Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (PG)
One of the more derided comic book movies of the last decade gets an improbable but inevitable sequel with Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, a movie that made $57.4 million its opening week.
The original movie, released in 2005, ultimately made some $330 million at the box office worldwide, according to Wikipedia. Hey, I’m not pointing fingers, I like movies too. I’d probably see Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer even if somebody wasn’t paying me to do it, if for no other reason than that you must know to mock. But, I probably would probably take my time — maybe I’d hit Spider-Man 3 again first.
The “fantastic” gang is still together — Reed Richards (Ioan Gruffudd) a.k.a Mr. Fantastic, Sue Storm (Jessica Alba) a.k.a. Invisible Woman, Johnny Storm (Chris Evans) a.k.a Human Torch and Ben Grimm (Michael Chikilis) a.k.a. The Thing. Johnny is enjoying the corporate sponsorships and the women that come with Fantastic Four fame and Ben is enjoying the smashing but Reed and Sue are having a harder time with things. The couple is planning their wedding (well, their most recent version of it — world crises keep calling them away from the altar) and Sue worries that they’ll never be able to have a normal life. Reed is nerd enough to be indifferent to the fame but he is a bit annoyed that all this super-heroing is taking time from his research and inventions.
On the eve of yet another wedding, The Government — as represented by a stony General Hager (Andre Braugher — oh, Andre Braugher, I’m so sorry) — shows up to ask Reed to track a weird phenomenon that is messing with the power in major cities and creating giant craters across the globe. Reed says no — to Sue’s delight — but he really means yes and starts covertly tracking what turns out to be a silver dude on a surf board. Meanwhile, somewhere in wherever villains go to recuperate from their failures in first movies, Victor Van Doom (Julian McMahon) a.k.a. Dr. Doom comes back to life just enough to get interested in the silver surfer as well.
Naturally, the Silver Surfer strikes New York just as Sue and Reed are about to say “I do” on a Manhattan rooftop and off the gang goes to save the day, this time with some resentment providing extra baggage.
Allow me to fast forward through a bunch of “the tachyon pulse creates a field” type scenes of comic-science and some “is Sue and Reed’s marriage going to break up the team” hooey to get right to the meat of the world in peril. Silver Surfer works for Galactus, a big CGI cloud that destroys planets. Mr. Surfer shows up, drills a few holes, points the way to Galactus and then lets the cloud do its work. If Sue and Reed ever want to get married — or, you know, to continue existing — the Fantastic Four must find a way to defeat Galactus and incidentally keep down Victor, who, thanks to a run-in with the Silver Surfer, is Nip-Tuck-ed back into fighting form.
Here’s the biggest sin of Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer — it’s lame. There is a ho-humness about Fantastic Four — nobody cared enough to put fun or wow into the movie. Nobody risked anything — there is no sneaky humor that could work or not work, there are no actory touches that might fall short or might give the movie a surprising subtlety, there are no special effects that could look too computery or could turn out awe-inspiring. The movie has been milded to death — even the media circus stuff about Reed and Sue’s wedding or Johnny’s sudden desire to be “John” (Johnny, his marketing experts were telling him, was skewing too young) has none of the cleverness that could make such moments sly little gems. The kids’ cartoon Surf’s Up was funnier in how it used its documentary and sports-network shtick and that movie still managed to be a broad, silly romp.
Gruffudd recently acted the heck out of the history-geek movie Amazing Grace and Chikilis has proved his ability to be more than just the stocky guy with his role on The Shield. Even Jessica Alba — who is a weird blonde hairdo and nothing more in these movies — was for one season an appealing action character on the silly fun Dark Angel. Why does this movie ask nothing of them but to model their Fantastic Four jumpsuits and recite bland dialogue?
There’s nothing better than the purely fun rollercoaster ride of a good popcorn movie. Fantastic Four doesn’t need to be ironic or epic or serious. It just needs to be something. C-
Rated PG for sequences of action violence, some mild language and innuendo. Directed by Tim Story and written by Don Payne, Mark Frost and John Turman (from characters by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee), Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer is an hour and 35 minutes long and is distributed in wide release by 20th Century Fox.