Mark Reviews Movies

FANTASTIC FOUR: RISE OF THE SILVER SURFER

1 ½ Stars (out of 4)

Director: Tim Story

Cast: Ioan Gruffudd, Jessica Alba, Chris Evans, Michael Chiklis, Julian McMahon, Kerry Washington, Andre Braugher, Doug Jones, the voice of Laurence Fishburne

MPAA Rating: PG  (for sequences of action violence, some mild language and innuendo)

Running Time: 1:32

Release Date: 6/15/07


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Review by Mark Dujsik

The first Fantastic Four wasn't as bad as some would leave you to believe, but it was a pretty generic superhero movie. Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer raises the stakes so high it seems an act of desperation, and yet, it's still a really generic superhero movie—and a quickly assembled, shoddily produced one at that. The first movie at least had the potentially interesting premise of focusing on how the newfound celebrity brought on by newfound superpowers would affect someone; the sequel has the heroes attempting to stop the imminent destruction of the planet by forces from deep space. That's a bit of a stretch from point A to B. There's a mistaken assumption on screenwriters Don Payne and Mark Frost's part that these characters and this team deserve an out-there kind of story. What's still needed in this series (something that will probably never come, if things progress in the same vein they do here) is a further definition of the Fantastic Four—who they are and what their world consists of. Basically, what sets them apart from the slew of other superheroes out there that justifies that their story be told.

The movie opens with the shot of a planet dying and subsequently imploding and exploding, as a streak of silver speeds away. It rounds the moon and heads straight down to Earth. As it passes Japan, the water solidifies. It causes a snow storm in Giza and a power outage in Los Angeles. The world is in chaos, but the news quickly shifts over to the marriage of Reed Richards (Ioan Gruffudd) and Sue Storm (Jessica Alba), a.k.a. Mr. Fantastic and the Invisible Woman. As the nuptials approach, Reed is (appropriately) concerned with the radical climate shifts and strange occurrences across the globe, but Sue thinks he's being distant. To relieve some tension, Sue's brother Johnny, or the Human Torch (Chris Evans), and their rock-built friend Ben Grimm, a.k.a. the Thing (Michael Chiklis), take him to a club for a bachelor party, where he's accosted by Sue and General Hager (Andre Braugher, squandered as he usually is), who wants Reed to build a sensor that can determine where the cosmic radiation—which Reed says is similar to the kind that gave the four their powers—will strike next. When the cosmic interference ruins the wedding, the team goes to action.

After three of the team work together to stop a helicopter, Johnny chases the blur—a silver man on what looks like a surfboard—and dubs him the Silver Surfer (voice of Laurence Fishburne with Doug Jones doing motion-capture work). That's after he somehow survives being tossed from the stratosphere and landing in the desert. I guess the sand broke his fall?  Anyway, Reed uses his (what must be incredibly) high-tech computer system to somehow map out where the Surfer has gone in galaxies across the universe and discovers that all those planets have been destroyed. Johnny ends up having the ability to swap powers with his teammates, which is supposed to be funny, I guess, and the team tracks the Surfer to the River Thames, where they hold up a Ferris wheel before it falls. Here's a question: In the first movie, we learned that Sue can create a force field that can safely contain a thermonuclear blast, but how come she needs help holding back the wheel? Here's a better question: Why does director Tim Story keep the focus of the potential Ferris wheel disaster on a random guy who kinda, sorta comes close to almost being in peril?

The Silver Surfer has a back-story. He loves his home planet and someone on it, and no, the screenwriters are not ashamed to have him tell Sue, "You remind me of her." See, he's simply a messenger of (really) bad news, working for a force that has many names, though on the Surfer's planet it's called "Galactus, devourer of worlds," which seems an appropriate name for this thing on any planet, really. There's a lot of science-fiction blather, traversing the globe (at one point, the team ends up in Siberia), and attempts at cheesy one-liners. Sue and Reed want a normal life, leading Johnny to wonder with Ben what the remaining two would do ("What would we call ourselves? The 'Dynamic Duo?'"), and Dr. Victor Von Doom (Julian McMahon) shows up again to cause more problems. The movie is (literally) all over the place (there's a fight next to the Great Wall), and with an hour and a half running time, it simply doesn't have the desire to flesh any of story or character elements out. The actors look and sound uncomfortable most of the time, and the special effects apart from the Surfer are unpolished and unconvincing. Can a giant explosion take place right next to our planet without any consequences?

It all ends in a muddy, ugly climax, as a giant vortex-like cloud hovers over and slowly descending on the planet, and a complete abandonment of the entire teamwork concept that seems to be the series' only somewhat distinguishing factor. The point of Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer seems to be that a shiny, neutered, computer-generated humanoid can learn the importance of personal responsibility. I don't know, but the series needs to find its place or just give up.

Copyright © 2007 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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