Truth be told, I wasn’t all that averse to Tim Story-directed Fantastic Four when it came out a couple of years ago. I didn’t really RECOMMEND it to anyone, dear Lord don’t get me wrong, but I didn’t understand the venom thrown at it. I could look over glaring acting problems, lame attempts at humor, and the fact that they royally screwed up Doctor Doom. What I really had a problem with was that the entire film seemed like it was the first twenty minutes of another, better superhero movie played out at feature length.
They fixed that this time around with the Rated PG sequel, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, which is a vibrant creature straight from the Silver Age. The emphasis is on action and special effects and bright-colored set pieces. And it tells a story with a beginning, middle, and an end and though there are plenty of effects shots, they are there to serve, and not to be the main attraction.
And it may please some of you that they did NOT emo any of the characters like they did in Spider-Man 3. Thank God for small favors.
The Fantastic Four have been busy since we last saw them. One of the things I like is that this movie assumes an ensuing two years have passed and it just doesn’t pick up where the last one left off. The Four have been galavanting and saving the world. Sue and Reed (Jessica Alba and Ioan Gruffudd) are set to be wed, but global catastrophes keep coming up, as global catastrophes are wont to do. Johnny (Chris Evans) is still womanizing and playing Media Darling and Ben (Michael Chiklis) has found some measure of peace with his lady Alicia (Kerry Washington).
But yet ANOTHER postponement is called for in the Richards-Storm nuptials when The Silver Surfer arrives on Earth. He makes it snow in areas where it has no business snowing and makes big friggin’ craters everywhere. These events are used to summon a world-devouring cloud that the Surfer calls Galactus. Guess what HE wants to do?
The acting has improved considerably with this installment. Chris Evans as Johnny Storm is still energetic and funny. And Michael Chiklis is still startling when you consider that the happy work he does in these two movies and the edgy shit that’s on The Shield comes from the same guy. On a related note, The Thing looks more like orange rock and less like a yellow, dried-out turd this time around.
But the real improvement is Gruffudd as Mr. Fantastic. He’s not as bland as the first time and seems very much the eager and bright-eyed nerd we’ve seen in the comic books for for decades. I will take to my grave the scene at Reed’s bachelor party where instead of hitting on the hot girls at the club he explains the Big Bang theory to them.
“Wow, you’re really smart.”
“Thank you very much, that means a lot coming from you.”
And he was so earnest and sincere when he said it that it cracked me the fuck up.
And then we have Jessica Alba. I’d like to tell you about her performance, but I can’t. Her BLINDING BLUE CONTACT LENSES kept getting in the way. Seriously, it took me out of the movie. I was sitting there, thinking “Hmm, this is inter-WHAT THE FUCK IS UP WITH HER FACE?!”
And that part where she told The Silver Surfer that “The spice must flow” made no sense at all…
Now how about that Silver Surfer, huh? Played in mo-cap by Guillermo del Toro vet Doug Jones and voiced by Laurence Fishburne, he is the first and last word in “Whoa, cool.” As a matter of fact, seeing the Surfer do what he does could validate the ticket price all by itself.
But then we have Julian McMahon who makes his return as Doctor Doom. Is it just me, or is Butters as Professor Chaos a more convincing diabolical mastermind? He doesn’t sound as the scourge of Latveria should sound, nor does he have the presence. Being as he should be in a mask for future installments as a good Doom should, can’t we get someone else? Someone who sounds more imposing than the Nip/Tuck dude? Y’know… Like Eddie Deezen?
And I can hear some of you die-hard comic fans grumbling that Galactus is a cloud and not the horned baddie from those hallowed and dusty Marvel monthlies. But don’t you think that’s kind of shallow and silly? The casual moviegoer doesn’t care. And does anyone REALLY have an emotional attachment to Galactus anyway? If you’ve seen the quadzillion OTHER planetary threats in the CGI age, you’ve seen ‘em all.
Try explaining your gripes about that to someone who isn’t a comic book fan and just paid his money at the box office to have a good time. And for bonus points, try NOT to sound like a demented Jehovah’s Witness.
“YOU ARE WRONG! HERE IS A PAMPHLET THAT SAYS WHY!”
Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer doesn’t harass us with a love story no one cares about. It’s energetic, accentuates its positives, and doesn’t give its negatives a second thought. In a summer where the emphasis is on volume and not on fun, this film is a welcome break from all that.
*** out of 4
Check out another Geeks of Doom review for FF: RotSS here.