Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007) / Action-Sci Fi
MPAA Rated: PG for violence, mild language, and innuendo
Running time: 92 min.
Cast: Ioan Gruffudd, Jessica Alba, Chris Evans, Michael Chiklis, Julian McMahon, Kerry Washington, Andre Braugher, Laurence Fishburne (voice), Doug Jones, Beau Garrett, Stan Lee (cameo)
Director: Tim Story
Screenplay: Don Payne, Mark Frost
The first thing I noticed before seeing this sequel to Fantastic Four is the PG rating, down from the PG-13 of its predecessor. It's curious, but reflecting upon the series thus far, it makes a certain sense, as the main fans of the 2005 film were the younger set, and those that enjoy superhero fare that stays light and comical. Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer knows its kid and teenage audience, and caters to it with great energy, offering up a fairly uncomplicated story and a great deal of comedy throughout. With more focus on just what the target demographics are, director Tim Story (Taxi, Barbershop) is able to deliver more consistency in the tone and style of this second entry. While it pales in comparison to more serious superhero series like X-Men and Batman Begins, it fills a niche in the genre for those who find many of the other franchises to be too dark, distasteful, and overwrought with angst.
Rise starts off with the wedding of Reed Richards (Gruffudd, King Arthur) and Susan Storm (Alba, Into the Blue), which has become such a celebrity event, it garners front page headlines in every major media outlet, pushing the strange sights in the night sky out of the picture. That is until the wedding is disrupted by the emergence of a silver humanoid figure (Jones, Pan's Labyrinth) riding what appears to be a surfboard, causing mass destruction wherever he appears. The Fantastic Four are called into action by the government to thwart what appears to be an attempt to destroy the Earth. They find themselves reluctantly allying with their old nemesis, Victor Von Doom (McMahon, Premonition), apparently surviving the previous battle, who eventually proves he cannot be trusted when he decides he wants the Surfer's cosmic powers for himself. Meanwhile, there is a huge force approaching Earth that gives the Four only days to come up with a solution before the planet is destroyed by this power of god-like proportions.
Growing up reading the comics, as well as watching the several cartoon series syndicated on television, I'm a huge nut of Marvel's "Fantastic Four". From a fan perspective, I must say that I do continue to be disappointed that the intelligence and creativity that made FF the self-proclaimed "World's Greatest Comic Book Magazine" has been reduced to such a corny and childish effort. Nevertheless, I must also admit that, while I certainly concede that the movies aren't very good, that they are entertaining despite their low-aiming scope. They are goofy, sure enough, but also unpretentious and fun in a way that the other superhero franchises aren't, unburdened by the notion that anyone has to take the films seriously. It's purely a popcorn movie for undiscriminating comic book film fans.
Despite the fact that I gave the first Fantastic Four a negative review, I must also guiltily admit that I have seen it multiple times now. I literally wince during many moments, and yet, it's so comical, both intentionally and unintentionally, that I find it amusing above and beyond the bad movie it is. The same thing can be said for this sequel. However, the amount of times I winced proved to be less for Rise of the Silver Surfer, and the amount of interest I had in the main story strengthened. It's a close call as to whether or not I would recommend it to someone not a fan of the first film, but I can say that it is, at the very least, a better effort.
The special effects are more lavish, the story less pedestrian (though no more complex), and Jessica Alba seems to be taking her role as Susan Storm much more seriously this time out (it makes a difference). It is still laden with some bad jokes, major contrivances, and an overriding predictability that may forever hamper the series from being truly challenging and absorbing, but it's easy to watch, so long as you aren't expecting anything revolutionary to change from the first film. Coming on board is the screenwriting talent of Don Payne, who collaborated on a previous superhero entry in My Super Ex-Girlfriend in between writing for TV's "The Simpsons". This film does have a stronger hit-to-miss ratio in the humor department than the fairly lowbrow 2005 effort, although not quite anything to brag about by any means.
My recommendation for Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer is that it will most likely please anyone who saw and enjoyed the first film, and it won't change the opinions of anyone who hated it. The Silver Surfer is a nice story direction, still popular, born famously from the "Fantastic Four" comic book, although Surfer fans will probably be very disappointed by the depiction of Galactus (looking nothing like his comic counterpart, and not nearly as impossible to defeat). Given the fact that it's probably too late to change the cartoonish, kid-targeting tone of the series without a major reboot down the road, you either have to take the films on their own dumb fun terms, or just ignore them altogether. Like seeing the uncoordinated egghead, Reed Richards on the dance floor, it's either shake your booty and look silly or sit down and sulk. Sure, it's embarrassing, but FF2 proves more fun if you decide to join in.
©2007 Vince Leo