Sunday, February 10, 2008

DVD Review: Fantastic 4 - Rise of the Silver Surfer (Standard Edition)

Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer is fluffy superhero cinema. It stars a bunch of pretty people -- even the blind woman and chromium fellow are hot -- packs in a ton of special effects, and cleans itself up nice and tidy in the end, reaffirming to any discernable viewer that nothing terrible ever really happens in movies like these. The good guys always win, the bad guys always lose, thank you for playing, now hand over your money and go home before we kick you out.

The entire group is back to defend the world from the oncoming devourer of worlds, Galactus. Galactus’ harbinger, Norrin Radd -- also known as the Silver Surfer -- has begun his routine of digging giant holes all over the globe when our heroes’ services are enlisted by the government to examine and stop whatever’s going down. After the group joins up with the government, the rest of the story becomes pretty predictable, following a familiar formula we’ve all seen time and time again: The team’s first attempt to stop the Surfer ends in failure, the dependability of one of the four is called into question, yadda yadda yadda, the questionable member seeks redemption in the end by nearly sacrificing their life for the greater good.

The acting, direction, and effects work is all pretty standard. Nothing exactly feels “phoned in,” but it’s obvious nothing was done to really push this film above and beyond the expectations set by its predecessor. The explosions are grand, the world eating is fun, and the Silver Surfer looks nice and silvery. As far as the acting is concerned, I’m still don’t buying the relationship angle between Ioan Gruffudd’s Reed Richards and Jessica Alba’s Sue Storm, but my belief in their utter lack of on-screen chemistry may just be jealously talking.

What Ioan and Jessica lack in chemistry, Chris Evans and Michael Chiklis more than make up for with their own as antagonistic buddies/teammates, Johnny Storm and Ben Grimm. These guys are fun to watch, and while much of their relationship is childish at best, they never cease to entertain. What’s unfortunate here is that this talented cast isn’t given much to do. Each character is treated as a one-note pony, behaving in ways that only personify their single basic characterization: Reed is nerdy, Sue is responsible, Johnny is obnoxious, and Ben is grumbly. While I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect every superhero be given the same treatment we’ve seen with Spider-man or the X-Men, I also don’t think it unreasonable to expect more than we’ve gotten thus far with this franchise.

Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer is not a bad movie -- it’s quite entertaining at moments -- but it’s ultimately an instantly forgettable experience. Once the end credits begin to role, you’ll be off your duff and looking for something else to do or take in, spending little to no time lingering on the “greatness” or this movie. I would recommend this movie to families with kids, fans of the first film, and Jessica Alba fans -- ‘cause let’s face it; she’s down right smoking here. If none of these things apply to you, however, you can feel no shame in missing this one entirely.

ABNB! Rating: 2½ out of 5 (Cheesy fun for families, worth a rent.)

Standard Edition DVD Review:
Not much to really tell about this DVD release. It’s your typical bare bones DVD with English (5.1 Dolby Digital), Spanish (Dolby Surround), and French (Dolby Surround) audio tracks, along with English and Spanish subtitles. It’s featured in both Full Screen (1.33:1) and Wide Screen (2.40:1) on one of those nifty double-sided discs that I personally haven’t seen in years. The movie looks and sounds fantastic! The only special feature this release boasts is an audio commentary track with the film’s director, Tim Story. While Mr. Story sounds like a swell guy, my attempt at sitting through the film a second time with his commentary left me bored to tears. His approach to the commentary seemed clinical, and this need to explain his decision making process on the smallest details was zero fun to sit through. C’mon bro, it’s FF2, not Schindler’s List. Future filmmakers are not studying this movie for future ideas on how to do (or not do) certain shots -- so lighten up, drink a margarita, and have some fun.

The exclusion of deleted scenes really hurts this DVD overall. Sometimes, the business side of cinema makes it an ugly, uncaring place, and this standard edition is proof of that. Forcing people to pay extra for a two-disc special edition set, just to see deleted scenes is ridiculous. If you want to cash in, fine, release you’re fifty special edition DVDs -- but drop the price on your standard edition for those of us who don’t want two-discs of makings of, games, and comic books.

If you’re a fan of this movie, and want to own the additional goodies, I’d recommend steering clear of this standard edition, as it gives you nothing of value, other than the movie. If you’ve never seen the movie before, and don’t care about special features, rent it.

ABNB! Rating: 2 out of 5 (Rent, but not worth the purchase price.)

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