Four. When the FF fails to stop the Surfer from draining the Thames River in England, the United States government brings in Doom. He has a plan to neutralize the Surfer’s powers but you know that he’s only cooperating because he has something sneaky planned that will benefit him.

The dialogue, written by Don Payne, whose only other film credit is My Super Ex-Girlfriend (2006), is painfully clunky with obvious humour, extremely lame puns and even worse sight gags that could have been written by a ten-year-old. This veteran writer for The Simpsons obviously cannot adapt to a different genre and medium and it shows in every scene. Why didn’t the filmmakers just take an existing story from the comic books and simply tweak it slightly for the film? It certainly would have been a huge improvement over what passes for dialogue and story in this film.

There is no chemistry between Ioan Gruffudd and Jessica Alba who are supposed to be playing two people in love on the verge of being married. Alba, in particular, is the acting equivalent of a black hole and horribly miscast, complete with bad hair. Fortunately, Chris Evans and Michael Chiklis are well cast in their roles. They do their best with the weak script. Julian McMahon also livens things up as the deliciously evil Dr. Doom. He is clearly having a blast playing the baddie and is a lot of fun to watch.

On the plus side, the Silver Surfer looks amazing – a realistic-looking CGI creation that could have leapt right out of the comic books. Predictably, the film only comes to life when the Surfer is on-screen because he is just so exciting to watch. One hopes that a spin-off movie is in the works. Also, the introduction of the beloved Fantasti-Car is a nice touch that fans of the comic book will no doubt enjoy.

Fans will also have a problem with how Galactus is visually represented: a mute amorphous cloud the size of several large planets (?!). There are other ways they could have portrayed him the way he was meant to be and still saved money. What about showing him only in silhouette or in shadows? This reeks of lack of imagination on part of the filmmakers and is a real missed opportunity. Just who were the filmmakers trying to appeal to with this movie? Little kids? Don’t they realize that the FF got their start in the 1960s and so there is a contingent of older fans that don’t want to suffer through horribly written dialogue and weak characterization? Sadly, the film’s impressive box office stats will only result in more of the same.

Special Features:

The first disc features an audio commentary by director Tim Story. He talks about his inability to get a longer opening credits sequence and spends most of his time talking about how he tried to convey all kinds of backstory with very little time in which to do it. He also explains the decisions he made during filming, like the justification for what the Surfer is doing and so on. All in all, a fairly decent track.

Also included is an additional commentary by producer Avi Arad, writer Don Payne and editors Peter S. Elliot and William Hoy. The editors talk about the choices they made in order to tell a coherent story and how the gags took precedence. Payne talks about the changes made to the script over various drafts.

The second disc includes five deleted and extended scenes with an optional commentary by Tim Story. There is a longer opening title sequence which reveals Galactus right from the start and a scene that explains the FF’s wealth. According to the director, most of these scenes were cut for reasons of pacing.

“Family Bonds: The Making of Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer” covers the pre-production and production phases offering some insight into how a big budget studio film is planned out and then filmed. However, in this case, it comes across as kind of boring.

“Interactive Fantasti-Car” allows you to look at various sketches of this snazzy vehicle.

There are five featurettes that deal with the artwork and development of the Fantasti-Car, a look at the Power Cosmic of the Surfer, his comic book origins, the character design and how the soundtrack was composed. The most interesting of these is the one that focuses on the Surfer as Stan Lee talks about the public’s fascination with the character’s distinctive, philosophical vibe. Lee and artist Jack Kirby were interested in creating a slightly more high-brow comic that would appeal to adults.

Also included is “Still Galleries” featuring behind-the-scenes photographs, character shots and concept art.

Finally, there are three trailers.

J.D. is a freelance writer who is currently doing research for a book on the films of Michael Mann. He likes reading anything written by Jack Kerouac, James Ellroy, J.D. Salinger, Harlan Ellison or Thomas Pynchon. J.D. is currently addicted to the T.V. series 24 and enjoys drinking a lot of Sprite. This is not a blatant plug for the beverage but if they ever decided to give him a lifetime supply he certainly wouldn’t turn them down.
view all DVD reviews by JD Lafrance


Rating: 49%



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