a critiQal film review Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007)

Plot: Mr. Fantastic (Gruffudd) and The Invisible Woman (Alba) are about to get married...but the ceremony is interrupted by the mysterious Silver Surfer, who has been wreaking havoc across the planet. The Torch (Evans) chases after him, but is unable to stop the Silver Surfer. Since that encounter, The Torch switches powers with any of the other members of the Fantastic 4 with just a touch - including the Thing (Chiklis). To top it off, the 4 are forced to team up with arch-enemy Dr. Doom (McMahon) in order to prevent a planet-eater named Galactus from following the Silver Surfer to Earth.

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Now that October is upon us, summer movies are hitting DVD shelves faster than we can watch ’em! Since we didn’t get a chance to watch most of these during the summer, it looks like we’re going to be spending a lot of time in front of the TV this month. And that stars with Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer.

While Fantastic Four (2005) was a bit cheesy, it was a fun popcorn flick and so we were definitely looking forward to the inevitable sequel. This time around, the quartet face an entirely CGI-animated foe in The Silver Surfer – plus their powers get all out of whack! Sounded like fun to us, so we couldn’t wait for this to hit DVD.

The cast of characters from the original are all back in their roles in Rise of the Silver Surfer, and seem more at ease this second time around. The camaraderie of the 4 superheroes in the first film was fun to watch…and watching Chris Evans’ Johnny Storm tease Michael Chiklis’ The Thing was hilarious. The banter continues, as Ioan Gruffud, Jessica Alba, Chris Evans and Michael Chiklis seem even more comfortable with each other in this film. True to group acting, none of them stand out above the others, making them quite a cohesive family unit.

Julian McMahon, who played quite the antagonist in the original film, returns as well in Rise of the Silver Surfer, only his character is much shallower this time around. His acting is decent enough, but he doesn’t seem to put as much into it in this film – maybe because he realizes how see-through his character has become.

The highlight of Rise of the Silver Surfer is Laurence Fishburne as the voice of The Silver Surfer. While his character is entirely CGI-animated, Fishburne is able to create a humanity for the Silver Surfer, just by using his voice. True, the great special effects don’t hurt, but Fishburne’s voice lends a huge helping hand towards creating a believable Surfer.

Not only is The Silver Surfer’s voice impressive, so is he. Since previous CGI-animated caricatures like the title character in Hulk (2003) left a lot to be desired, The Silver Surfer in Rise of the Silver Surfer will amaze viewers. He’s incredibly lifelike, yet almost seems to be a liquid in solid form, so flowing are his movements. Everything he does is impressive, knowing there isn’t an actor hiding in that suit somewhere..and no special effects flaws are readily apparent, either. Awhile ago, actors voiced concerns that CGI would negate their impact on-screen. Good or not, The Silver Surfer goes a long way towards making that a reality.

And the special effects don’t end with The Silver Surfer. Aside from a rather crudely animated beginning sequence of a planet exploding, the special effects in Rise of the Silver Surfer are top notch. Even The Thing’s rocky appearance has improved, looking more believable than ever. With the unimpressive beginning, the film sets up the viewer to be disappointed by the special effects…then astounds them by continuing to outdo itself.

As might be guessed, plot takes a back seat to the special effects a bit for Rise of the Silver Surfer. While it’s engaging enough to keep the viewer interested, it’s not exactly full of surprising twists and turns. Each twist can be seen miles away, and even young kids should have no trouble grasping the concept. Even most of the characters have become even simpler than they were in the first film, yet they still manage to keep the viewer’s involved in the story. Not as much as films like Blade (1998), but enough that the viewer shouldn’t get bored…and there’s no way the viewer could get lost in this simple plot.

Despite it’s simple-mindedness (or maybe because of it), Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer is almost as good of a popcorn movie as it’s predecessor. It’s full of big special effects, including the previously mentioned Silver Surfer, enough to wow the viewer. The camaraderie of the 4 is still fun to watch as well…and casting Laurence Fishburne as the voice of The Silver Surfer doesn’t hurt either.

Just don’t expect much depth to the story, and you should have an enjoyable time.

One note: if you’re going to pick this one up on DVD, make sure you get the 2-Disc Power Cosmic Edition. The single disc version‘s extra content is basically nil (2 commentaries – That’s it, not even a theatrical trailer or a “Making Of” Featurette).

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