Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer Blu-ray Review
Movies reviewSRP: £24.79
PictureThe second Fantastic Four movie comes to Blu Ray presented with a lavish, broad and glistening 2.35:1 aspect ratio widescreen High Definition 1080p picture. It looks just about as fantastic as you would expect from the title, with superb detail throughout, no softness, no noticeable edge enhancement and simply no grain whatsoever. It's got the kind of picture-perfect look that is almost too real for real life (Jessica Alba looks almost as if she's been airbrushed into this movie) catering well for seamless CGI integration. The colour scheme offers great range and really makes the show spectacular as every colour, from the blues of their outfits to the fiery glow of the Human Torch. Blacks are solid, which allows for decent shadowing and night sequences. The bigger, more explosive set-pieces and shiny Silver Surfer effects look tremendous in High Definition and this is a fantastically glossy number to come glistening to the superior Blu Ray format. Building on the excellent presentation of the first Fantastic Four outing, this sequel is a strong contender for the best video transfer that I have ever come across.
SoundAs with the first movie, Rise of the Silver Surfer also comes to Blu Ray presented with a DTS HD 5.1 lossless audio track that, despite the fact that most home cinema owners would only be able to listen to the 'core' DTS element, still sounds superior to the DVD release's DTS mix. Dialogue comes presented clearly and coherently, predominantly across the fronts and centre channels but, again just like the first movie, the standout aspects are really the suitably patriotic theme-song - as well as the many outstanding effects, both of which fully utilise the wide spectrum of your six-speaker array. From the high-speed aerial chase through the city, to the military strikes on the Surfer and the massive planetary sequences, both your surrounds and your LFE channel get ignited almost throughout the movie. It's a superior audio track, and one of the best out there.
ExtrasThis Blu-ray release is arguably a milestone in the format's development, offering - for the first time - two Blu-ray extras that utilise the new BD-Java coding. Ok, so they are nothing more than simple games (the kind of which we've seen HD DVD capable of from inception) but they are still noteworthy as being a sign of improvement in the technology the format offers.
All of the other extras are identical to those found on the 2-disc DVD edition, but for the fact that we get most of them presented in 1080p High Definition. First up there are two Audio Commentaries, the first with the Director Tim Story and the second with the Producer Avi Arad, the Writer Don Payne and Film Editors Peter Elliot and William Hoy. As a commentator, the Director is quite engaging, offering up plenty of background into both the story and the production itself, noting the limitations of a comic story (particularly a family-orientated one), the way in which they tried to cater for the many different characters (and their actor counterparts) and the developments made since the original first adventure. The second commentary has a little less direction and, despite the numerous participants, often involves less interesting material. The group spend much of the time just sitting back and watching the movie, offering far less insight, although avid fans will want to listen to both commentaries if they want to absorb all the little titbits that are to be found.
There are six Deleted/Extended Scenes. These are all fairly poor quality, with a (imperceptibly different) Alternate Opening Titles Sequence, and much of the footage in black and white (I assume the colour bits are the extra bits). Totally some extra ten minutes' of material, they include mostly humorous sequences with Thing and Torch, an (also imperceptibly) extended wedding sequence and a tiny bit more Dr Doom. If the colour sequences were the only additions, then we're talking about three minutes extended footage, maximum. Disappointing. Thankfully there clearly isn't enough here to warrant an extended FF2.1, but there could also be more footage (particularly from the latter half of the movie) that they are holding back from this edition for such a double-dip.
Family Bonds: The Making of FF:RoSS is split into two sections: Pre- and Post-Production, and runs at a substantial forty minutes. From the roundtable crew discussions to the storyboarding and location-scouting, the initial segment looks closely into the founding work that needed to be done before shooting commenced. Often offering a fly-on-the-wall look at the discussions, it goes into significant detail on the preliminary ideas for the super-characters, from The Silver Surfer's surfing to Dr Doom's advanced outfit. In the second segment we see more of the scenes actually being filmed, with b-roll footage, shots of The Surfer sans-effects and Michael Chiklis' amusing encounter with a grizzly bear. It's a nice, unglamorous, entertaining and remarkably comprehensive offering that is well worth checking out.
The Fantasticar: State of the Art is an interesting Featurette, particularly for fans, because most Fantastic Four followers will know the history of this singular contraption. It is a fairly unique vehicle, which flies around transporting the super-quartet either together or separately and they did not do a bad job of bringing it to the Big Screen. Over this ten minute Featurette we get to find out how it came into existence, from the concept artwork to the computer animation, the CGI necessary, the models and the full-scale version.
The Power Cosmic takes about fifteen minutes to offer a more devoted look to bringing the character of the Silver Surfer to the Big Screen, but since much of this was already covered in the other Featurettes, this one feels a little less worthwhile.
Sentinel of the Spaceways: Comic Book Origins of The Silver Surfer is a forty-minute in-depth look at the history of the character (with comments from Stan Lee himself), from his comic book roots to the mythology that gives him some depth. The historical nature of this comprehensive Featurette will be of particular interest to fans.
Scoring the Fantastic takes five minutes with the composer John Ottman and his orchestra on hand to offer some limited input into how they put together the music for this comic-book superhero frolic.
Character Design with Spectral Motion is a Featurette that takes a specific look at this particular effects technique, used in tandem with an adaptive bodysuit to help Michael Chiklis bring his character of The Thing to life.
'Saving the world one question at a time' is one of the new BD-Java games. Basically it plays the movie with pop-up questions in tandem, and a bar along the bottom where Galactus is eating the planets. The questions are remarkably tough, only avid professors of Marvel comic lore will be able to answer all of these, but all in all it is nothing more than the kind of pop-up trivia quiz that has been available on the HD DVD format since its inception. Still, for Blu-ray it's totally new, so I guess it's a welcome addition.
'Who dares defy Galactus?' is the second BD-Java game, slightly better thought out, and capable of being played by up to two people. Basically it involves Galactus and the Surfer battling to destroy/protect planets, with the odd conflict between the two and some various random factors (as all good board games have) to either help or hinder the players. It's the kind of thing that would make for a fairly simple 7-12 year olds' board game, but again it is quite unusual for Blu-ray, so we'll take all we can get.
There is also a Stills Gallery (split into sections) and a bunch of Trailers, not only for this movie and its prequel, but also for other Blu-ray releases by Fox - LXG and the awful X-Men 3, all available from the main Extras menu, as well The Simpsons and Die Hard 4.0, which only play on Disc Startup.
VerdictIf you have absolutely no expectations for this movie, then you are likely to enjoy it, and if you liked the first Fantastic Four movie, then you'll probably love this one. Personally, they could have done a lot more with the characters (in particular Galactus) but considering how lightweight the original was, audiences will not be expecting anything significantly different from the sequel. Thankfully, there was room to develop a new adventure, and as colourful kids comic book stories go, this is a classic family affair. Fox's Blu-ray-exclusive release of Rise of the Silver Surfer is technically magnificent, with one of the best video and audio presentations that I have come across, and a wealth of (mostly substantial) Extras, including one of the very first examples of the new BD-Java capabilities. In that respect, this release should easily warrant a place in any fan's collection, although those who are a bit more sceptical (or who thought the first movie was a little insipid) should rent it first.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £24.79
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