Fantastic Four: Rise of
the Silver Surfer
June 15, 2007
Movie of the Day for Saturday, August 12, 2006
See other Movies of the Day
On the Big Board
||It's kind of inexplicable that this franchise is successful after two bad movies.
||At least it was short. Only Chiklis and Evans are well cast, everyone else...ugh. It's been a bad year for Marvel Comics adaptations.
||Just...horrible. They even managed to neuter Johnny Storm. The unholy trio of Ioan Gruffudd, Jessica Alba and Julian McMahon are an abomination.
||A paint by numbers corporate logo action movie with weak acting and worse hair. Sufer is cool, and there's one fantastic fx space shot at the end.
On July 8th, 2005, Fantastic Four faced an unenviable challenge. The first comic book outing from Barbershop director Tim Story needed a home run performance to justify its $100 million budget. Fox marketing had tried very hard to sell the production as a flightful celebration of superheroism, but reviewers were not sold. Only a quarter of the critics certified by Rotten Tomatoes gave the movie a passing grade.
The real battle, however, was the changing behavior of movie-going consumers. The prevalence of DVDs as well as post office rental services such as Netflix had kept customers from heading to the theater at an alarming rate. Even the finale of the Star Wars franchise had not been enough to stop to alter the fundamental changes in box office behavior. People were not in a movie-going mood in the summer of 2005. For 19 (!) consecutive weekends, box office declined from the same frame in 2004. No studio wanted to be in the business of releasing tentpoles when Fantastic Four came out.
But then something strange happened.
A movie tracking in the mid-30s somehow managed to find $20 million more in business. $56 million worth of customers banged on the doors of local theaters until ushers let them. This total surpassed what the latest release in the lauded Batman franchise had managed two weeks prior. Most impressively, Fantastic Four almost single-handedly stopped the box office slump. Its total was more than the next three films in the top ten combined, leaving critics to shake their heads about what was wrong with movie-goers. Had they not been warned? The answer was yes but the reality is that few cared.
Fantastic Four is a fun movie. It's not a classic in the Sam Raimi mold nor does it have the depth of Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins or Bryan Singer's Superman Returns. Conversely, it offers something that none of these titles may claim. Through Johnny Storm, viewers are allowed to celebrate the nature of superheroism, thereby living vicariously through the powerful, immature character. All of the recent comic book adaptations have failed to capitalize on this to the degree Fantastic Four did. As a result, Fox wound up with almost $330 million in world-wide receipts as well as franchise potential.
Given that many found the first film lackluster, however, Fox is now faced with the task of producing a quality sequel. The key is to keep all of the core elements that made the original so appealing while introducing themes which will expand the audience to all four quarters. Fox had $102.8 million of success with the apocalyptic superhero themes of X-Men: The Last Stand. As such, it's not surprising to see the studio mining the same themes for the Fantastic Four sequel.
Fantastic Four and the Silver Surfer will introduce, well, the Silver Surfer. The shiny intergalactic herald arrives on Earth. Comic book fans recognize that this means Galactus, the being whose diet consists solely of planets, cannot be far behind. While the heroes are dealing with the enigmatic Silver Surfer and planning Reed and Sue's wedding, old foe Victor Von Doom's frozen body has been taken to Latveria. And once he gets out of the microwave, he's gonna be pissed. With Galactus the potential Big Bad, Silver Surfer doing his usual flip-flop between heroism and villainy and Doom hell-bent on revenge, the Fantastic Four are going to have their hands full in the sequel.
Fox has a single goal with the next project. They want to follow the X-Men release pattern of bumping from a mid-50s opening into a mid-80s opening with the sequel. The key is whether audiences hold the original title's lackluster quality against it or simply focus on how entertaining Johnny Storm is. If it's the latter, Fox essentially gets the same mulligan they had with X2: X-Men United. (David Mumpower/BOP)