Judge Ryan Keefer abandoned his World Eater career aspirations at age 12 when he discovered girls.
Discover the secret of the Surfer.
Fantastic Four received quite the critical drubbing when it was released in 2005. Perhaps it was a comic franchise past its time; successful reboots of other comic franchises occurred before this Marvel band of characters lifted off the ground. However for all the criticism, it still managed to pull in over $150 million and spawned a sequel, based on the highly popular Silver Surfer character. When released, the same critical drubbing commenced, and the film took in over $130 million, presumably launching the idea for a third. Now that it's on video, how does the second look on Blu-ray?
Facts of the Case
Mark Frost (The Greatest Game Ever Played) and Don Payne (My Super Ex-Girlfriend) co-wrote Rise of the Silver Surfer which Tim Story returns to helm. The gang that is fantastic are back and better than ever. More people are embracing the rock-like nature and appearance of The Thing, a.k.a. Ben Grimm (Michael Chiklis, The Shield), while Johnny Storm (Chris Evans, TMNT) is striking the merchandising iron whilst it is most hot (pun intended), to capitalize on the notoriety. As for his sister Sue (Jessica Alba, Sin City) and her man Reed Richards (Ioan Gruffudd, Black Hawk Down)? Well they're getting married of course. And as they're about to exchange their vows, the service is interrupted by a mysterious character, known later as the Silver Surfer (Hellboy's Doug Jones wears the costume and makeup while The Matrix's Laurence Fishburne does the voice), who has this prickly habit of heralding the death every planet he visits. So the quartet, with the help of an old friend, might have to try and stop him before it's too late.
You know, for all of the gold that has been mined from the source material of the comic world, there is the occasional vein of pyrite that one is prone to discovering. And as much as it pains me to say, Fantastic Four is one of those veins. By breaking down the individual members of the group, you've got the leader Reed, who always seemed in my mind to be the focus and center of the group. A little wiser than most, due to his silver tinged hair, Gruffudd lacks any real personality that would seem to emote characteristics of leadership. He also has the whole "not acting" thing down pat. I've been one who's not really liked Evans, in large part because he appears to resemble the jocks I hated growing up. Jessica Alba as a smart scientist? Well, I'll let you figure out the joke on that one. And Chiklis, who was vilified for appearing as John Belushi in Wired, takes an appealing character and turns him into an Uncle from Brooklyn who can't really think out of the box too well and whose primary function in life is to punch or kick, aside from looking goofy in grown-up clothes while wearing the rock outfit.
The story seems to rehash a lot of tricks from other films, the same ones as the first film, and gives everyone a chance for role reversal. During a confrontation early on between Johnny and the Surfer, Johnny becomes a beacon for powers to switch with others or said powers become absorbed, resulting in a couple of unfunny sequences that kind of resemble a game of tag. And hey, Alba appears semi-nude again like the first one. Big whoop. Mix all of this in with some unfunny one liners and a formulaic bland story, and you've got yourselves a sequel that is predictable beyond feelings. And the sad part is that there's a scene at the end which sets up a third film which is probably going to happen considering the box office receipts of the first two films. Spring some life into these guys or else this long-adored comic franchise is going to be dead in the water.
And just why is there a proclivity to let starfu, excuse me, "entertainment reporters" appear in these friggin' things? In the two films so far, we've had Maria Menounos (Access Hollywood), Guiliana DePandi (E!), and Vanessa Minnillo (Entertainment Tonight). Any credibility towards being a serious film continually gets chucked out of the window with this. I know that these folks appear in film and TV from time to time, but please.
For as crappy a film as Rise of the Silver Surfer is, it sure does look and sound good on Blu-ray. The 2.35:1 widescreen look is quite good, with depth in most every shot, black levels are solid as a rock, and the image detail in the foreground is distinct and sharp. The DTS Master Audio soundtrack is top notch all the more so. Surround activity is frequent and immersive, and in particular, the scenes in London and China, where the group is being chased, the low end packs a clear punch and throws everything around your ears. It's definitely a reference quality track.
There are quite a few supplements on the disc, perhaps to wash the taste out of your mouth. Story provides a commentary that would be somewhat interesting if it wasn't so soft-spoken and quiet. He's the only one on the track and there are long gaps of silence where he's watching the film, but he does volunteer every so often things that he wanted to accomplish in the film, what was changing from the comic, that kind of thing. He doesn't really get into discussing the production too much for whatever reason, and while the material he talks about is informative, I'd hardly call it revelatory. The second track, with Payne, Producer Avi Arad and Editors Peter S. Elliot and William Hoy is, well, a little bit snarky. I don't know how to quite describe it, but Elliot and Hoy seem to come off as knowing more about how to make a movie than Payne and Story, and there were a couple of backhanded comments made about the Story, along with talking about how, at times, the CG that was filmed was "unacceptable." Since I couldn't tell who was who on the track, I'm going to say that Elliot edited Garfield: A Tale of Two Kitties, so I'm not sure if he's renting or leasing on that glass condominium he lives in. Arad typically doesn't add much to the experience, and Payne seems to be the only one who cares enough to talk about the friggin' film! Overall I'd skip both of these tracks.
Moving onto the featurettes, a host of deleted and extended scenes kick things off, five of them, including an alternate opening with optional commentary by Story. At almost ten minutes in total length, the scenes do appear with a Dolby 5.1 surround track, even if they are forgettable. Look at Ben in Bulgari, breaking glass and stuff! It's something you saw in the first film, just in another location! Ugh. A forty five minute look at the preproduction and production follows that's very "fly on the wall" when it comes to looking at how things came together. The preproduction stage includes location scouting and a lot of test footage of motion capture for the Surfer and other things occurring two and three weeks before filming. Once the production starts, it's a look at the shooting with interviews on set with the cast, Story tends to call them the "Fan Four," which is kind of annoying, but otherwise this is a low-key but decent piece. There's a ten minute look at the previsualization and production of the "Fantasticar" made for the film, and it's probably a couple of minutes too long. "The Power Cosmic" looks at how they created the Surfer for the film, the challenges and the benefits of creating a computer animated character and breaking him down from an effects point of view. So now that we've focused on the movie part of the Surfer, why don't we learn about the comic book character. That's what "Sentinel of the Spaceways" does for forty minutes. Lee explains his popularity, and various peers and experts discuss the history of the Surfer, and some of those who have written or inked him discuss his character. They also discuss Galactus and his history through the years in the comic books also, and both characters are periodically set to music from images in the comic. If it was trimmed a little bit, this would be a good piece instead of a little tiresome. "Scoring the Fantastic" is just that, while "Character Design with Special Motion" focuses on Chiklis and his transformation into Grimm. The costume designer who created the suit for him discusses the intent and the difference from the initial version to this one, while Chiklis discusses the character while getting made up. Three stills galleries follow, along with two trailers and a couple of Blu-ray exclusive games, a strategy game that's a little confusing and not worth it, and a trivia game that runs throughout the course of the film (there's almost 200 trivia questions on the comic here), and wrong answers lead Galactus to destroy Earth.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
I love Andre Braugher. In fact, I'm watching him on Homicide: Life on the Street as I write this sentence. And I'm presuming that his appearance in this film serves two purposes: one, it gives the film some sort of credibility in the minds of Story and the producers, but it also gives Braugher a chance to act in a higher visibility film so that he can show off his wares. For my money, he was the most underappreciated actor of the mid-to-late '90s, and I hope this appearance gives him the chance to do more work people will see.
Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer takes a pretty cool character in the Silver Surfer and throws him into the middle of a franchise that is flat on dialogue and story, despite the scale of their battle and action sequences. Sure, the audio and video merits are of reference quality, but I'm sure you can find other, better films for this purpose.
The cast and crew are found guilty. We're sending them back to the drawing board to get it right, if a third film is in the making.
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Scales of Justice
• Commentary by Director Tim Story
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