In this summer of pretentious, excessively elaborate, overlong blockbuster spectacles, there’s something refreshingly modest about Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, a deliberately trivial affair that strains not for classical pop mythology but, instead, for frivolous FX-laden adventure. Such humble objectives also defined its corny, significantly inferior 2005 predecessor, yet here, released from turgid origin-story constraints and free to concentrate on the Marvel series’s cheery blend of superpowered team combat and playful familial banter, Tim Story’s sequel sporadically manages to be a lively example of cinematic junk food. As with the squad’s prior outing, the director proves almost completely incapable of bringing visual juice to his pulpy yarn, which involves the Fantastic Four’s investigation into the Silver Surfer, a mysterious liquid metal-figure (physique by Hellboy‘s Doug Jones, voice by Laurence Fishburne) who acts as the herald for the planet-devouring creature known as Galactus. With scant time before doomsday, the foursome confronts personal issues—the tabloid celebrity that dogs the Invisible Woman (Jessica Alba) and Mr. Fantastic’s (Ioan Gruffudd) wedding, the cockiness of The Human Torch (Chris Evans) which threatens to undermine the team—while also dealing with a bothersome military chief (Andre Braugher) who compels them to work with back-from-the-dead nemesis Dr. Doom (Julian McMahon). All of this character-based drama has the weight of a falling feather, and while that means that Rise of the Silver Surfer is apt to fade from memory shortly after the theater lights come up, it also relieves it of the anguished moping and moral hand-wringing that’s increasingly dragging the superhero-movie genre down into a pit of dreary self-seriousness. That it never gets one’s blood pumping, occasionally boasts sup-par CG work, and is persistently unable to conceal the fact that the whole endeavor is, to some extent, an attempted launching pad for a Silver Surfer spin-off seriously hampers its delivery of unassuming popcorn fun. However, as far as minor triumphs go, at least Story’s disposable film is—aside from an inapt reference to Dubya-endorsed interrogation techniques—shrewd enough to understand, embrace, and then stay true to its iconic comic-book source material’s lighthearted spirit.
- Tim Story
- Don Payne, Mark Frost
- Ioan Gruffudd, Jessica Alba, Chris Evans, Michael Chiklis, Julian McMahon, Kerry Washington, Andre Braugher, Laurence Fishburne, Doug Jones
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