Fantastic Four: Rise of The Silver Surfer Movie Review
The first Fantastic Four was an awful movie. It had bad acting, a terrible screenplay, cheesy special effects, a non-existent story and seemingly no action whatsoever. So, with much trepidation did I sit down with a bunch of obnoxious 15-year olds to watch Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, a movie that, from the previews, looked to be just as bad, if not worse, than its predecessor.
And going in with such low expectations, I had just a glimmer of hope that the movie would exceed said expectations. And you know what? It did. Now, don't start wetting your pants thinking that I'm going to shower Fantastic Four 2 with praise, because I'm not, but it did exceed dismal expectations and it is - I'll admit it - a relatively entertaining movie. I'll break it down piece by piece.
The opening credits. The movie starts off well, as we see a planet get sucked of life in a matter of seconds. Then, like all Marvel movies, it dives into the God-awful opening credits. I don't know if this is a mandatory thing for Marvel flicks, but the regulation that the opening credits have to be full of zooming names, a flash of a title, and lame special effects have got to go. They aren't nearly as bad as they were in Spider-Man 3, but blink and you'll miss the title to the movie.
From there, we get introduced to a couple of quick shots of the Silver Surfer, a metallic dude on a silver surfboard, as he causes chaos around the world. Not quite Independence Day, but the scene have impact. We flash to a series of relatively funny and relaxed sequences about Sue Storm (Jessica Alba) and Reed Richards (Ioan Gruffudd) preparing for their big, media-blitzed wedding. There is a lot of product placement here, but the Fantastic Four, which also includes Johnny Storm (Chris Evans) and Ben "The Thing" Grimm (Michael Chiklis), is all about commercial endorsements.
The good thing about Fantastic Four is that the writers paid attention to what fans complained about in the first movie and made some adjustments. They've amped up the comedy, and, of course, there is no initial back story that they have to drag us through this time. The first film was overly cheesy, and while this one still has its fair share of unfortunate cheesy moments, at least most of them seem intentional this time around. Fantastic Four 2's antics had me laughing a couple times, which is more than I can say about the previous effort.
As you might expect, the wedding doesn't get very far as it is interrupted by the Silver Surfer. The team soon learns that they are dealing with a very dangerous and seemingly unstoppable villain in the Silver Surfer, and that he is preparing the world for annihilation at the hands of Galactus, a world eater. The movie progresses from there, but not before Dr. Doom (Julian McMahon) returns from "death" to get the Surfer's powers for himself. The rest of the movie is spent dealing with stereotypical military types, Dr. Doom, the Silver Surfer and eventually Galactus. Thankfully, the action is a bit better here than it was in the previous movie, but that's not saying much. Still, the action still doesn't seem very grand scale for a movie such as this; there's a cool scene where London's Millennium Wheel gets damaged, but the Fantastic Four's efforts to save it aren't anything spectacular. And at the same time, the movie shies away from actually showing the Thames River getting sucked into a bottomless pit. All in all, the movie has some entertaining action, but there is nothing fantastic about any of the sequences.
As for the plot, I liked the rather simple set up of the Silver Surfer (much more than I was expecting), but at only an hour and a half, the movie feels weak when it comes to some of its other plots. The strangest addition is the return of Dr. Doom, even though it is really never explained how he came back to life or what his true intentions are going forward. Since the Silver Surfer doesn't really turn out to be a real villain, the writers must have felt they needed someone else a little less nebulous than the big threat at the end. This is fine, but adding a few more minutes to explore Doom's back story would have helped. Even if he is evil, why would a guy as smart as Doom be willing to let the whole planet get destroyed for the sake of his own power? It would have made more sense for him to be more manipulative and scheming than he is, and to try to help the Fantastic Four to his own gains.
Of course, it doesn't help that the two worst actors of the group have returned this time around. Gruffudd, the quintessential lead if there is one, really isn't that effective as a superhero. He has no chemistry with Jessica Alba, and seems out of place in the film. Even worse is McMahon, who plays Doom. For the most menacing of villains, he just comes off as your every day guy who just has a flare of evil in him. There is nothing menacing or creepy about him, and thanks to the ridiculous PG rating the film has, the movie shies away from showing his face at the beginning when it is clearly messed up. If a third movie comes along, it would be great to see some different actors in the mix.
Thankfully, Evans and Chiklis are still great as two constantly quarreling friends. Evans gets a lot of great jokes, and Chiklis's Thing (I mean that in the most innocent way possible) also gets a lot of laughs. As for Alba, she is once again okay, though once again is mainly here for the sex appeal. In a PG-rated movie, she doesn't get many chances to do so, even during her nude scene - don't get excited, guys, as she is so hidden you'd think you were watching Bambi. She's also not quite as hot as a blonde, I must say.
So now I've covered everything good about the movie: it's relatively entertaining in a mindless kind of way, sort of funny and has its action moments. Alba, even as a blonde, is still pretty hot. Unfortunately, there are still a few issues, and all of them have to do with the ending.
To sum things up, either the writers are incredibly stupid or they think we're stupid. After Dr. Doom steals the surfboard for himself from a military base in Siberia (why is the American military working out of a base in Siberia anyway?), Mr. Fantastic uses his crackberry (another product placement?) to call upon his flying Dodge car, which is housed in his building in New York. Somehow, in a matter of minutes, the car is able to fly from New York to Siberia and pick them up. This is only the beginning of a bunch of blatantly poor geographic mishaps, which completely remove any plausibility from the finale. In a matter of moments, the Fantastic Four wind up alongside the Great Wall of China, and then are immediately in Shanghai. Shanghai? Are you freaking kidding me? Just because both are in China does not mean the two are even remotely close to one another. That is not the end of the ridiculous nature of the ending. After Dr. Doom is disposed if an absolutely silly and cheap way, the Silver Surfer goes on to destroy Galactus by... curling up in his board and exploding? The ending makes no sense, and also begs the question: why didn't the Silver Surfer just do that before he helped destroy billions of lives on countless planets?
The last problem I have with the movie is the blatant product placement throughout the film. It's funny at first, but when the movie stops making fun of it, it stops being funny. I am, right now, on the verge of suing Dodge for ruining my movie-going experience. Mr. Fantastic's flying car is suspiciously stamped with the Dodge emblem, and the director focuses on it a good three times to make it quite clear. Are you kidding me? This is one of the most embarrassing and pathetic product placements ever.
Aside from the poor product placement and a pathetically stupid ending, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Surfer is surprisingly entertaining. It is still not a very good movie, and a different set of writers and a new director could do wonders for the franchise, but the film keeps the possibility of a third film open. I can't believe I'm saying this, but even though Spider-Man 3 was, essentially, a better movie, I found Fantastic Four 2 to be more entertaining. Of course, this one's an hour shorter and riding on much lower expectations, but oh well. I had fun and I'll admit it.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.