STARRING: Michael Chiklis, Ioan Gruffudd, Chris Evans, Jessica Alba

2007, 92 Minutes, Directed by:
Tim Story

Description: The Fantastic Four learn that they aren't the only super-powered beings in the universe when they square off against the powerful Silver Surfer and the planet-eating Galactus.

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer should have been titled Fantastic Four: Waiting for Galactus instead.

The Waiting for Godot reference is deliberate. Waiting for Godot, if you’ll recall, is an absurdist play by Samuel Beckett about two transients named Vladimir and Estragon who spend the entire duration of the play waiting for a character named Godot. Godot however never pitches up and nothing much really happens in the play. The same goes for Fantastic Four 2. Not much really happens as well and even though Galactus does eventually show up, he might as well not have bothered at all.

The original 2005 Fantastic Four was a minor entry in the superhero movie genre, sandwiched between much superior efforts such as Batman Begins, X-2 and Spider-man 2. Much to the disappointment of fans of the original Marvel comic book, this medium-budgeted movie showed a lack of imagination especially when one considers the wilder “out there” source material particularly the early trippy 1960’s Stan Lee/Jack Kirby comics. However, despite being on the talky side kids and undiscerning movie fans loved it enough to be an unexpected hit that summer. Fans of the original comic were disappointed in everything from the rather simplistic plot to the hokey Thing costume worn by Michael Chiklis (here was a chance to create a remarkable virtual CGI creature, but they settled on a Halloween costume instead) to the miscasting of the tarty Jessica Alba as the more chaste Invisible Woman (Invisible Girl in the original comics).

"They should have called Galactus  Twistus instead because he appears as a left-over special effect from Twister . . ."

Fanboys were let down, but unwarranted optimism springs eternal however. When it was announced that the sequel would feature the beloved Silver Surfer character their ears pricked up. When the first footage of said character was revealed, fanboys went “Wow! That’s so cool!” pretty much the same way the Human Torch (Chris Evans) remarks in that first trailer. This was going to be huge . . . and how are they going to do the several storey tall Galactus then? the fanboys drooled.

Even though the movie would again feature the same cast as the original, they reasoned, and again be directed by Tim Story maybe things would be better this time round. Maybe it won’t be a flick for the kids, but one for the fanboys one with a bigger budget now that the first movie has proven to be a hit, a sequel willing to take some chances and actually live up to the expectations of comic fans across the globe.

So . . . did they pull it off?

Forget about it! Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer is more of the same. For starters, the film is all build up and no payoff. [Beginning spoilers!] Just how did they pull off the gigantic King Kong-sized planet-devouring behemoth that is Galactus from the comic books? Well, they didn’t. Galactus doesn’t have a single line of dialogue in the movie and simply appears at the end of the movie as a planet-sized dust storm. Yup, you read that right. They should have called him Twistus instead because he appears as a left-over special effect from Twister. Not only do they completely ignore the character as he (it?) appeared in the comics, but the Silver Surfer so easily defeats Galactus that it is almost insulting. No wonder the writers went to the trouble of bringing back Dr Doom as a villain for a subplot because they simply had no idea what to do with Galactus himself. (In this particular daft subplot Dr Doom steals the Surfer’s galactic surfboard yeah, you read that right too.) [End spoilers!]

So with three supervillains (that is, if you include the Surfer) to pad the scant ninety minutes running time, what is left? The same faults that dogged the previous installment: perfunctory character development, at times sub par CGI special effects, lots of talky bits filled with techno babble, Jessica Alba who looks like a streetwalker, a mediocre score by John Ottman, and so on.

In a movie blockbuster summer that is inundated with three hour epic sequels (Spider-man 3, Pirates of the Caribbean 3) one could say that is a blessing to have a sequel that runs a brisk 90 minutes instead of dragging on things for ever, but in the case of Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer one actually wishes for a longer running time instead of the rather perfunctory fight sequences and paper thin characters. Sure, Chris Evans as the obnoxious Human Torch brings some, ahem, fire to the proceedings and the other lead actors try their best at their flat – especially in the case of Mister Fantastic! – characters. But not even the Fantastic Four can save the “going by the numbers” screenplay and onscreen proceedings . . .

Ultimately Fantastic Four 2 isn’t the movie the fanboys have been hoping for, but kids (particularly boys) will still like it though and the same goes for everybody else who liked the first film. But if you, like me, were expecting something better and more, well, fantastic then you’ll be disappointed.

Let's face up to it: the best bits were in the trailer . . .

Note: Stan Lee makes his usual cameo as he did in all the Spider-man movies as well as Hulk. This time round he is a guest trying to gain admittance to Reed and Sue Richards’ celebrity wedding. “But I’m Stan Lee,” he protests when the door guard refuses him entry. Ho-ho, post-modernism . . .

Note: A reader e-mailed me the following: “It might interest you to know that two bits you deride in your review as unutterably hokey are, indeed, taken directly from the FF comic. Doctor Doom did, indeed, steal the Surfer's powers and board - it was the main plot thread for a year or so. And Stan Lee (and Jack Kirby) was, in fact, refused admittance (by Nick Fury, in charge of security) to the Richards/Storm wedding because they didn't have an invitation.” Our reader is right of course: the Doctor Doom steals Silver Surfer’s powers plot was introduced in Fantastic Four issue 57 (December, 1966), I checked yes. But that’s Marvel, for you. At least in the Stan Lee penned story, Doctor Doom uses a gizmo to rob the Surfer of his powers. In the movie Doom just hops onto the thing . . . and off he goes! Anyone can do it! Bring the family!


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