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Arts & Culture

Fantatsic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer

Fantastic Four was directed by Tim Story, who was fresh from his hit film

Barbershop . His film felt designed to lay the groundwork for a franchise, and it did so without any real innovation or flair. It followed a familiar comic book formula, and kept the action and the characters on a cartoonish level. But for the second film, Story and company have smartly turned to one of Marvels most intriguing characters, the Silver Surfer (body by Doug Jones, voice courtesy of Laurence Fishburne).

Creator Stan Lee and director Tim Story on the set.(20th Century Fox)


Rise of the Silver Surfer begins with Reed and Sue trying to have a quiet wedding but continually finding themselves in the middle of either a media circus or a global crisis. As they pick china patterns and make arrangements, some strange force is causing havoc around the globe. Water solidifies in Japan and snow falls in Egypt. Eventually they discover that a gleaming silver alien atop a silver board is connected to all the odd occurrences. After Johnny's close encounter with the sleek alien, they dub the being the Silver Surfer. He turns out to be the henchman of an evil force known as Galactus, which devours and destroys planets. But the Silver Surfer is not your conventional villain, he's a tortured soul traveling the galaxy as the unwilling minion of a cruel master.

Rise of the Silver Surfer is a definite improvement over its predecessor. Story seems to have settled into the genre and found a light-hearted tone that suits him. The one time he tries to get serious occurs when the military capture the Silver Surfer and torture him. The attempted allusion to America's "extraordinary rendition" program seems out of place here because it's not well integrated into the story and its serious tone feels forced. By contrast, most of the film relies on light humor. The jokes are less zingy one-liners this time than last. The writers try to draw humor from the characters' personalities and from them being superheroes trying to fit into the real world. A pre-marital spat between Reed and Sue proves particularly amusing as Sue uses her superpowers to force Reed to pay attention to her complaints. The film also boasts the best yet cameo by Stan Lee, co-creator of the Fantastic Four and many other Marvel characters. In this film, he appears as himself and gets rejected from the wedding by a bouncer.

Cool... Fantastic Four: The Rise of the Silver Surfer (20th Century Fox)

Now I never read the Fantastic Four comics but I did read some of the Silver Surfer comics and I watched the short-lived TV series in the nineties with my son. I always loved the Silver Surfer because he was such a tortured soul, and sometimes he was downright existential as he pondered his place in the universe. Silver Surfer typified for me the difference between Marvel and DC Comics. DCs Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman none of them ever seemed as troubled or as philosophical as Silver Surfer. Marvel seemed to have superheroes that were more flawed and more like anti-heroes. (Although that may be less so now.) But either way, the Silver Surfer is one awesomely cool dude, and one of my favorite comic book characters.

The film does a great job of physically bringing him to life. Doug Jones (who appeared as Abe Sapien in Hellboy and the Faun in Pans Labyrinth ) brings the Silver Surfer to sinewy, glistening life and endows him with a noble visage. He glides effortless around on his intergalactic, fin-less board, and he flies circles around the fittingly awed Human Torch. Laurence Fishburne provides a voice with the proper gravitas. Yet writers Don Payne and Mark Frost only hint at the characters complexity. Maybe they are just laying the groundwork for a spin-off franchise where at a later date the Silver Surfer will get to display more shadings to his character. But at the very least, the Silver Surfer arrives on the big screen looking fine.


The four returning stars Gruffodd, Alba, Chiklis and Evans display a nice rapport that makes the film easy to like. Yet no one really ventures beyond cartoonish one dimension. Alba is the most bland of the four. She's pretty and has a smiling cuteness but she seems devoid of any real personality--which in some ways makes her perfect for playing the Invisible Woman. Chiklis, behind his massive costume and make up probably fares the best at actually creating a character. But none of the actors sinks his or her teeth into a role with the force of Wesley Snipes in Blade or the gentle humanity of Tobey Maguire in Spider-Man (both of which are based on Marvel comic book characters).

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (rated PG for sequences of action violence, some mild language and innuendo) is diverting summer fun. Not as big or clever as Spidey , Rise of the Silver Surfer might seem more at home on TV than in theaters. With the exception of the evil Galactus approaching ominously from outer space, most of the action and effects are slick but not of a grand scale. So go, enjoy but don't expect too much.

Companion viewing: Fantastic Four , Spider-Man , Blade , Barbershop