Fantastic Four: The Rise of the Silver Surfer

For better or worse, there’s another Fantastic 4 movie. The first one was entertaining in places, especially the sections that included the Human Torch, but overall it failed to live up to it’s source material and I regard it as a lightweight in the superhero movie genre. The sequel is made by the same folks and brings the entire cast back.

This time a strange figure has been seen all over the earth. It flies in, causes trouble by changing matter at the subatomic level and then flies away again. The team is enlisted by the army, delaying Reed and Sue’s wedding yet again, to figure out what the phenomenon is. It turns out that the interloper is the Silver Surfer, whose name is a better description of him than I can give. And, as the Surfer explains, he is the harbinger of something much worse.

The Silver Surfer is one of the more popular characters in the Marvel Universe. Like the Hulk and the Submariner he’s somewhat ambiguous as far as the whole good guy/bad guy thing goes but unlike the those two he’s conflicted about it. Visually, he’s also pretty cool.

It’s a striking image that translates beautifully to film. This is a good movie for special effects, if not a particularly innovative one. The powers of the team are convincingly portrayed, especially Reed’s stretching.

I guess the problem is with me. I prefer a darker tone to my superhero movies, something closer to the magnificent Batman Begins. The FF filmmakers chose to go with a comedy/soap opera approach. Considering that–I would call it unfortunate–choice, they’ve done pretty well.

Ioan Gruffudd brings a humanity to Reed that isn’t always there in the comic books. You can see the scars from a childhood and adolescence where his intelligence isolated him from his peers and made him an object of derision. You can also see his struggles, trying to balance his powerful curiosity with his need to please Sue Storm, his fiance. Jessica Alba is growing on me as Sue. She hasn’t quite got it yet but she’s making progress. Michael Chiklis, as Ben Grimm, the Thing, isn’t given much to do this time around, but he’s a good match for the character. And Chris Evans, as Johnny Storm, the Human Torch is actually given a character arc. He’s the best thing in the two movies. Julian McMahon’s Doctor Doom is still boringly conventional. There’s so much more that could be done with that character. Doug Jones captures the physicality of the Silver Surfer.

The script is decent, even if it’s a pale shadow of the original Stan Lee/Jack Kirby epic it’s based on. Geeks everywhere will bemoan the decision to show Galactus only as a cloud about to devour the earth. Explaining Galactus, however, probably would have added another half hour to the film.

So I guess I need to put away my hopes and expectations until the next Batman movie. The Fantastic 4 is what it is.

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