â€Ë"Fantastic’ foul-up

Decision to give the sequel â€Å"depth” is a mistake

By Misha Davenport on June 14, 2007

Mass has begun. Someone has painted Jesus Christ silver and placed him on a surfboard. Surf’s up. 

The first “Fantastic Four” was a mindless, silly popcorn movie with plot and characters stretched thinner than Mr. Fantastic. For the sequel, “Rise of the Silver Surfer,” a new team of writers (Mark Frost and Don Payne) attempts depth this time around and ends up with a movie that, while occasionally funny, is nonetheless mind-numbingly silly. And things probably would have been a lot more fun without the sermon. 

As the action begins, Egypt is blanketed in snow. Water off the coast of Japan has solidified. Meanwhile, the celebrity-obsessed world is focused on the wedding of Reed Richards (aka Mr. Fantastic, who can stretch and bend his body like elastic, played by Ioan Gruffudd) and Sue Storm (aka the Invisible Woman, who can turn invisible and create force fields, played by Jessica Alba).  Their nuptials have been postponed four times because the bride and groom, along with Sue’s impulsive, egotistical brother Johnny (Chris Evans as The Human Torch, who can burst into flames) and Ben Grimm (the rocklike hulk of a being also known as The Thing, played by Michael Chiklis) have had to save the world. 

Eloping, though, is out of the question. Sue longs for a normal fairy-tale wedding as all women seem to want in real life — and in the movies. 

The quartet is soon dealing with paparazzi who crash the wedding as well as a mysterious figure that Mr. Fantastic dubs “The Silver Surfer” after Johnny’s description of a midair encounter with the creature. 

Fans of the comic book will be happy to know that the origins of the Silver Surfer (aka Norrin Radd) are faithfully retold. And we do mean retold. Radd (voice of Laurence Fishburne) tells us he surfs from planet to planet, heralding the apocalypse in exchange for his own home planet being spared. 

And though Fishburne reads every line as if it reflects the conflict, weight and complexity of a Shakespeare sonnet, the film would have benefited had director Tim Story shown us only Silver’s predicament. 

The Surfer works for a cosmic force he calls “Galactus.” From what we can tell, he doesn’t seem to think about his job all that much. It’s as if destroying planets is on par with pushing paper at the DMV. And yet it is in his hands that the Earth’s salvation or destruction is placed. 

His boss, Galactus, is less of a god than he is sort of like a giant Dyson vacuum with a planet’s gravitational pull. After the Surfer tags a planet, Galactus shows up on the eighth day to consume and destroy it (like all teardowns, the cleanup takes one more day than it took in the Bible to create the Earth). 

Why doesn’t Galactus make a snack of Saturn as he makes his way toward Earth? Who knows? Perhaps planet rings are bad for his cholesterol. 

An absurd thought? No more absurd than the actions of the U.S. military in the film. Our fantastic foursome are given full background checks, and yet the intelligence data on Victor Von Doom is about as flawed as what led us into the Iraq war. 

At times silly and then serious, this “Fantastic Four” is the cinematic equivalent of multiple personality disorder. As Johnny/The Human Torch, Evans again stands out with some of the best lines and material. His character thinks nothing of auctioning off exclusive photos of his sister’s wedding and selling ad space on his uniform, and at one point he even hesitates to “flame on” because he’s wearing a designer suit. Johnny might be flashy, loud and shallow, but at least he embraces his quirks.

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer


Starring; Ioan Gruffudd, Jessica Alba, Chris Evans and Michael Chiklis

Director: Tim Story

Rated: PG for sequences of action violence, some mild language and innuendo