‘Surfer’ not fantastic but relatively painless
by Hawkins Teague
Jun 20, 2007 | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
“The Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer”

**1/2

For the record, I didn’t think that 2005’s first Fantastic Four movie was even remotely good enough to merit a sequel. I’m not a comic book reader, but I do know that the series has one of the better reputations not only in the Marvel Comics cannon, but among all popular comic book series. Plenty of fans had waited for decades to see the family of superheroes brought to the big screen and, although the movie did pretty well, many of the series’ hardcore fans were disappointed, which could not be said for the first two “Spider-man” movies.

Anyway, I suppose I’m pleased to report that the sequel is considerably more entertaining than the original. It has just enough eye-popping set pieces and snappy one-liners to keep the 90 minutes mostly tolerable. And, unlike the third Spidey movie, it isn’t horribly overstuffed with extra plot and characters. It knows when to quit. Of course, it helps that it’s about 50 minutes shorter.

In the new film, we catch up with our heroes, Reed Richards (Ioan Gruffudd), Sue Storm (Jessica Alba), Johnny Storm (Chris Evans) and Ben Grimm (Michael Chiklis). They are, of course, otherwise known as Mr. Fantastic, the Invisible Woman, the Human Torch and the Thing.

Sue and Reed are about to get married, but as it always seems to be with superheroes, fate just keeps intervening. In one the movie’s more entertaining set pieces, their wedding is wildly interrupted on a skyscraper rooftop by some very strange occurrences, which involve draining of the city’s electricity and some hazardously hovering helicopters. “I do” just doesn’t seem to be in the cards for the cute couple.

All this seems to be caused by the Silver Surfer (voiced by Laurence Fishburne), a silver (obviously), faceless being who flies through the air draining the energy of everything in his path. After Johnny comes into contact with the Surfer, he keeps accidentally exchanging his superpowers with the others. This makes for some easy gags, but that doesn’t them any less fun.

The military enlists the help of the foursome in trying to stop this menace. They also ask their nemesis, Dr. Doom, to help as well. Of course, you just know he can’t be trusted.

Forget about the plot, though. The reason the movie is as watchable as it is can be attributed to the fact that the actors are fairly likable and seem to be having a good time. It doesn’t itself seriously. You might ask: isn’t that true of the first one? Why is this one better? I think it all comes down to the fact that it is less tedious and doesn’t get bogged down in exposition. You have less time to focus on how ridiculous it all is and more time to just enjoy the eye candy.

Even though I found Evans incredibly annoying as the Human Torch and too knowingly hip for his own good, he’s a lot easier to take this time around. Maybe the difference is that most of his scene-stealing lines are actually funny this time.

I’m just not sure because I haven’t seen the original since it came out two years ago -- and I don’t plan on watching it again.

“Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer” is rated PG-13: Parents strongly cautioned.
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