But hey, it made bank, right? Right. So now, welcome to the Sequel: Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, which focuses on the totally tubular herald of Galactus (which, I think, is selfless of the FF, right? Right.). And with that Teaser Trailer featuring flamin' Johnny Storm (Chris Evans) chasing the Silver Surfer way up into the stratosphere only to be grabbed by the throat, extinguished by the vacuum of space and dropped toward Earth in one shell of a cliffhanger, dude... this could have kicked some serious ass.
Then came more previews and I could tell that Twentieth Century Fox was shooting for the goof again, turning "The World's Greatest Comics Magazine" into the world's silliest comic adaptation. Ooooooo-kay, no, it's not quite that, even I'll admit.
Like the first one, I can point out some coolness here. For one thing, this film is much more canonical than the first flick. The screenplay by Mark Frost and Don Payne (from a story by Frost and John Turman) is straight out of classic Stan Lee and Jack Kirby comics, right on down to the wedding between Sweet, Sweet Susan Storm (burnin', burnin', burnin' hot Jessica Alba) and rubbery ol' Weed Wichards (Ioan Gruffudd). For another thing, the title character is far beyond cool. Norrin Radd (spelled in the end credits as "Noren Radd") is portrayed by none other than Doug Jones, whose talented visage you haven't seen as "the Faun" in Pan's Labyrinth and as "Abe Sapien" in Hellboy. As in these other films, Jones (interestingly enough, a talented voice actor) has his voice overdubbed by another voice (in this case the cool-as-Quicksilver Laurence Fishburne). Between Jones' surprisingly pathos-rich portrayal and the (generally) superb special effects, the Silver Surfer looks incredible. However, he's far from the most dazzling thing on the screen... yeah, yeah, I mean Alba.
Even with all this coolness, FF2 mostly succeeds in being a film that's almost impossible to take seriously. At times I wondered if I was watching a big-budget remake of a Power Rangers flick, at other times a made-for-Showtime Saturday Morning one-off viewing. Make no mistake, this is a fun movie, but it's about as smart as the proverbial bag of hammers.
Or a big pile of rocks... as in Michael Chiklis' big, orange Ben Grimm (AKA The Ever-Lovin' Blue Eyed THING). In mocking spite of Benji's best advice (and he should know, having a hot girlfriend of his own in the form of Kerry Washington's Alicia Masters), Ol' Reed is still putting his work before his shockingly hot, stunningly unappreciated and woefully undeserved fiancée Sue. This is especially complicated as the wedding is right around the corner... as is the end of the world!
No... no, that's not a redundant statement, guys! Riding through space on his well-Chromed surfboard is the well-chromed harbinger of one seriously overweight overeater: Galactus, Devourer of Worlds.
Sadly, things start going haywire long before Chompy McMunchy takes a bite out of Gaia. Wherever the wave-ridin' T-1000 goes, his "Power Cosmic" follows, wreaking havoc upon the map and drilling bowling holes into the globe, all over the gosh darned place. Even worse, the government (as represented by Andre Braugher's General Hager) comes slouching towards the Baxter Building, begging ol' Mr. Fantastic to stretch himself even thinner the week before his wedding, building a bald-headed surfer-dude tracker while picking out china patterns and wedding night lingerie (look, Jessica, for me, it'd be no contest). Even, even worse Surfer-Boy's "power cosmic" sure smells a lot like the Cosmic Rays that made the girl everybody wants to see invisible, the dude from The Shield into a big orange kewpie doll, the daredevil into the flaming demon and the science geek into a gray-templed Stretch Armstrong. This leads us to the unkindest cut of all: the FF start a "Super-Skrull"-like power exchange and the Latverian Leerin' Lunatic, Doctor Victor Von Doom (Julian McMahon) has awakened to ham it up another day.
If that sounds convoluted and as hole-ridden as Swiss cheese, brother it is. Which is what makes it so surprising when the silliness (which is omnipresent) evolves into some worthwhile drama. While FF2 is never short on action, it's the quieter moments (which are rare) that make the difference (thanks, mostly, to Doug Jones). Even then things tend to get corny as the better moments start to devolve into something slightly less mature than any given Fantastic Four cartoon show. Seriously, an appearance by "H.E.R.B.I.E. the Robot" couldn't have cheesed things up all THAT much more.
Again, "Bank" will be made by this film and while overall, it's not a great (or terribly good) film, it is the very model of a modern major Popcorn flick, especially for the summer. Every cliché is nailed, especially in the realm of Product Placement. You know, when the Human Torch wandered in with a Fantastic Four uniform all adorned with every logo from "Keebler" to "Home Depot" (NASCAR-style), I figured, hell, it's a joke on how shallow Johnny is, and it's worth, at the very least, a nervous chuckle! But when Reed unveiled "The Fantasticar" only to reveal a chrome grill, adorned with the letters "DODGE", I swear I heard Jack "King" Kirby roll over in his grave and shout the "F-Word".
But, hey... Alba. Jones. Fishburne... it's not that bad. But it's not that great. I've got to hand it to returning director Tim Story and all twelve producers (including Marvel Mainstay Avi Arad and the wizardly Chris Columbus), they did take a bit of a risk in sticking this close to the comics and allowing a guest character to far outshine the main characters here. However, if they'd tried to stick to the tone of the comic, rather than sticking to the tone of The Three Stooges meets American Pie, it could have been a better film. Three Stars out of Five for Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. Hey, Stan Lee does indeed make one of his funniest Cameo appearances (long-time Marvel fans might find it familiar)! But then again Crystal Lowe also makes a noteworthy appearance, competing with Jessica Alba for the "Hotter-than-the-Torch" prize.
Power Cosmic indeed.
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