Movie Review: Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer

Just got home from a late night at the movies with George and the crew from Empire Comics.

I’ll keep this one short and sweet.

I thought the first Fantastic Four was just okay. It wasn’t terrible and it wasn’t great, but at least it was fun. My cousin got me the DVD for Christmas that year and I’ve watched it a few times. It’s okay. (The best thing that came out of that movie was my friend Courtney’s description of The Thing — the first time she saw him in the trailer, she dubbed him “Turd Rock from the Sun.”)

Its just-released sequel — preposterously called Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer — is pretty much more of the same. If you liked the first one, you’ll like this one. It’s basically on the same level: not great, not terrible, but fun enough that you won’t mind the 90 minutes it takes to do what it does (which ultimately isn’t much).

Basically, the Silver Surfer is a cosmic, silver humanoid guy who zips around the universe on his cosmic surfboard. And every time he visits a planet, the planet dies eight days later. The culprit is Galactus, who in the comics looks like a giant purple astronaut with a big, kooky helmet.

In the movie he’s a cloud of tornadoes — in space — that sucks the rings off Saturn and occasionally churns slightly. Which is fine, I guess. Whatever. (Though in that Saturn sequence you do see a shadow that looks like his helmet.) I couldn’t care less, but lots of fans are going to be really disappointed.

Ioan Gruffudd is much, much better as team leader Reed Richards this time around. He’s a lot more confident in the role, and he actually feels like a leader here. Nicely done, sir. I have nothing against Jessica Alba, but I never quite understood why she was cast as Reed’s fiancĂ©e, Susan Storm. She just doesn’t quite seem to fit the part, but that’s no fault of her own and there’s nothing wrong with her performance. But to make her look more like the comic book Sue, they dye her hair blond and make her wear really creepy looking blue contact lenses. If you’re going to cast someone who’s so far away from the traditional look of the comic book character, then why don’t you just trust her to be herself? Why force ridiculous, distracting contact lenses on her? Johnny Storm has blond hair in the comics, and they didn’t make Chris Evans dye his dark brown hair a lighter shade. So why the contacts for Alba? She’s a gorgeous girl. If you’re going to cast Jessica Alba, then let her be Jessica Alba.

Speaking of Chris Evans, this franchise has no idea how lucky it is to have this guy as Johnny Storm. His charisma and on-screen demeanor burn way brighter than the Human Torch he’s playing, and of all the actors here he’s certainly having the most fun. It shows, and it’s appreciated.

Michael Chiklis once again does a fine job of personifying Ben Grimm, aka The Thing, aka Turd Rock from the Sun.

Julian McMahon is back as Doctor Doom, and the poor guy makes the most of it even though he’s bound to be bored out of his mind. Check him out on Nip/Tuck, where he’s surrounded by much better material and works wonders with it.

Laurence Fishburne provides the voice of the Silver Surfer, who’s physically acted out by a mixture of Doug Jones (who did similar duty as Abe Sapien in Hellboy and various character in Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth) and computer effects that make him look just like the liquid metal Robert Patrick Terminator from T2. (He looks better — and appropriately more alien — in the shots where he’s Jones in a suit instead of a computery human blob.) Fishburne was added late in the game, and his voice doesn’t really match with the Surfer’s appearance, but just as it is in Alba’s case, that’s no fault of Fishburne’s.

The best thing I can say about the movie is that it’s good, harmless fun, and the worst I can say about it is that it’s dumb, harmless fun. The basic skeleton of the story is okay, but it’s like they came up with the basics and shot it that way without taking it a step further.

Again, whatever. I certainly enjoyed it a lot more than Spider-Man 3, which was a soul-shattering disaster. It does have some genuine laughs, and its attempts at heart aren’t nearly as awkward or as manufactured as they were in the first one.

It has it moments. It could have been a lot better. As it is, it’s not terrible.