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</script></div>{/googleAds}Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer screenwriter Don Payne says he wanted this movie to be the rare sequel that's better than the original. Well, congratulations Mr. Payne you succeeded. In all seriousness, Rise is indeed better than 2005's original version, but, then again, wouldn't that be akin to Paris Hilton proclaiming she wants to have a better year next year?

I'm still not sure how the original managed to gross a worldwide total of over $300 million, but it did. I found the original's story rather anemic, its special effects actually quite silly, and the characters purely one-dimensional. I suppose the success of Fantastic Four back in 2005 was a product of the power and commercial significance of the comic book fanboy. It's a testament to the sad state of Hollywood affairs that they'll greenlight a sequel based simply on commercial success, but that's, not surprisingly, what happened here. I suppose there's a magic number that, once surpassed, automatically trips the sequel meter into full go-ahead mode. So, as it stands, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer is a poor sequel made from an even worse original.

The titular superhero quartet returns with the same actors intact. As the film opens, preparations are being made for the wedding of the century between stretchy brainiac Mr. Fantastic, Reed Richards (Iaon Gruffud just how does one pronounce this name?) and The Invisible Woman, Sue Storm (Jessica Alba). But they're forced to put their nuptials on hold when global emergencies begin popping up like moles in an arcade game. Seems an extremely powerful menace, in the form of a Terminator 2 T-1000 look-alike called the Silver Surfer (voice of Laurence Fishburne, body of Doug Jones), is causing chaos and destruction as he glides around our planet hoping to find it suitable to feed to his mentor, Galactus, the devourer of worlds. But not to worry as Reed and Sue once again join up with stone-man The Thing, Ben Grimm (Michael Chiklis) and The Human Torch, Johnny Storm (Chris Evans), to bring an end to their surfboard riding nemesis.

It's probably more appropriate to blame the following observations on the comic book that introduced the villain back in 1966 rather than this movie, but doesn't the Silver Surfer character - in both name and modus operandi - sound a bit childish? Like something made up by an eight year-old. I can hear a kid describing it now "the Silver Surfer rides around on a... a surfboard, yeah that's it... a surfboard. And he's made of shiny silver, and he never has to eat, drink or sleep. All he wants to do is feed the Earth to a giant black cloud that goes around the Universe eating planets... yeah that's it." I guess a surfboard is appropriate after all though, given its popularity during the '60s. If the character had first appeared in the comic book in the 1990s would he travel the Universe on a Razor scooter? Or perhaps on a pair of Heelies?

As if the Silver Surfer weren't enough villain for you, the tyrant Victor Von Doom or Dr. Doom (Julian MacMahon), who, in the last installment, was encased in a shipping crate and exported back to his home country of Latveria, makes a return in Rise. U.S. General Hager (Andre Braugher) is obviously not familiar with the ongoing comic book feud between the Fantastic Four and Dr. Doom as he asks that the five join forces in collaboration to tackle the Silver Surfer. All agree, but naturally, Doom has ulterior motives.

As a comic book-to-movie conversion, The Silver Surfer has a lot of positives in its favor. There's tons of action, plenty of CGI, mayhem and destruction. Most younger viewers will most assuredly be wowed by the special effects, despite the fact that there's really nothing here we haven't seen before. Comic book-friendly messages about responsibility, making good choices, and cooperation are sprinkled throughout, giving the story a good solid superhero foundation that stays true to its roots. But the entire film series is missing characters with weight and substance. Tobey Maguire's Spider-man feels real. We grow a fond attachment to him and we struggle with him as he fights his inner demons. But the Four never really rise up to become anything more than cheap cartoon characters or playtime action figures. Let alone the fact that their powers are some of the lamest in the comic book superhero realm. The filmmaking team of co-writers Don Payne and Mark Frost and returning director Tim Story try really hard to ground the characters with human substance that the audience can take a bite out of, but mediocre acting and amateurish dialogue deal a death knell.

There's undoubtedly a subset that'll love Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. And this contingent of faithful will probably drive the sequel to the financial success needed for a three-quel. But unlike so many of the other superhero movies that recently self-destructed upon their third installment, as far as I'm concerned, the Fantastic Four franchise blew apart when it started back in 2005.


DVD Details:

Screen formats: Widescreen 1.85:1; Full Screen 1.33:1

Subtitles: English; Spanish

Language and Sound: English: Dolby Digital 5.1

Other Features: Color; interactive menus; scene access.

* Commentary
o 1- With director Tim Story
o 2- With producer Avi Arad, writer Don Payne, and editors Peter S. Elliot and William Hoy
* Gallery - Still galleries of behind-the-scenes photos, characters, and concept art
* Deleted Scenes - (with optional commentary by Tim Story)
o "Full Main Title"
o "Fantastic Store,"
o "Wedding Montage,"
o "Reed Gets Crushed Ring"
o "Doom Builds Arm Band And Covers Up His Mask."
* Featurettes -
o Family Bonds - (46:00)
o Interactive multi-angle Fantasticar extra
o Scoring the Fantastic - (04:30)
o Character Design With Special Motion (11:30)
o The Power Cosmic (15:00)
o The Fantasticar: State Of The Art (10:30)
o Sentinel Of The Spaceways: Comic Book Origins Of The Silver Surfer (38:30)
* Trailers: for "The Simpsons Movie," "Live Free Or Die Hard, "Fantastic 4," "X-Men," "X-Men: United," "X-Men: The Last Stand," "Dark Angel," "Deck The Halls," "Futurama: Bender's Big Score," and two theatrical trailers for "F4: Rise Of The Silver Surfer.

Number of discs: - 2- Keepcase Packaging