Silver Surfer Challenges CG Penguins

You can spend some time figuring out the different Fantastic Four ‘surfing’/'boarding’/'rising’ into/onto theaters/theater screens headlines this weekend as Fox Studio’s Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer is set to debut in 3,957 theaters today.

Directed by Tim Story (who also helmed the first F4 outing), the movie reunites the cast of the original pic (Ioan Gruffudd, Jessica Alba, Chris Evans, Michael Chiklis). The real star of the movie is arguably the cool mo-cap/CG incarnation of the Silver Surfer’portrayed by the amazing Doug Jones of Hellboy and Pan’s Labyrinth fame’ and voiced by Laurence Fishburne. VFX houses Weta Digital, The Orphanage, Gentle Giant Studios, The Hatch, Hydraulx, Image Engine Design, Lola VFX and Soho VFX contributed to the CG razzle dazzle. Oscar-winner Scott Squires is the film’s vfx supervisor.

Why legitimate reviewers even bother reviewing comic book films certainly puzzling! They are what they are. And if Peter Travers thinks F4 is ‘not egregiously awful like the first film, (but) just plain awful,’ who’s he kidding? Comic book fans generally either don’t read Rolling Stone or don’t care what the graying pub says. Which partly explains why the most recent trilogy of Star Wars films, while almost un-watchable, banked almost $2.5 billion in worldwide box office. As Variety puts it, ‘At a time when tortured superheroes like Spider-Man, Superman and Batman would benefit from some serious psychotherapy, it’s almost refreshing to see a comic-book caper as blithe, weightless and cheerfully dumb as Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer.”

Marvel fans are sure to push F4 to the top of the pile this weekend, though early tracking data suggests it will not top the $56 million debut of the first FF film. In a sign of the times, where piracy is being fought with day-and-date worldwide releases, F4 is also set today for a 3,000-theater release in 31 overseas markets, including Italy, Russia and the U.K.

While this weekend’s PG-release Nancy Drew (Warner Bros.) is being referred to in some publications as ‘counter-programming,’ it’s hard to see the two demos for the respective films as two sides of the same coin. Holdovers this weekend include Oceans Thirteen, Pirates of the Caribbean, Shrek the Third and Knocked Up. Numbers for sneak peeks of Disney/Pixar’s much-anticipated Ratatouille (Saturday at 7 p.m. in most theaters nationwide) meanwhile, could turn out to be the big story of the weekend. Fox’s Silver Surfer will also be challenging the laid-back animated penguins of Sony’s Surf’s Up, which should continue riding their recent wave of popularity.