The original "Fantastic Four" movie was not without its flaws (a too silly script, bland direction and a blander villain), but the picture was reasonably good mindless entertainment. To recap the opening of my review of the original: "As the picture begins, Reed Richards (Ioan Gruffudd) is desperate to find fiancing for his latest project, which involves studying the effects of a radiation storm in space, which looks to be headed near Earth. Billionaire Victor Von Doom (Julian McMahon) agrees to back the trip up, and soon Richards is heading into space with pilot Johnny Storm (Evans), Sue Storm (Jessica Alba) and Ben Grimm (Michael Chiklis). After being blasted by a cosmic wave in space, they arrive back on Earth, they eventually all come to realize that they have superpowers - Grimm has superhuman strength and is covered in stone, Sue can turn invisible and throw force fields, Johnny can use fire at will and Reed is now elastic."
The second film opens with Reed Richards (Ioan Gruffudd) and Sue Storm (Jessica Alba) in the midst of planning their marriage. However, it's not long before the army arrives, asking for the help of the four. Incidents have been occuring around the world, including a massive blackout in Los Angeles and freezing the pyramids in Egypt. At their wedding (look for the Stan Lee cameo), the four spot the Silver Surfer - a being from outer space who appears to be the cause of the incidents - and Johnny gives chase, with surprising results.
After feeling strange after returning to Earth, Johnny finds out that he can switch powers with any of the other three by touching them. Meanwhile, the villain of the first film, Dr. Von Doom (Julian McMahon) has returned and tries to join forces with the Silver Surfer (voiced by Laurence Fishburne), who isn't interested. When the Surfer doesn't accept his offer, Von Doom decides to work with the four to save the world.
The second film once again uses the surprisingly silly humor that was found frequently in the original, which gives the film something of a goofy charm, but also drains tension. There are also a few jokes throughout that are simply clunkers. What's improved here are the action sequences. The sequences as a whole impress, even though aspects of some of the scenes don't seem seamless.
The performances are just the same, as while the actors make these likable, engaging characters, no one turns in their best performance and the characters feel underwritten. Director Tim Story's work here could still be improved, but the film is certainly on a larger scale than the first one and at least offers more of a plot and better villain. I'm guessing there will be another sequel.
Overall, "Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer" is forgettable fluff (this series really could be PG-13 instead of PG), but I will say that I did find it more entertaining than the first film.
VIDEO: "Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer" is presented by 20th Century Fox in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. The screening copy of the film that was provided offered generally good image quality, with fine sharpness/detail and some occasional mild artifacting and edge enhancement. However, this is still not the final copy and unfortunately, I cannot make any final comments on it, as the final copy may offer differing image quality.
SOUND: The film's Dolby Digital 5.l presentation was, quite honestly, fantastic. Surrounds were used consistently and aggressively during the main action sequences, with surrounds used nicely for effects like the surfer whipping by. Overall, the action sequences were powerful and enveloping, bringing the viewer into the middle of the action superbly. Bass was occasionally quite powerful, as well. Audio quality was terrific, with clear dialogue and well-recorded effects.
EXTRAS: The first DVD offers commentary from director Tim Story and another commentary from producer Avi Arad, writer Don Payne, writer Peter Elliot and William Hoy. The second DVD opens with a deleted scenes section, which includes 5 clips, all of which are available with commentary from director Tim Story.
"Family Bonds" is a 44-minute documentary that does an excellent job covering the entire production from pre-production meetings to the end of filming. The piece opens with pre-production meetings ironing out some of the production issues (actor availability, for example) and a behind-the-scenes look at the crew prepping locations in Vancouver for some of the major scenes in the film. The pre-production footage lasts for about 17 minutes before we start watching as rehearsals begin and final scenes start being planned out and filmed.
A series of featurettes fill in additional production information, including: "The Fantasticar: State of the Art" (a discussion of the inspiration for the car's design, changes and inspiration, computer work and production of a model), "The Power Cosmic" (this is an excellent documentary regarding the creation of the Silver Surfer, as well as how the filmmakers worked with WETA digital to accomplish their goals for the character), "The Comic Book Origins of the Silver Surfer" (Stan Lee and others chat about the creation of the Silver Surfer and the character's popularity over the years), "Character Design" (the creation of - and the process of putting on - the new Thing suit) and finally, "Scoring the Fantastic" (composer John Ottman's work on the film's score.)
We also get an interactive look at the fantasticar, photo galleries and trailers (2 for "Fantastic Four 2", 1 for "Fantastic Four" and a few others including a preview for the upcoming "Futurama" feature-length flick, "Bender's Big Score".)
Final Thoughts: Overall, "Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer" is forgettable fluff (this series really could be PG-13 instead of PG), but I will say that I did find it more entertaining than the first film. The Special Edition DVD offers quite a bit of extra features, including a pair of commentaries and a very informative set of featurettes. There is also a one DVD regular edition, as well.
The Film B-