Genre: Superhero Running Time: 1 hr. 32 min.
Release Date: June 15th, 2007 MPAA Rating: PG
Director: Tim Story Actors: Ioan Gruffudd, Jessica Alba, Chris Evans, Michael Chiklis, Julian McMahon, Kerry Washington, Andre Braugher, Laurence Fishburne, Doug Jones, Beau Garrett, Brian Posehn
ne of the most visually impressive and action-packed films of the summer, “Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer” is also one of the most lifeless. Proving once again that special effects can’t make up for a ridiculous plot and ludicrous characters, Tim Story’s highly anticipated blockbuster fails to be as entertaining as the original – which, based on the 2005 film’s critical reception, should not have been a difficult accomplishment (though certainly a trend with sequels). This, of course, means that this follow-up probably should have been scrapped for the likes of a reboot.
On the brink of the fourth time that Reed Richards, a.k.a. Mr. Fantastic (Ioan Gruffudd), and Sue Storm, a.k.a. the Invisible Woman (Jessica Alba), are attempting to get married, a cosmic disturbance causes satellites and tracking systems to go haywire. A mysterious, metallic, humanoid alien has come to Earth to see its destruction at the hands of its master, Galactus, an all-powerful, planet-consuming monstrosity (of curiously cloudy computer graphics). As the military attempts to recruit the Fantastic Four to aid in capturing the “Silver Surfer” (Doug Jones), Victor Von Doom (Julian McMahon) makes a reappearance to suspiciously aid the foursome in saving the world. But allegiances and partnerships are put in check as the pressures surmount for the heroes as well as the super-powerful Surfer – who may end up being the key to preventing the fall of humanity.
Starting up with the usual, overwhelming amount of comedy and jokes, the story quickly advances as the hilariously bizarre Silver Surfer makes an appearance to crash the media-crazed wedding of Mr. Fantastic and the Invisible Woman. Everything happens fast in this film, which is understandable considering its brief (for a superhero movie) 92-minute running time. When the group is charged with building complex devices to track the dangerous silver alien, they have them completely ready to go by the very next scene; they jump from location to location in the blink of an eye, as if mastering teleportation along with their existing superpowers; and, once again, technical jargon is craftily avoided by blatantly refusing to explain anything. The audience doesn’t care to know how or why things work anyway, so this ultimately just saves time. And in a world where people can stretch their body parts to unimaginable lengths or engulf themselves in flames, who really needs an explanation?
So many ridiculous concepts and ideas surface in this film. Dr. Doom returns, this time to help the good guys catch a different bad guy. But his true intentions are so glaringly obvious, it’s preposterous to think they would ever go along with his plan. And the government and army are the ones to instigate the reunion as well as to mastermind the apprehension. Their leader, General Hager (Andre Braugher), pushes the Fantastic Four around like they’re less than human, reminiscent of the general hatred shown towards mutants from the X-Men franchise. Why do the humans have any power over these superheroes? And why do they continue to help even when they are imprisoned by the army?
Their loyalty to the betterment of mankind is apparently far stronger than the fragile strings that hold the plot together. Jessica Alba looks like she’s lost all the curves she had in the prior feature, while Ben’s blind girlfriend Alicia (Kerry Washington) looks like she did Alba’s hair. But the makeup for the Thing (Michael Chiklis) is still impressive, as are the abundance of special effects and nonstop momentum.
The short running time of the film is probably due to all the money spent on the bells and whistles that make this film so visually stunning. However, those flourishes can’t save the humdrum tone of the story or the groan-inducing one-liners that pepper the always diminishing seriousness. With the ever-so-obvious future sequel setup, the overbearing “love will save the day” theme, and the “Hot Party Girl” cast members (Debbie Timuss, Moneca Delain, and Crystal Lowe) conspicuously high on the end-credits cast list, this progressively cheesy franchise is looking at another empty film that will undoubtedly make way too much money at the box office.
– Mike Massie