"It's the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine." Remember the old R.E.M. song? It's not played anywhere in the film Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, but it sure could have been. And it was the soundtrack that kept running through my mind!
Recommend this product?
I had a lot more fun watching the original Fantastic Four movie than I expected, or than most people apparently did, so I looked forward to more fun comic book film fluff with the sequel. And for the most part, it did not disappoint.
When we last saw our four fantastic superheroes, they'd pretty much come to terms with their new identities and new superpowers. They'd even managed to put aside their petty bickering and forge themselves into a effective working team: effective enough to put an end (or so they thought) to their nemesis Victor Von Doom. Though I'd be surprised if there was anyone who didn't scream "sequel alert!" when they realized at the end of the first film that Von Doom was still alive.
Von Doom (Julian McMahon) is back in this one, of course (no surprise there...and you'll see him quite early) but he's not the main focus for the fantastic four this time out, though perhaps he should be. Their attention, and the attention of the rest of the world, is focused on a bizarre energy-producing and energy-sucking phenomenon that keeps showing up in the skies. At first it just looks like a large comet or a silver streak, and that's how it shows up in satellite photos, but it's wreaking havoc wherever it speeds by. Atmospheric changes bring snow to warm places, rivers are solidified, and huge craters are left wherever it touches down.
The Fantastic Four, and most particularly Mr. Fantastic/Dr. Reed Richards (Ioan Gruffudd) are called in to try to figure out what this thing is and to try to stop it. It takes them a while to really get invested in fighting it as they've got other things on their mind, especially the wedding of Mr. Fantastic to Invisible Woman/Sue Storm (Jessica Alba, who wears so many different hairstyles, costumes and makeup that she never seems to look like the same person from frame to frame). The wedding has already been postponed multiple times -- like Spider-man in his feature films, the Fantastic Four discover here how hard it is to have a normal life when you're constantly on call to save the world. Sue is not very happy that Reed's attention keeps wandering to minor little details like warding off the apocalypse when he should be contacting the caterer and making sure his tuxedo fits.
If I sound tongue in cheek, I can't help it. The perilous situation is so over-the-top, the characters so barely two-dimensional...in most scripts, this would drive me crazy. But here, for some reason, I'm just able to relax and enjoy it. I don't mean to demean comic books films by this assessment, as they can much more sophisticated (and I'm horribly inconsistent because I held Spider-man 3 to a higher standard of writing). But I thought the tone of this second film actually felt quite consistent with the tone of the first, and I guess I just decided to enjoy it.
It helps that the annoying but lovable other team members: The Human Torch/Johnny Storm (Chris Evans) and The Thing/Ben Grimm (Michael Chiklis) are back in their roles and having a great time. They get the funniest moments in this movie, both apart and together. Johnny, as the only one of the four who can fly, is the first to face the Silver Surfer, as the streaky energy phenomenon is finally dubbed. By the time we see the surfer close-up, he's emerged from an amorphous astronomical object into a being: an oddly liquid looking silver being who zooms around on a silver surfboard. His emergence, and the ongoing Silver Surfer effects, are the best part of the film. The CGI work is excellent: the surfer, who is sculpted like an ancient greek statute, manages to look both metallic and liquid, like molten lava that retains a shape. He's very menacing (and becomes more so as we learn along with the Four that wherever he goes, planets die days later) but he's not at all your typical villain. There's much more to him than meets the eye, but to say anything else would be to spoil the best part of the plot. We do finally get to hear him speak, by the way, and it's worth the wait since he's voiced by the talented Laurence Fishburne.
The battle against world destruction is definitely the best part of the story-line. The "will they or won't they finally tie the knot" sub-plot for Reed and Sue gets a bit lame, as does immature Johnny's continual "world-might-be-ending-and (sigh) I've-never-really-been-in-love" and yet those personal moments do provide most of the best laughs. There are moments of dialog so cheesy that I came close to snorting (don't watch this movie while drinking milk; you might inadvertently spew it) and yet sometimes cheesy is fun. The special effects kept impressing me, and the filmmakers got a lot of enjoyable mileage out of the fact that Johnny (his molecules somehow rearranged by his confrontation with the surfer) can now "trade powers" with any of the other three he touches.
The ending wrapped up way too neatly, but it felt satisfying nonetheless, and of course there's still wiggle room for a sequel though the script doesn't quite demand it the way the first one did. This film would be fun to watch with a group of people who don't mind laughing and cheering through silly dialog and dazzling special effects battles, though there's enough sexual innuendo that I'd steer clear of showing it to kids.
A fun popcorn movie through and through. And hey, not quite the end of the world as we know it.
This is another entry in elvisdo's 2008 Funny Pages Write-Off
My review of the original Fantastic Four
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