Fantasic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007)

Tim Story

Ioan Gruffudd - Reed Richards/Mr. Fantastic
Jessica Alba - Sue Storm/Invisible Woman
Chris Evans - Johnny Storm/The Human Torch
Michael Chiklis - Ben Grimm/The Thing
Julian McMahon - Victor Von Doom/Doctor Doom
Doug Jones (body)/Laurence Fishburne (voice) - The Silver Surfer

Year - 2007 
Score - 3 Howls Outta 4

Even after the mediocrity of the original FANTASTIC FOUR 2 years ago, the sight of The Silver Surfer [one of my favorite comic book heroes] finally onscreen pumped me up for this one. I did go in with low expectations, however, since the first part was unsatisfying and sequels are usually worse than better. But surprisingly after the end credits rolled, I was very happy with what I heard and saw.

We catch up with Reed Richards (Ioan Gruffudd) and Sue Storm (Jessica Alba) stressing out over their many-times-postponed wedding. With the media constantly hounding them and Reed's obsession with science getting in the way, things don't exactly as planned. It doesn't help that during their wedding, New York is being attacked by a cosmic entity known as the Silver Surfer (Doug Jones/Voice of Laurence Fishburne). Having already created unexplained abnormalities to several other locations on Earth, the Surfer is scouting Earth to prepare it to be eaten by his master, the Devourer of Worlds - Galactus - who needs to feed on planets in order to survive.

Unfortunately, The Surfer accidentally awakens Victor Von Doom (Julian McMahon), who craves more power in order to get revenge on the Fantastic Four, feeling the Surfer is the key to that. Eventually, the Four and Doom team up against The Surfer after realizing his intentions of their planet, as well as the Surfer's unstabilizing the molecules and powers of Johnny Storm (Chris Evans) - causing Johnny to switch powers with any of his teammates with a single touch. Desperate for a way to stop the Silver Surfer before Earth turns into intergalactic food, Reed, Sue, Johnny, and Ben Grimm (Michael Chiklis) must come together to save their planet --- and stop Doom at the same time.

I really liked this film alot more than the original. Yes, it's not the greatest or perfect comic book film. The fanboys are really gonna dislike this film, as it takes liberties with the look of Galactus [which I will discuss later] and the original Silver Surfer story from the comic books. But for a 90 minute film, I didn't think it was so bad. The cheesiness and lack of seriousness from the first part is left intact [I still wish it were a bit more serious in its storytelling] and it seems more aimed at children than adults [not a bad business move]. But I felt that the film did a lot more things right than wrong, as opposed to the origin story of the previous film.

I really thought Tim Story's direction was alot better for ROTSS. Loved the outer space shots. Loved the different locations of the world [though I'm sure they were all filmed in Canada like the rest of the film]. Loved the use of the E! network and media outlets to create a celebrity-like deal for the team. And I especially enjoyed the action sequences this time around. The first film had pretty underwhelming action, but the sequel topped it. Especially the chase scene with Johnny and the Surfer. And even the final scene with Doom attacking the Fantastic Four was great. Doctor Doom FINALLY showed up!! Tim Story kept along with the action extremely well, using magnificent angles to present us with satisfying visual candy. He seemed more comfortable in his role and the film was a lot better for it. Great job.

Another thing that seemed more comfortable this time around were the actors. They weren't highly developed as characters [the first film actually did the job better], but they seemed a lot more fun and enjoyable to watch. They also looked and felt like a team for once. Ioan Gruffudd was still a bit wooden as Mr. Fantastic, but he showed signs of life during the bachelor party dance sequence [why are superheroes dancing? did they learn nothing from Spider-Man 3?]. He also had better chemistry with Jessica Alba. This time around, I actually believed that they could be a couple getting married. It wasn't a perfect performance, but at least it was better than the first.

Same can be said about Jessica Alba. Still not the greatest actress in the world, but she was definitely a better Sue Storm than in the original. She nagged less [thank God] and didn't look constipated when she used her powers. She had great chemistry with everyone in the cast, especially with the Surfer [her best scenes, IMO]. She did a good job and didn't annoy me like in the first film.

Chris Evans, again, knocked it out as Johnny Storm. He had the best lines [loved the rockslide comment to Ben about his sex life with Alicia Masters] and had the best action scenes. Plus the guy has great comic timing and has charisma coming out of his ass. Still a big capitalist prick, but he had decent emoting scenes when there was a need for them. Nothing to complain about with Evans.

Michael Chiklis did good as Ben Grimm again, as well. However, he wasn't in the film all that much I thought. His relationship with Alicia (the very underused Kerry Washington) is never really developed. He was stuck with one-liners that were either funny or not. At least the banter with Evans was still greatly dead-on, creating a great sense of comradie between the two. And the Thing outfit looked ALOT better this time around [rockier than the first], as Chiklis seemed to have more liberty when it came to showing emotion on his face. But he really didn't have much to do as in the first one, but with what he did do was well done.

Julian McMahon was alot better also this time around, although I still think his Doom isn't to its full potential. I loved the raspier, hoarse voice he used in the beginning of the film [great villain voice], but that changed when he returned to normal and took up with the human voice for the rest of the film. I don't mind the voice as a civilian, but not as Doctor Doom. And was there a reason for him to turn normal to begin with? I guess Julian McMahon loves showing that handsome mug of his onscreen every chance he gets. I know the guy can play great villains. I've seen him do it on Charmed and Nip/Tuck. But he's not a great Doom, although he was more Doom-like this time around - actually kicking the Fantastic Four's asses during the end. He's coming back for the next sequel and I hope he changes it up a bit. He's okay in this film but I know he can do a lot better if he gets out of Nip/Tuck mode. At least he improved somewhat. Can't complain about it that much.

And words cannot express watching The Silver Surfer on a big screen. Man, he looked absolutely incredible! The special effects team did a fantastic [pun intended] job with bringing the character to life. Doug Jones does extraordinary work in the suit, bringing the gracefulness of the Surfer on film. And Laurence Fishburne did an excellent job as the voice for the Surfer. I was captivated by the character from beginning to end. At least the film was about the Surfer, not like how Spider-Man 3 made Venom seem like he'd be in the film for a long time and only teased us for 20 minutes. I honestly can't wait for The Silver Surfer film that's currently being written. He really was worth the hype and I was not disappointed at all. This was a great introduction to the character. Too bad I wish it were in a better film.

Speaking of the SFX, they were really well done. The Surfer sucking that missile with his board during the army's attack on him was awesome. His teleportation powers were excellently done. Mr. Fantastic, while not perfect still, was a lot more realistic this time whenever he used his stretch powers. Human Torch, Invisible Woman, and even Doom had great effects as well. And the Fantasticar...LOVED it! That was a really cool vehicle [even though it provided for shameless product placement]. The crowd was totally into the scenes with the most effects used. Just great work.

And Galactus...yes, he wasn't the guy with the big purple helmet. He looked more like a dust cloud than anything. And you know what, I'm okay with it. I honestly think it would look kinda silly to see a giant CGI Galactus on screen, wearing purple and threatening Earth about being a potential meal. Hell, maybe they're saving the true Galactus for the Silver Surfer film. That was a shadow of the helmet over Saturn in that one scene, wasn't it? Yeah, I have hope we'll see Galactus' true form [especially after the ambiguous ending of the film]. Can't count all your chickens before they're hatched, ya know? We need a bit of mystery over this big villain, which I'm sure will be worth the wait.

I do have complaints however. One was the dance scene I mentioned before with Reed. Totally unnecessary and reminded me of Emo Peter from Spider-Man 3 almost. I think superheroes should be busting heads, not busting a move. I laughed, sure, but just seemed out of place. Another is right before the wedding where Johnny and Sue have a heart-to-heart. What an uncomfortable scene. The way Johnny was staring at his sister...I swore he wanted to jump her and have his way with her right then and there. It's deja vu but...I know incest is a game the whole family can play, but not in a Fantastic Four film. It was kinda gross to watch. And the non-use of Kerry Washington as Alicia. Washington is a great actress and Alicia is a huge character in the Fantastic Four history. Why isn't she being used more? Her scenes with Alba, Chiklis, and Evans were good. But she's only in the film for like 10 minutes out of the 90. C'mon, give the girl something to do. Develop her a bit more. Introduce the Puppet Master [her step-father] briefly to establish an arc for the next film. What a wasted opportunity here. I hope she has a bigger role in the third film, but I'm not crossing any fingers. And can we have more depth and heart to this franchise? I don't mind wall-to-wall action but give me something to care about in between the action. If Spider-Man, X-Men, Superman, and Batman can do it, so can the Fantastic Four.

Rise of the Silver Surfer is better than its predecessor in alot of ways, although some of the same errors still remain. While the film is short, sweet, and straight to the point, I wouldn't have minded a longer film given the source material. If you're looking for a great popcorn movie, ROTSS fits the bill. But it's no way a comic book that comes close to what makes the Fantastic Four so great in the comics. Juvenile and foolish, Rise of the Silver Surfer isn't a fanboy's dream, but it's still a fun film to watch. Here's hoping for some much needed maturity for the third film. Rise of The Silver Surfer is a rare sequel that surpasses the original, but it's still far from living up to its fantastic name.

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