Created in 1966, the Silver Surfer is one of the most powerful superheroes in the Marvel Universe. He wields the Power Cosmic, an energy that is bound to the nature of reality itself, and as such has pretty much no limits. The Silver Surfer's story began when he persuaded the world-devouring Galactus to spare his world by offering himself as a Herald. When the Surfer came to Earth, though, he rebelled against his master, and since then has fought to redeem himself from his universally known association with that terrible force.
The story of the Silver Surfer is one of nobility and of redemption, and he's been featured in a number of ongoing series. Recently, with the release of Silver Surfer #6, Marvel is celebrating 200 issues of Silver Surfer since the character's creation! It seems like a good time to ask: could we ever see a Silver Surfer movie?
The Silver Surfer's Movie History
The character of the Silver Surfer is closely tied to the Fantastic Four, and as such it's no surprise that the property is licensed to Fox. He played a major role in 2007's Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, which was loosely based on his origin story. The Surfer was played by Doug Jones, with a computer simulation to create the shimmering effects; his visit to Earth led to an encounter with Doctor Doom, who briefly drained the Surfer's power. Discovering humanity's nobility, the Surfer regained his power, and successfully drove back his master Galactus.
The film's mid-credits scene revealed that the Silver Surfer had survived. Fox's original plan was to launch a spin-off solo film, and J. Michael Straczynski was hired to write a script. Straczynski explained:
"It picks up right where the FF movie left off and it's designed to answer the questions that were asked in the movie but really weren't dealt with there, which [were]: Where did he come from, why did he become the Surfer and what is he doing here now?"
Rise of the Silver Surfer performed poorly at the box office, and received largely negative critical reviews. Fox chose to shelve both this project and a plan to create a third Fantastic Four film; the franchise would ultimately be relaunched completely in 2015.
Could There Be a Fantastic Four Sequel?
2015's Fantastic Four - directed by Josh Trank - was a troubled film, and performed poorly at the box office. Trank's unconventional vision of the franchise clashed with the studio's hopes for a family-friendly, lightweight superhero franchise, and the finished product was largely unsatisfying. Surprisingly, though, there's real interest in making a sequel. Simon Kinberg commented:
“We want to make another Fantastic Four movie. We love that cast - I mean if I were to say to you now Michael B. Jordan and Miles Teller, and Kate [Mara] and Jamie [Bell] are great actors - we love that cast. I love the comic, I mean I love it almost as much as X-Men.”
A sequel would be a difficult pitch — the mismatched tone and style of Fantastic Four would essentially mean the sequel had to create a whole new identity of its own. It would also be a hard sell from a commercial point of view.
Under the terms of their license, if Fox don't create a Fantastic Four movie then the rights revert to Marvel; although most fans believe the timeframe to be somewhere in the region of 7 years, neither party has ever publicly confirmed this. Fox seem unwilling to allow the rights to revert to Marvel, so we're very likely to see another Fantastic Four movie (possibly even a sequel) in the future. This may even involve another version of the Silver Surfer!
What About a Standalone Silver Surfer Movie?
Fox could choose to take another approach, though. Instead of making another Fantastic Four film that features the Silver Surfer, the studio could make a solo Silver Surfer film! In reality, there's little about the Silver Surfer's origin that mandates the existence of the Fantastic Four. It's his encounters with humanity - specifically, blind sculptress Alicia Masters - that persuade him to oppose Galactus and spare our world.
What's more, removing the Fantastic Four from the equation could actually create a stronger film. Imagine the threat of Galactus looming over a modern-day world — a world without superheroes, desperately striving to defend itself through conventional means, while Galactus's herald watches us with growing pity. Have him walk among us, fall in love, and out of love deny his master. There's real potential for an intriguing science-fiction story with (if scripted and acted well) a very human love story. It's possible the film could even switch Alicia Masters for Dawn Greenwood, the Surfer's current love interest in the comics.
Another alternative, of course, is to tie this into the X-Men universe. We know that New Mutants will include the character of Warlock (an alien), and there are strong rumors that the future X-Men films will head into space. It may be possible to absorb the Silver Surfer into this developing universe.
Fox's traditional superhero approach has been to focus on a tentpole franchise, and then launch spin-offs and tie-ins. This approach has had mixed success, but the stratospheric success of Deadpool must surely have taught the studio that there are real gems buried in the sand. Deadpool would have performed exactly the same whether it had been set in the same universe as the X-Men or not, and in the same way a well-scripted and well-acted Silver Surfer movie can stand on its own two feet.
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The sad truth is that I don't think we're likely to see more of the Silver Surfer on the big screen anytime soon. Personally, I view a Fantastic Four sequel as an unwise development; the tonal and plotting inconsistencies in the first film will make the sequel an awkward fit. I think we're more likely to see Fox reboot the franchise yet again in time to prevent the license reverting to Marvel. Meanwhile, the studio greenlit Deadpool largely because of fan enthusiasm and the fact the movie had a low budget. The idea of a solo Silver Surfer film isn't one that fans have really considered, and the special effects alone would demand a high budget. I can't see Fox taking a shot at this.
For now, the Silver Surfer is a character whose adventures are limited to comics. We had a glimpse of his potential in 2007's Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, but it was only a hint of all that he could bring to the big screen. We'll have to settle with the tremendous ongoing series, written by Dan Slott and with the amazing art of Mike Allred!
Do you want to see a Silver Surfer film? Let me know in the comments! Meanwhile, don't forget to pick up Silver Surfer #6, the 200th issue of this fantastic character's adventures!