Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. One figures a new, big-budget movie will look great, and Surfer lives up to those expectations.
Sharpness showed no problems at all. Even wide shots displayed nice delineation and clarity. The film always seemed accurate and distinctive. No signs of jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and edge enhancement appeared absent. In addition, I saw no signs of source flaws in this clean presentation.
While most flicks of this sort go for stylized hues, Surfer stayed with a warm palette. This made sense for the Four; they’ve always been the most domestic of superheroes, so natural hues were logical. And they looked great, as the colors consistently seemed lively and concise. Blacks were deep and dense, while shadows showed good clarity and smoothness. This was a terrific visual presentation.
Did the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Surfer compare with the picture? Yup – the audio was just as impressive as the visuals. With all the comic book action, the flick boasted many opportunities to charge the soundfield with lots of life. Flight scenes with the Surfer and/or Johnny zipped around the room, and the battles became quite encompassing. In particular, the military assault on the Surfer kicked things to life in a powerful manner. Elements featured good localization and placement, and they fit together quite well.
Audio quality also was strong. Speech seemed natural and crisp; no edginess or other flaws interfered. Music was bright and bold, and effects packed a great punch. Those parts of the track showed nice definition and vivacity. Overall, this was a top-notch soundtrack.
In terms of extras, we find two audio commentaries on DVD One. The first comes from director Tim Story as he provides a running, screen-specific chat. He discusses story and character notes, cut scenes and alterations, effects, costume and set design, allusions to the comics, and a few other production issues.
Story doesn’t exactly offer a high-energy conversation, as he tends to go silent a lot; these periods are brief but somewhat frequent. Nonetheless, I like the information he offers. It’s good that he comes at the film from a storytelling point of view; in these big action/effects flicks, that side often gets lost among technical tidbits, so I enjoy the character and plot-oriented side. Though Story doesn’t make this a great commentary, he proves informative and engaging enough.
For the second track, we hear from producer Avi Arad, writer Don Payne and editors Peter S. Elliot and William Hoy. The editors sit together, but the other two operate solo, and all four are cut together for this piece. We learn about script, story and related changes, cutting the film and pacing, effects, locations, and general notes.
Arad pops up infrequently and says little of substance when he does appear. However, the other three prove to be more useful. Because the director talked so much about the story and character aspects, some inevitable repetition occurs. However, this is minimal, especially since the writer and editors look at things from a different viewpoint. They’re even more than happy to criticize parts of the flick that think don’t succeed. This is an interesting and enjoyable piece.
DVD One opens with a pair of ads. We find Previews for The Simpsons Movie and Live Free or Die Hard.
As we shift to DVD Two, we start with a documentary called Family Bonds: The Making of Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. This 46-minute and 17-second show concentrates on behind the scenes footage, as it gives us a “fly on the wall” view of the production. During “Pre-Production”, we look at location scouts, various effects challenges, set design, story issues and changes, costumes and makeup. From there we move to “Production” and examine what happens during the actual shoot.
I love this kind of program, and “Bonds” proves satisfying. No, it doesn’t give us the perspective that a more traditional interview-format doc would bring, but the sense of immediacy we get more than compensates. “Bonds” provides a fine look at the flick.
Next we get an Interactive Fantasticar. Accept the term “interactive” with a grain of salt, for that implies more than this feature delivers. In reality, it just gives 12 conceptual drawings of the car. There’s nothing “interactive” about it.
Five pieces appear in the “Featurettes” domain. The Fantasticar: State of the Art runs 10 minutes, 36 seconds and offers notes from Story, concept artist Tim Flattery, TransFX project manager Charlie Zurian, TransFX Fantasticar project manager Mark Demlin, TransFX designer engineers Akiel and Phil, and actors Ioan Gruffudd and Michael Chiklis. “State” looks at the design and creation of the Fantasticar. It provides a pretty good take on those topics, as it covers things in a satisfactory manner.
For the 15-minute and nine-second The Power Cosmic, we get remarks from Fox Senior VP of VFX John Kilkenny. “Cosmic” examines the film’s adaptation of the Silver Surfer. We learn about character design and how the movie brought the Surfer to life as a CG participant. We also find notes about some of the other CG representations found in the flick. “Cosmic” loses some points due to monotony; with only one participant, it lacks variety. Nonetheless, Kilkenny throws out a lot of good notes, and he helps make this an informative piece.
Sentinel of the Spaceways: Comic Book Origins of the Silver Surfer fills 38 minutes, 39 seconds with info from FF creator Stan Lee, writer/artist Jim Starlin, and writers Ron Marz, Steve Englehart, and JM DeMatteis. “Sentinel” examines the beginnings of the Surfer in the comics and follows his development over the years. It also discusses the various folks who worked on the Surfer through time and how he changed.
Comic fans will probably already know much of this info, but “Sentinel” offers a very nice primer about the Surfer. It gives us a broad view of the character over time and discusses him in a compelling way. It doesn’t touch on every aspect of the Surfer’s career – oddly, we get no mention of John Byrne’s big-deal mid-80s take – but “Sentinel” still proves very worthwhile.
After this we find the 11-minute and 31-second Character Design with Spectral Motion. It includes statements from Chiklis and makeup prosthetic supervisor Mike Elizalde. The show views the design and creation of the Thing suit. We also watch how it gets put onto Chiklis. It’s another solid featurette on a DVD packed with great stuff.
Finally, Scoring the Fantastic lasts four minutes, 37 seconds and features composer John Ottman and score orchestrator/conductor Damon Intrabartolo. They offer a quick overview of the score and its recording. Don’t expect much depth, but this quick piece gives us a passable look at the music.
Five Extended and Deleted Scenes run a total of nine minutes, 37 seconds. We discover “Full Main Title” (3:58), “Fantastic Store” (1:10), “Wedding Montage” (2:02), “Reed Gets Crushed Ring” (1:10) and “Doom Builds Arm Band & Covers Up His Mask” (1:16). “Store” is insubstantial but fun, as is “Montage”. “Title” doesn’t really offer anything improved, though, and “Ring” is just goofy. “Doom” is also pretty expendable. Really, all the scenes are easily lost, so I can’t say any should’ve made the movie.
Nice touch department: most of the clips start and end with black and white shots to designate the material in the final cut. This makes it easier to tell what’s new.
We can watch these scenes with or without commentary from Story. He tells us a little about the segments as well as why he gave the sequences the boot. He offers the appropriate info.
Three pieces appear under Still Galleries. We find “Behind the Scenes” (25 shots), “Characters” (45) and “Concept Art” (30). The “Art” is definitely the most interesting of these, though some of the “Scenes” images are good. “Characters” is pretty much a waste of time, though.
Finally, we get some trailers. This domain includes two ads for Surfer as well as promos for the original Fantastic Four, X-Men, X-Men: United, X-Men: The Last Stand, Dark Angel, Deck the Halls and Futurama: Bender’s Big Score.
Based on the two movies to date, the Fantastic Four seem doomed to life as second-tier movie superheroes. Like the first movie, Rise of the Silver Surfer provides reasonable entertainment, but it lacks the depth, heart and power that I think it could’ve delivered. The DVD boasts excellent picture and audio as well as some fine extras. I think this is a terrific release, but the flick itself only sporadically entertains.
Two releases of Surfer are on the shelves: a single-disc version and this two-DVD “The Power Cosmic Edition”. If you buy the solo platter, you’ll still get the extras on this release’s first disc; it’s the materials on DVD Two that are exclusive to “The Power Cosmic”.