by Scott Mantz
"Fantastic Four: Rise Of The Silver Surfer"
Starring: Ioan Gruffudd, Jessica Alba, Chris Evans, Michael Chiklis
Directed by: Tim Story
If hindsight is twenty-twenty, then looking back, I may have been a little too unforgiving in my initial review of the first “Fantastic Four.”
Then again, I probably expected a lot, since it followed the likes of 2003's “X2: X-Men United,” 2004's “Spider-Man 2” and 2005's “Batman Begins,” which were all graced with more emotional depth and maturity than a superhero flick probably deserves. I had no idea that I was in for a cheesy, lighthearted romp that was geared more towards families, so of course I was disappointed. But when I saw it again on cable about a year later, I realized that it wasn't half bad, and I was able to appreciate it for what it was.
The same can be said about its sequel, though this time around, the filmmakers seem to be embracing the family-friendly vibe that helped turn the first movie into a $329 million worldwide hit. That's obvious by its lighter rating (PG, compared to the original's PG-13) and brief running time (at 91 minutes, it's 15 minutes shorter than its predecessor). So if you know what to expect, there's no reason why you can't enjoy “Rise of the Silver Surfer” for the fantastic fun that it is.
Reed Richards (Ioan Gruffudd) is Mister Fantastic. Sue Storm (Jessica Alba) is the Invisible Girl. Johnny Storm (Chris Evans) is the Human Torch. And Ben Grimm (Michael Chiklis) is the Thing. Together, they are the Fantastic Four, and they are about to face their greatest challenge yet. A mysterious alien, The Silver Surfer, arrives from outer space with a warning — they have just 8 days to live before the earth is devoured by the all-powerful Galactus.
But there are other pressing matters as well, including the upcoming marriage of Reed and Sue, the surprise resurrection of their archenemy, Dr. Doom (Julian McMahon), and the possible dissolution of their team as a whole. With the fate of humanity at stake, the Fantastic Four must band together and realize that with great power comes great responsibility. (Okay, so that's Spider-Man's motto, but it applies here too.)
Though it incorporates various storylines from the original Marvel comics — especially The Silver Surfer, a fan favorite who first appeared back in the 60s in Fantastic Four #48 — returning director Tim Story infuses the sequel with a tone that's even lighter than its predecessor. The action scenes are exciting without being too violent, and the screenplay — written by Mark Frost and Emmy-winner Don Payne — focuses more on the relationships that bond the superheroes.
But the special effects are much better this time around, thanks to a bigger production budget of $130 million. No doubt that much of it went to the design of the computer-generated Silver Surfer (voiced by Laurence Fishburne), who immediately resembles the T-1000 from 1991's “Terminator 2: Judgment Day.” Comic fans will also relish the appearance of the hi-tech Fantasticar, though they are bound to be disappointed by the cloud-like Galactus, who looks nothing like the imposing figure from the original stories.
“Rise of the Silver Surfer” may not compare to other recent superhero sequels, but it's fine for what it is. It also stays true to its comic origins — especially where the taunting relationship between the Human Torch, played with confidant gusto by Chris Evans, and the Thing, played with grizzled charm by Michael Chiklis, are concerned. Julian McMahon, who returns as Dr. Doom, doesn't have as much to do this time around, but Fantastic Four co-creator Stan Lee has a very funny cameo, and Jessica Alba, as the Invisible Girl, looks hotter than ever.
There, now that review wasn't too unforgiving, was it?
Verdict: See it!