Watching Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer is an interesting experience. Here is a comic book movie with little action and few fight sequences. It is certainly not a “thinking man's” movie as the plot is minuscule and there is very little to contemplate. Much like the Silver Surfer himself, the look is high gloss and wonderful, but there is little behind it.
This sequel to the original Fantastic Four movie features the five main actors reprising their roles: Ioan Gruffudd as Reed Richards/Mr. Fantastic, Jessica Alba as Sue Storm/Invisible Woman, Chris Evans as Johnny Storm/Human Torch, Michael Chiklis as Ben Grimm/The Thing, and Julian McMahon as Victor von Doom/Dr. Doom. The first four of these comprise the superhero team of the title, the Fantastic Four, whereas Doom is their nemesis. Added to the mix for their second outing is Norrin Radd/Silver Surface voiced by Laurence Fishburne with Doug Jones as his body (with more than a little computer help).
In the film, the Surfer arrives on Earth as the herald of Galactus, an evil, world devourer (who looks like nothing more than a cloud in the movie). As his minion, it is the Surfer's job to prepare the planet for Galactus's arrival, so that Galactus may more easily suck away its life force. The Fantastic Four become aware of the Surfer's arrival when blackouts start occurring across the globe. After Johnny determines the Surfer to be evil, the team sets about formulating a plan to eliminate his power. In what has to be assumed is a nod to Star Trek, the Four use a tachyon pulse to remove the Surfer from his board (the source of his power).
Doom, who was almost dead and certainly exceedingly weakened at the outset of the film, gets his powers and freedom back simply by being close to the silver one when the Surfer flies by Doom's location. In true super-villain fashion, Doom attempts to get the Surfer's board, and the Four join up with the Surfer (as it turns out he is not so terribly bad) in order to stop Doom and prevent Galactus from devouring Earth.
As comes as no surprise (but I encourage you not to read this if you don't want to see a *spoiler*), everything works out happily in the end, with Doom dispatched but not in a way that will prevent his return, the Surfer eschewing evilness, confronting Galactus, and living to tell about it.
At 92 minutes in length, the movie hardly gets going before it ends, and the plot, even for a comic book movie, is absurd. Doom and the Fantastic Four end up working together for the military during a significant chunk of the film, in a storyline that has them all trying to de-board the Surfer.
The notion that the military is willing to forgive and forget Doom's history makes it appear as though no one in the chain of command has ever watched a movie or read a book that contains a nefarious villain. It never once strikes the military that Doom may actually still be evil, instead, they treat the Four as semi-villains. This is because the commander of the military group in question, General Hager (Andre Braugher) has a less than amicable past with Mr. Fantastic. Apparently for Hager and the military, this past history completely negates all the good work the Fantastic Four has ever done helping humanity and forgives Doom his world-conquesting ways. It is a ridiculous postulate, even for a comic book film.
The movie is not without some better moments. Due to a battle with the Surfer, Johnny Storm's powers become transferable to other people, and several of the film's more amusing moments deal with Storm reconciling with his new abilities, and those he touches with their new abilities. Additionally, Storm's desire to shill products every chance he gets, including putting logos on his outfit, is amusing, if not slightly too reminiscent of Talladega Nights.
The new DVD release of Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer comes with two discs, including the feature film (with a commentary track), extended and deleted scenes, and several behind-the-scenes featurettes. One of the best of these featurettes focuses on the comic book origins of the Silver Surfer, going through not only his appearances and beliefs but his look and how and why these things came about.
It is unquestionably true that the producers of both Fantastic Four movies are creating a franchise that does not take the characters and material in an overly-serious fashion. However, there is no reason that this sequel cannot be light-hearted, action-filled, and, where relationship dynamics are concerned, relatively credible. The first of these areas the filmmakers succeed at, but the last two could certainly use improvement prior to the inevitable third installment of the franchise.