Let’s start this review by saying that I was one of the few
people who liked the first Fantastic Four film. Despite its flaws, I thought it
was a lightweight but fun popcorn film.
Now a couple of years later I feel the same way about its sequel, it has
some serious flaws but they get the essence of the comic book correct but
butcher a pivotal story arc in the process.
The problem the Fantastic Four films suffer from is
comparing it to the recent crop of angst ridden, realistic comic book films of
late. I’m talking about the amazing
Batman Begins, or Spiderman 2, and even Superman Returns had its share of
angst. The Fantastic Four has never been
about angst, these are four people who are a family of adventurers. They don’t
have secret identities that they have to hide; they don’t have to whine about
not being able to pay the rent, or having a public that hates them. They have cool powers that they like (except
for The Thing) and they have fun. It’s
who they are in the comic books and it’s who they are on film.
At the end of the day, I never believed the Fantastic Four
had any weight to them, which was why I used to love collecting them, they were
pure escapist fun and that’s what the film is. Pure escapist fun and Director Tim Story maintains this element and
tone throughout most of the film. Yes
the jokes are corny, stupid, lame sitcom stuff. Like when Johnny Storm (Chris Evans) makes a joke out of Ben
Grimm (Michael Chiklis) having
sex with his squeeze Alicia Masters (Kerry
Washington). Or when Sue Richards (the
horribly miscast Jessica Alba) asks "Why does this always happen to
me?" It silly and lame humor but
somehow it all works.
This time out the writers, Don Payne and Mark Frost try and take on one of
Comic Book’s most hallowed stories – the classic "The Coming of Galactus"
series and do a horribly botched job of it. They focus a lot of time on the
Silver Surfer (Laurence Fishburne
using his Matrix voice) a being of immense power that mysteriously shows up and
leaves a trail of "destruction" in his wake. The destruction he leaves is a by-product of
his power cosmic which radiates destructive energy as he scouts out the planet
In the comic book he learns the true meaning of humanity by interacting
with humans, specifically Ben Grimm’s blind girlfriend. But that subplot is non-existent in the film.
He just randomly decides to have a change of heart because, conveniently, Sue
reminds him of his lost love. So humanity
needs to be saved based only on that, forget the fact that General Hager (Andre Braugher) just spent several
minutes (hours?) torturing him. How are
we supposed to buy this transformation when for most of this 90 minute film he
spends as a ball of light just rocketing through the sky. This film is called Fantastic Four: Rise of
the Silver Surfer, well we get very little actual Silver Surfer in this.
Instead of giving us the Surfer’s quest to understand the
nature of humanity we get Reed Richard’s (Ioan Gruffudd) quest to marry Sue
and the return of Victor Von Doom (Julian
McMahon). The casting of this film
just feels off, especially with Alba (especially with her freaky blue contact
lenses and way too much eye makeup) and Gruffudd. They both take up way too
much screen time and they are both awful.
As the film progresses, I started to accept (or ignore) them.
Chris Evans is really starting to come into his own as an
actor, he has a breakout performance in the upcoming indie sci-fi flick
Sunshine, and here he really has a presence, where in the first film he was
barely a blip. Chiklis gets the essence of The Thing right, but the makeup is
horrible and he’s just wrong for the part.
With today’s SFX being what they are we expect a lot and the
boys and girls behind Fantastic Four deliver in some respects, like the
animation of the Surfer is fantastic, and I marked out at seeing the Fantastic
Car which they writers kind of build towards in a wink wink fashion, because
for most of the film the FF is taking commercial flights or being flown by the
military to get from one crisis to another. You are left thinking, common can’t
Reed build them a plane or something. So
we get the Fantastic Car, I suppose next film we’ll see the Pogo Jet.
My real issue with the movie is the abortion of an ending,
the final confrontation between Surfer and Galactus was horrid. I understand why the filmmakers decided to
make Galactus a cloud, in many ways I support that decision. Galactus in the
comic book looks lame and barely reacts to anything around him – I mean he does
eat planets, but if they were going to go with the cloud thing, it would have
worked better if there was at least a disembodied voice to serve as the
"character" of Galactus. Instead we get the Surfer flying into the
clouds – big freaking deal.
Despite my criticism and problems with the film it largely works
for me, it’s a fun lightweight ride that works well as a popcorn film.
Final Grade B-
EM Review by
Originally posted 6/16/07