Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer
Despite a hype machine gone into overdrive (multiple promos on ESPN, too many showings of #1 on Cinemax and even newly minted coins), last weekend's debut of Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer performed only slightly better ($57.4 million) than its predecessor at the box office, according to Box Office Mojo's list of Marvel Movie franchises.

Don't think it was a big surprise to anyone, except maybe Fox and Marvel, hoping for a second big opening in 2007 after Ghost Rider grossed an amazing $45 million, another Valentine's Day weekend splash from Daredevil director Mark Steven Johnson.

Although my pal and member of the Comics Alliance, Ian Sattler, was in the minority among critics who liked the sequel, according to Rotten Tomatoes, he's in great company. USA Today reviewer Scott Bowles points out "And once you accept that Fantastic Four is not trying to be anything deeper than popcorn fare, the ride can be fun -- with an ending more satisfying than Spider-Man 3." Talk about damning with faint praise...

Full disclosure: I haven't seen FF2 yet, and only saw the first one late last year on Cinemax. Why? As a child who grew up during the classic Kirby-Lee era of the mid 60s, I've had higher-than-high expectations for a FF movie, and Tim Story's version got the look right, if not the feel.

A pair of friends who toil in the film business -- one of them actually worked on both FF films -- argued a very long time ago that the only way you could make Reed, Sue, Johnny and Ben really "fantastic" was to surround them in the right environment, meaning the mid 60s. I suspect they'd be very surprised and gratified knowing I held onto that passing thought of theirs for a quarter-century. I also knew, then and now, that was something neither Marvel or any studio would ever consider, unless the filmmaker had considerable street cred (think Martin Scorsese).

My advice: Check out Marvel's FF archives ideally on the cheap -- the Essentials series of trades or a near complete set available on DVD -- then go in with an open mind.

If you need help finding some of those choice moments in FF history in comics, check out the Top 10 list created by Noel Murray for The Onion's A.V. Club.

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