Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer is the highest rated Fantastic Four movie, but that isn’t saying much. After the less than Fantastic Four proved successful enough to warrant a sequel, Fox just sorta threw something together. You can tell by the shockingly short 1 hour & 32 minute runtime. Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer is the only PG rated live-action Marvel superhero movie. Both the rating and runtime make the sequel feel more like a kids movie. I agree that the Fantastic Four are lighthearted, but it’s still a strange decision to make. Especially after Fantastic Four tried extra hard to secure a PG-13.
Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer is based on two major comic storylines. “The wedding of Sue and Reed!” from Fantastic Four Annual #3 and “The Galactus Trilogy” from Fantastic Four #48-50. Rise of the Silver Surfer does about as much as you’d expect from an hour & a half version of such game changing storylines. Yet I was still excited to go see the sequel just for the promise of a live-action Silver Surfer and Galactus. Little did I know it would end up being the last Marvel movie in 2007 before the MCU took things to the next level. For all his faults, director Tim Story tried to stay faithful to the comics (to a degree)…
Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer promises the coming of Galactus. One of the most devastating supervillains of all time. Since Galactus is an enormous galactic entity who literally eats planets to survive. It’s always a major event whenever the Devourer of Worlds threatens the Marvel universe. All that is thrown out the window the second they decided to make Galactus a space cloud. I can defend Tim Story on some things, but making Galactus a cloud is easily one of the dumbest decisions made for a superhero movie. It’s beyond offensive to us comic book fans. It’s not enough for his shadow to sort of resemble his helmet. Since Galactus is a let down, Silver Surfer had to steal the show. Stan Lee & Jack Kirby both created Galactus as a larger than life villain, but the Silver Surfer was all Kirby’s idea. Since he figured a villain like that should have a herald of sorts. Although skeptical of the silver nut on a flying surfboard, Stan Lee embraced the character as a chance to interpret the folly of humanity from an aliens perspective.
As sadly the only live-action Silver Surfer in existence, Rise of the Silver Surfer does justice to the redeemed superhero. Frequent creature character actor Doug Jones physically portrays the Silver Surfer. Managing to pull off the half naked silver design with CGI laid over. Laurence Fishburne gives the Silver Surfer the booming voice you’d expect from an alien of power cosmic proportions. The Silver Surfer flies at light speed and draws energy from his board. Earth is chosen as the next planet for consumption and it causes weather anomalies all around the world. But that’s not as important as Reed Richards and Sue Storm’s celebrity wedding. Ioan Gruffudd feels even nerdier as Reed, but he still can’t make it work. Jessica Alba is still mostly eye candy with even more distracting blonde hair and very blue eyes. Chris Evans still makes the most of Johnny Storm. Thankfully growing his hair out. Michael Chiklis had an easier time playing Ben Grimm, since his Thing suit was less restricting.
The Fantastic Four put almost all their energy into mundane activities like wedding planning, branding, throwing a bachelor party, and invisible zit removal. Reed is mostly distracted by scientific study when the military tasks him with building a machine that can track the Silver Surfer. Sue is almost entirely concerned with her wedding and even considers leaving the team with Reed. Johnny is still self obsessed, but he has a sort of arc that helps him become less selfish. Which is why stern soldier Frankie Raye is his sort of love interest. She’s much more important in the comics. Meanwhile, Ben and Alicia Masters are happy together. Kerry Washington’s role is a lot bigger than it was the first time, but she isn’t the one who finds the humanity in the Silver Surfer. The wedding was one of the earliest major events in Marvel comics. Since the superhero marriage was attended by Spider-Man, Daredevil, Doctor Strange, Nick Fury, the X-Men, and the Avengers. Story wanted to use superheroes, but that was off limits for Fox. The only reference to the comic is Stan Lee’s cameo as himself being turned away from the wedding.
An exciting chase between the Silver Surfer and the Human Torch leaves Johnny with the ability to switch powers with the team. A gimmicky side plot that serves a few purposes. Namely as an excuse to get Sue naked and to show Ben in his human form again. The Reed power switch is a bit more serious since it nearly topples the London Eye ferris wheel. If only the CGI hadn’t gotten sillier than it was before. Mr. Fantastic’s stretching is taken to even cartoonier levels. The Human Torch looks fine, but it’s less convincing when anyone else switches powers. The only powers that continue to look good are the Invisible Woman’s invisibility and force fields that really demonstrate her immense power. The army general running the show is meant as a stand in for Nick Fury. Something else Story wanted before realizing who held the rights.
The general foolishly trusts Victor von Doom to lead the team after they fail to prevent a disaster. Doom was released from his statue prison by the anomalies, then de-scarred after an encounter with the Surfer in Latveria. All to lazily give Julian McMahon some face time. Doom sets a trap that separates the Surfer from his board. But not before the Surfer explains his actions to Sue. The Fantastic Four are taken prisoner for some reason and Sue has to sneak to see the Surfer and get more answers. She learns of Galactus and even a little about his past as Norrin Radd. Shockingly, Doctor Doom double crosses the military and uses the board for his own unexplained benefit. McMahon recorded his lines later on and it really shows in his cheesy cliché dialogue. The Fantastic Four escape in the awesome Fantasticar. One of the coolest comic vehicles that can hover and split into individual ships. It ended up looking great in live-action. Doom fights the team in Japan until he mortally wounds Sue.
With their powers combined, Johnny finishes Doom off with Reed’s stretching, Sue’s invisibility, Ben’s rock hands, and his flames. The crappy cloud Galactus shows up at the last possible second and the Silver Surfer uses his power to give life back to Sue and destroy Galactus with his power cosmic. In the end, Reed and Sue have a hasty wedding in Shanghai and decide to stay with the team. Closing on a “4” that sets up a threequel that never came and the awakening of Silver Surfer that sets up a spin-off that was also never made. Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer came at a simpler time. When superhero movies could be mediocre to mildly entertaining with no aspirations to set up a universe.
Preceded by: Fantastic Four