Of the three attempts at starting a Fantastic Four film series, only one ever got a sequel. Today, we’re looking at Rise of the Silver Surfer, which in many ways is an improvement over its predecessor. That basically makes this the best Fantastic Four movie we’ve seen to date. Think about that for a second.
When the 2005 Fantastic Four movie made a moderate, yet comfortable profit, its sequel quickly got greenlit. They brought back director Tim Story and writer Mark Frost for the sequel, along with every major cast member from the previous movie. That’s Ioan Gruffudd as Mister Fantastic, Jessica Alba as Invisible Woman, Chris Evans (Captain America in the MCU) as the Human Torch, and Michael Chiklis as The Thing. You’ve also got Julian McMahon as Dr. Doom. As the title suggests, the biggest addition to the cast is the Silver Surfer. Doug Jones, an actor, contortionist and mime artist, physically portrays the Silver Surfer. He’s best known for his appearances in Hocus Pocus, The Strain (Guillermo del Toro’s horror series), and Star Trek: Discovery. Laurence Fishburne, who is probably best known as Morpheus in The Matrix, voices the Silver Surfer.
Unlike its predecessor, the production behind the sequel went relatively smooth. They redesigned The Thing’s costume so that Chiklis could easily take it off between takes, and so that he’d get better insulation. Most of the filming took place in Vancouver, Canada, and all of the Silver Surfer CGI was handled by WETA, best known for their work on The Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Like the first movie, the critical reception for this one was lukewarm. It earned a 37% on Rotten Tomatoes with an average score of 4.8/10, an improvement over the first film’s 28% and 4.6/10 average. The New York Times review called the film an “amalgam of recycled ideas, dead air, dumb quips, casual sexism and pseudoscientific mumbo jumbo.” The Wall Street Journal considered the movie “more fun than the original”, but also said that it “failed to sustain its modest running time of 87 minutes.”
It ended up with a handful of awards, including Jessica Alba winning the 2008 Kids’ Choice Awards for the Favorite Female Movie Star, winning over Keira Knightly in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, and Kristen Dunst of Spider-Man 3. It also won the “Best Teaser Poster” award at the 2008 Golden Trailer Awards, beating out Saw IV and Quantum of Solace. The UK’s National Movie Awards nominated it for the “Best Family” category, but lost to Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.
Despite being generally considered better than the previous movie, it didn’t earn as much money, settling for $302 million on a budget somewhere between $120 and $130 million. Although that did make the movie successful, it wasn’t enough to justify a third movie.
I’ve seen this movie once before, around the same time I got into comics, and watched it along with the first movie. Back then, I felt that this is a mild improvement over the original, but still nothing special. My thoughts haven’t changed. Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, is an overall charming superhero movie with an optimistic tone, despite the darker story. That said, there’s nothing that really makes it stand out.
The central cast all feel like they’re more comfortable in their roles than they were in the first. Gruffudd does a better job at selling Mister Fantastic as a scientific genius, while still selling the social awkward nature of the character. Alba still feels miscast as Invisible Woman, but this movie uses her dramatic talents better, as she’s the one who’s able to connect to the Silver Surfer and bring out his humanity. Evans is still very entertaining as the Human Torch, even if the character has matured a bit since the first movie. Chiklis isn’t as interesting as The Thing in this movie, but that’s more because the character isn’t written as interesting now that he’s more comfortable in his rocky skin. It also feels like he doesn’t usually have all that much to do in the action scenes.
Doctor Doom still feels far more boring and uncharismatic as always. McMahon is still dreadfully miscast in the role. No changes there.
As for the Silver Surfer, he’s the best addition to this movie. His addition as the Herald of Galactus gives this movie a deep, classic science-fiction feel. He’s a very powerful, mysterious being, who is completely detached from his former mortal self. He’s a terrifying force, but he’s so distant from his victims that he doesn’t show any interest unless he’s attacked first. Fishburne really sells the Silver Surfer with his vocal performance here, first feeling cold, but selling his more dramatic side after Invisible Woman reminds him of his former love and his home planet.
If the rest of the movie surrounding the Silver Surfer was better, it could have made for a masterpiece. It’s just a shame that the action scenes are largely formulaic, with little sense of tension. Even when Galactus nears, you never really feel like the world is in danger because of how formulaic the story feels. By the time Galacuts arrives, you already know that the Silver Surfer wants to spare Earth from total destruction.
One minor story element that makes this movie entertaining is, after the Human Torch “fights” the silver surfer the first time, his powers are altered so that whenever he touches another member of the family, they switch powers. This leads to several amusing moments, but it also leads to the closest this movie ever gets to awesome. For the climax, he takes on all four family members’ powers and takes Doom on one-on-one. But as awesome as that concept is, the fight just feels too easy. He spends the whole time knocking Doom around the entire city with little difficulty.
As much as this movie is better overall, and mostly because of the Silver Surfer’s addition, its biggest problem is a different addition – Galactus himself. In the movie, he’s little more than a giant cloud. This is the result of the movie being rushed. Rise of the Silver Surfer released in June of 2007, less than 2 years after the first movie. As of March, they still hadn’t completed Galactus’ design yet. Also as of April 17, they didn’t know whether or not they wanted Silver Surfer to speak, and they didn’t decide that until the next day after they hired Fishburne. With 2003’s Hulk and 2011’s Green Lantern also having cloud villains, this trope became a meme in itself. Sure, it’s true that going for Galactus’s original character design would look really silly in a live-action film, but there are ways to modify that design to make him look legitimately terrifying. But no, he’s just a giant cloud.
Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer is by no means a bad movie, but it feels like it could have been so much more. Besides Dr. Doom, everyone in the cast works on some level. The classic feeling sci-fi plot works well for a Fantastic Four movie, even if it feels a bit underdeveloped at times. The shorter runtime, while not enough for an epic threat like Galactus, also means this movie doesn’t drag on the way the first Fantastic Four movie did. At the very least, Rise of the Silver Surfer is worth watching out of curiosity. Also, bonus points for a Stan Lee cameo that’s straight out of the comics.
That said, this movie would have been much better if: 1, Dr. Doom was played by a more charismatic actor, 2, it was longer, allowing more time to dig into Galactus’s past, and even show a flashback of him destroying a planet, and 3, if The Thing had more to do.
Next up is Fan4Stick. Nope, I’m not going to give that movie the dignity of using its actual title. Then I’ll wrap this month up by looking at Spider-Man: No Way Home, to finish off last year’s MCU movies. As of right now, I’m planning on revisiting several Disney Animated Movies next month, although I might condense the revisiting into one blog post, and then I’ll look at their 60th movie, Encanto, and a couple of the recent Pixar releases. There are two movies I watched for this blog back in 2017 that I wasn’t entirely sure about, and I want to revisit them to see if they’ll grow on me after a second viewing – Robin Hood and Meet The Robinsons. Also jumping ahead to October, I plan on looking at all 5 of the pre-MCU Sony Spider-Man movies.
Rise of the Silver Surfer is an improvement over the first film, but not by much really. Its a shame as the cast and tone of the film work well. Sadly its the depiction of Dr Doom and the cloud-like Galactius that really lets the side down. The addition of the Silver Surfer is great though. Considering the how iconic this story is in the FF comics and the classic imagery that storyline has – it still astounds me how such source material can be made to look so ordinary and bland on screen. Oh well, maybe they’ll get it right when they inevitably do this in the MCU.
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I was so young when I saw this on release but, as a kid, I had fun with it, although couldn’t remember much about what the story was actually about. I do remember how slick and cool Silver Surfer’s character was and know now how important and huge the character actually is and could’ve been for these movies. It’s sad that this “duology” is the only “good” Fantastic Four live-action stuff out there. I do wonder what Kevin Feige has planned for us regarding these guys next. So much potential…
I would love to see an actual good Fantastic Four movie, and on paper it shouldn’t be that hard. Take what you learned from the Roger Corman movie and this duology, give the movie better pacing, and embrace the adventure side of the FF franchise. We’ll see how the MCU version turns out, but after being disappointed by all the Disney released movies from last year (well, not by Eternals, but that’s because I had zero expectations from the start), I’m taking a wait and see attitude at this point.
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