A slapdash adaptation of the popular Marvel comic book, 2005's "Fantastic Four
" got everything wrongbad casting, worse effects, a dull story, egregious pacing, unfunny comic reliefand yet miraculously still crawled its way to a solid $150-million domestic gross. One would think that, in making a sequel, distributor 20th Century Fox would take a look at the mistakes they made the first time around and try to correct them. No dice. "Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer" has retained the same mismatched director, Tim Story, and the screenplay was penned by one-half of the same team, holdover Mark Frost and series freshman Don Payne (2006's "My Super Ex-Girlfriend
"). Furthermore, most of the same heinous problems with the original are in full force here, only this time the movie reminds of something no comic book film should ever want to be compared to: 1987's laughable, franchise-obliterating "Superman IV: The Quest for Peace."
The title quartet are backelastic scientific genius Reed Richards, aka Mr. Fantastic (Ioan Gruffudd); second-in-command Sue Storm, aka Invisible Woman (Jessica Alba); Susan's brother Johnny, aka Human Torch (Chris Evans); and the hulking, super-strengthed Ben Grimm, aka The Thing (Michael Chiklis). Reed and Sue's big wedding day is abruptly cut short with the appearance of the Silver Surfer (Doug Jones), a metallic being from outer space under the control of a planet-swallowing cosmic entity known as Galactus. Earth, of course, is his latest target, and it is up to the Fantastic Four to figure out how to combine their powers and stop the world from being destroyed. Complicating matters further is the sudden reappearance of archenemy Victor Von Doom (Julian McMahon), long thought dead and supposedly back to help them in their mission. Like any villain, though, his alleged good intentions hide a dastardly ulterior motive.
If forced into choosing one over the other, "Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer" might be ever so slightly better than its predecessor
, but that's like trying to contrast the positive points of an awful stomach flu with chronic diarrhea. Either way, the suffererer, viewerloses. In a cinematic landscape where such excellent comic book pictures as the "Spider-Man
, "Superman Returns
" and the underrated "Hulk
" existfilms that transcended their graphic-art origins and understood that special effects mean zilch without a solid story and characters"Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer" is akin to a junky direct-to-video item one might have seen on the back shelves of their local video store in the early '90s.
The plot is derivative and sporadically incoherent, the so-called heroes are pompous, one-note caricatures who share no chemistry, the groan-inducing gags and pitiful one-liners wouldn't pass muster on a DOA sitcom, and the visual effects range from serviceable to disastrous. The creation of the Silver Surfer is as good as the CGI gets, but even the liquid metal visuals of 1991's "T2: Judgment Day" were a step above. The nadir in inauspicious effects work comes every time the setting switches to outer space; the planets and galaxy are about as convincing as that of a PC video game, circa 1986. On a positive note, the action set-pieces have been increased from two in the first film to three or four in this one. Alas, the best scenea chase through the skies with Johnny in hot pursuit of the Silver Surferwas used nearly in full as the teaser trailer. By now, it is no longer dazzling, and leaves the viewer questioning such things as the logic of how these two guys, traveling at what appears to be the speed of a jetliner, could get from New York City to Washington, D.C. and up into space in the span of roughly fifteen seconds.
The actors don't look like their hearts are in it, and who could blame them? The four central characters have the depth of gnats, and are just as irritating. Ioan Gruffudd, as Reed Richards, looks bored to tears. Michael Chiklis, as Ben Grimm, is swallowed up under mounds of make-up and latex. Chris Evans' take on Johnny Storm is to portray him as an intolerable, self-involved jackass. And then there's Jessica Alba (2005's "Into the Blue
"), as Sue Storm. Alba is a stunning natural beauty, and so it is quite an impressive feat that, decked out in frighteningly unnatural blue contact lenses and horrible blond hair that clashes with her tanned features, she is made up to look like a corpse who has been waterlogged for three days. As for her performance, let's just say it leaves something to be desired. Finally, Laurence Fishburne (2006's "Bobby
") is a bizarre choice to voice the Silver Surfer, his deep, regal vocals sounding nothing like the way Doug Jones physically plays him.
"Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer" concludes with a battle set in an unintentionally funny Hollywood backlot version of a Chinese metropolis, which then segues into dopey melodrama followed by spelled-out moralizing about the duty the Fantastic Four have to help people in need. Nevermind that these decidedly unfantastic four have spent the previous 85 minutes grumbling under their breath every time they have had to put their powers to the test. Superficial, unimaginative and inert, "Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer" is distasteful in its plastic inauthenticity.