Fantastic Four: A Second Coming

It’s been a couple weeks, but fret no more! Another sequel has been released in theaters, just in case you readers couldn’t get enough during May. This time around, it’s Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, which flew into theaters June 15. Although critics panned the first movie, it still managed to be one of 2005’s top-selling flicks. With director Tim Story attached yet again, he manages to outdo the mediocrity of the first film and put out a more enjoyable sequel.

Since it is a sequel, Rise of the Silver Surfer wastes no time setting up a lot of back story, which works in its favor. Reed Richards and Sue Storm, better known as Mr. Fantastic and the Invisible Woman (Ioan Gruffudd and Jessica Alba), are on their fourth attempt (possible connection there?) on getting married, when a strange cosmic being arrives on Earth. Mr. Fantastic is asked by the government to help them track it, but the being somehow finds out and, as a result, crashes the wedding to destroy his tracker. Johnny Storm/Human Torch (Chris Evans) chases the being, finding out it is a sentient being riding a surfboard-looking object. He is then named the Silver Surfer-played by Doug Jones and voiced by Laurence Fishburne. The Surfer is the herald of Galactus, the destroyer of planets, who has come to destroy Earth. It is up the F4 to stop it, but their nemesis, Dr. Doom (Julian McMahon), has mysteriously returned and is once again trying to take over the world.

The movie is not perfect by any means, but that is not surprising. The Fantastic Four has always been a goofy comic with hammy and corny humor, all of which carries over to the film. It’s not as bad as the F4’s first movie attempt and is perhaps a little more enjoyable. The actors play their parts a little better, although it certainly isn’t anything Oscar-worthy.

Julian McMahon is yet again a horrible Dr. Doom. He is hardly a convincing villain and doesn’t provide the sinister attitude Dr. Doom has in the comics. Kerry Washington returns as Ben Grimm/Thing’s girlfriend Alicia Masters, but is even worse than before and plays a terrible blind person.

The portrayal of the Fantastic Four, on the other hand, is much improved. As in the first movie, Chris Evans steals the show as Johnny Storm. Story was able to do something new for the character, though: bring him down to Earth. Acting like a hotshot finally catches up to him and it shows that he really does need the people around him. It’s actually quite surprising that Story was able to pull this off. As for the rest of the characters, they are handled well. Sue is still ragging on Reed for this and that, while Ben still argues back and forth with Johnny. It’s the sort of stuff that was blatant in the comics, since in addition to being Marvel’s first comic family, they were also Marvel’s first dysfunctional family.

The Silver Surfer’s portrayal is hands down the best part of the movie. He isn’t making any profound statements as some would expect of the character (Story probably wouldn’t have been able to pull that off anyway). Still, you can get the sense that he is doing all of his work for Galactus against his will. Being one of Marvel’s most popular characters, it’s a good thing Story didn’t screw this one up. If he had, fans would have undoubtedly made it dangerous for him to walk the streets.

So overall, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer is worth at least a matinee ticket price. As with any film from this series, you can’t expect too much, mostly because of the aforementioned goofy humor. In the end, it’s a lot less disappointing than Spider-Man 3 since expectations were simply not as high. And with a much better final battle than the first film, it is a marked improvement over its predecessor.

3/4 stars