Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007)
September 18, 2021 9:49 PM - Subscribe

The Fantastic Four return to the big screen as a new and all powerful enemy threatens the Earth.

[Note: The IMDb entry lists this as "Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer" and Wikipedia says that that title was used for the DVD/Blu-Ray release. Maybe the confusion over the exact title is why it seemed to be missing from streaming services until recently.]

Anyway, this is a sequel to the 2005 movie, and stars the same principal actors, as well as Doug "You Need a Non-Human Sympathetic Character Played, He's Your Guy" Jones playing the Silver Surfer (voice by Laurence "Will Eventually Play Bill Foster in the MCU" Fishburne), Andre "Totally Not Standing In for Nick Fury" Braugher playing some general, and the contents of a humongous vacuum cleaner bag playing Galactus. The Surfer shows up, makes some big holes in the world, and also does some cosmic-energy hoodoo with various effects, such as giving Johnny the ability to switch powers with the rest of the FF (if you wanted to see what Chris Evans would look like as the Thing, here's your chance) and brings Doctor Doom back, because, in addition to doing the comic story of the coming of Galactus (minus the Watcher), they're also doing the story where Doctor Doom steals the Surfer's surfboard and powers, with a hint of the Super Skrull story (no actual Skrulls, but Johnny eventually gets all the FF's powers).

It's generally better than the first movie, with a real sense of the scope and terrifying awe of a genuinely world-ending menace. The scene with the Thames going completely dry is really something. Also good was the whole thing about the US Army hiring von Doom to help with catching the Surfer, because I believe that they probably would, previously-demonstrated supervillainy notwithstanding. (I didn't quite buy Braugher's bit about football, possibly because I think of him mostly as Raymond Holt, but also because the comics Ben Grimm played football.) And Doug Jones is very good with showing the Surfer's tragic nature, maybe even a bit more convincingly than we got in the comics. Chris Evans also gets a bit more depth than his XTREEM sports Johnny Storm of the first movie, realizing that he's the only one on the team without an intimate relationship; ironically, his potential love interest in this movie is... a blonde Army captain. Prophetic!

But, as with the first movie, there are problems. They tease "Is This the End of the Fantastic Four?!?" again; even though it seemed like the team was always breaking up in the comics, I don't think that it happened more often than every decade or so. Tim Story seems to have had a weird thing about getting Sue Storm naked in public for no really good reason, which he also did in the first movie; here, when Sue gets Johnny's flame powers, she absolutely freaks out, even though a) she's seen him with them plenty of times and b) Reed doesn't when he gets them; and, of course, after she's burned off her clothes, she flames off in the middle of a crowd. Your superpower-centered sexual fantasies aren't that compelling, Tim. And I think that they could have done better than Dust Bunny Galactus; even if they didn't want to go with a giant with a horned helmet and a purple-blue miniskirt, they could have come up with something more evocative of Unknowable Cosmic Mysteries.

But, hey, we got the Fantasticar, even if it was an obvious Dodge promotion tie-in. This one got 37% on Rotten Tomatoes, better than the first.
posted by Halloween Jack (8 comments total)
Better than the first, but somehow I have less interest in rewatching. Two villains is fine, but like Spider-Man 3, shoehorning a third villain in there just doesn't work. Surfer/Galactus is enough of a storyline, but Galactus never seemed like a believable threat. Remember the massive dark clouds in ID4 just before the alien ship broke though? Galactus was just the dark cloud - I kept waiting for something to emerge out of it. Remove Doom, give more time to develop the threat of Galactus instead.

So again, same major problem with the first. They figured they were lucky enough to get a sequel, better cram as many plots together as possible, to the detriment of all of them.

And you know what? I would have preferred if they'd really leaned in to the big purple guy with the space horned helmet. Make a joke of how ridiculous he appears, then have him absolutely demolish a building by stepping on it. We've had a lot of recent examples of really deadly menaces that we dismissed because they looked silly.

Between these two and the 2015 monstrosity, we've had three F4 movies with Doom as the villain, which leaves me concerned about the MCU version. We've had seven (I think) Spider-Man movies, all with different villains (Green Goblin, Doc Ock, Sandman, Venom, Goblin Jr, Lizard, Rhino, Electro, Vulture, Mysterio), and they still haven't touched Kraven and a bunch of others. F4 has as rich or richer of a rogue's gallery (Super Skrull, Mole Man, Namor, Annihilus, Puppet Master, Mad Thinker, Frightful Four, as well as the already MCU-intruduced Skrulls, Kree, Ronan, Kang, Klaw, and Maximus), but I suspect they're going to bring Doom or Galactus in too early.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 4:08 PM on September 19, 2021 [2 favorites]

I think the MCU is going to bring Doom in as an ally at first, like with M'Baku or Mordo. Some of Doom's most famous moments are being at least semi heroic.

Agree that the movie would have been stronger with a big purple guy. The celestial in the trailer for eternals looks awesome in the classical, apocalyptic sense.
posted by fomhar at 6:04 PM on September 19, 2021

I'm hoping that they're Doomed out for the moment. My guess is that, with the franchise-wide Kang storyline, they'll drop a hint of Doom in there somewhere (because time machine), and he might end up as the Big Bad somewhere later if/when they decide to do Secret Wars.
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:09 PM on September 19, 2021

Ideally, Doom would be introduced as he was in the comics: he just pops up out of nowhere to "test" the Fantastic Four. The Four survive Doom's traps, of course, but Doom congratulates himself, "They may think they have won, but my plans are now one step closer to fruition."

They could heighten the mystery of "who is Doctor Doom?" by introducing Victor as an old college friend of Reed's, then kill him off in the third act, leaving the fans baffled by the man in the armored mask.
posted by SPrintF at 6:36 PM on September 19, 2021 [2 favorites]

I'm kind of fascinated by how bad these two films were. The characters were flat, the plots non-sensical, the stakes didn't really establish themselves, aside from the Thames draining into a hole the effects were all pretty unexciting. And they reeked of low key misogyny and juvenile obsession with "looking cool".

The MCU films - even the weakest ones - are so much better than this on every front.

I feel like the US movie/TV industry has gotten a lot better at telling coherent stories over the past decade. The quality of movies and TV is just so high today, maybe that's why the lower quality blockbusters from fifteen years ago look so poor now?
posted by simonw at 8:58 AM on September 21, 2021 [1 favorite]

Giant evil clouds are never intimidating. It didn't work in Loki, it didn't work in Green Lantern, and it didn't work here. Clouds and storms aren't something you face and fight and overcome, they're something you endure, something that doesn't know or care about you or the destruction it causes. And they rarely look as dangerous as they are.

Galactus is a giant dude who knows exactly how much death and suffering he causes and doesn't particularly care because no matter what he's gotta eat. You can't stop him, you can only try to persuade him to eat someone else.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 7:11 PM on September 21, 2021 [2 favorites]

I'm kind of fascinated by how bad these two films were.

Ever watch Roger Corman's Fantastic Four?
posted by radwolf76 at 2:38 AM on September 22, 2021

The Four survive Doom's traps, of course, but Doom congratulates himself, "They may think they have won, but my plans are now one step closer to fruition."

It’s lovely that you use that word: as a child, one of the first comics I ever bought was Marvel Team-Up #13, where Spider-Man and Captain America confront the Grey Gargoyle. At their darkest hour, they are tied to a rocket by the GG, who monologues about how his plan is about to “come to fruition.” I recall nothing else of the story save that peculiar word.

As I was in kindergarten at the time, the word “fruition” was entirely unknown to me, and I assumed it was the name of the planet he was sending them to.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 6:12 AM on September 22, 2021 [2 favorites]

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