The Fantastic Four have been pretty unlucky when it comes to big-screen adaptations. The noughties franchise starring Ioan Gruffudd was canned after the second movie and the less said about the latest reboot the better.
Now, finally Marvel has got the rights back and there’s new hope for fans, with the Avengers: Endgame writers interested in making a Silver Surfer movie. But things could have been very different if a planned solo Silver Surfer movie had been made years ago.
The Surfer’s a pretty unique character. He can channel cosmic energy, rearrange molecules and travel the universe at light speed on a surfboard.
All this power comes from Galactus, a cosmic entity that devours planets.
The Silver Surfer was once an ordinary guy called Norrin Radd from the planet Zenn-La, but when Galactus tried to eat Radd’s planet, he saved his world by becoming Galactus’ herald. That basically means he scours the universe for planets for his master to destroy.
It’s only when he comes to Earth and meets the Fantastic Four that he starts rethinking this way of life.
In the 1980s, Xanadu executive producer Lee Kramer was determined to make a Silver Surfer movie which would bring together a vast cosmic universe with a rock ‘n’ roll soundtrack.
He said: “We’re going to make an epic picture on the scope of 2001: A Space Odyssey with the kind of soundtrack that that film had, only using contemporary rock ‘n’ roll. It’s even conceivable that the Surfer might have a chant or a fanfare made up of one thousand electric guitars.”
That’s some way to introduce a character – and that wasn’t all. The composer could have been none other than Paul McCartney. Yes, really. The Beatles legend was approached to write the music – and he was interested.
The concept art shows the extraordinary figure of the bald, chrome-coloured Surfer travelling through space. It indicates the scale of the movie, and the striking image of the Surfer as someone both alien and human as he gazes at his reflection in the surface of his surfboard.
At that time, though, Marvel had lost the rights to the Fantastic Four, so Kramer asked Stan Lee to come up with a solo Silver Surfer story.
Together with Jack Kirby, Lee produced a new graphic novel for the movie. It retold the story of the Surfer travelling to Earth, recognising humanity’s potential for greatness and deciding to go against Galactus. This time the Fantastic Four had nothing to do with it.
Kramer wanted his then-girlfriend Olivia Newton-John to star in the film so Lee added the character of Ardina, a female version of the Surfer.
Galactus creates Ardina to try and get his herald back. Inevitably, Ardina falls for the Surfer and defies Galactus, so Galactus kills her and threatens to destroy the Earth if the Surfer doesn’t come back to him.
In the end, the Surfer sacrifices himself and returns to his master.
So we’ll all just have to sit and wonder what a rock opera Silver Surfer movie, scored by Paul McCartney and starring Olivia Newton-John would have been like. It would probably have still been better than the 2015 Fantastic Four reboot, mind.