Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer
Starring Ioan Gruffudd
This movie is rated PG in Australia. That says a lot, really - Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer is not aiming to outdo the adult-oriented realism of Hell Boy, the teen-centric appeal of the X-Men series, or even the all-ages joys of the first two Spider-Man films (not the third, because it's kind of crummy). F4 aims squarely at the 12-and-under market. This is school holidays entertainment and a somewhat niche, fan-focussed film at that.
Taking the above paragraph as something of a proviso, you'll better understand why the original Fantastic Four largely disappointed F4 comic fans and failed on a technical front as a film. It was a live-action cartoon, effectively. And chances are, if you didn't like the first film, you're unlikely to be drawn back for a second helping. This in turn raises the question of why there needed to be a sequel in the first place, but we'll resist the urge to delve into that one.
What great disturbance in The Force is weighing down on the F4 team this time? As the film kicks off, we see an enormous, swirling grey cloud of space matter ripping apart planets and drifting on its merry way, ever closer towards our solar system. This, sadly, is the cinematic interpretation of Galactus, Devourer of Worlds. Yes, it sucks. Yes, it's not scary or interesting. No, we're not going to let this one slide by.
Seriously, Galactus' reinvention is completely whacked. Director Tim Story's reasoning behind the change? Who knows. It doesn't matter. If you're going to alter a key character this much, why not just completely invent a new persona? This decision is just going to draw out the furious fanboys and purists. The movie hands them a loaded gun, gives them enough reason to fire off a round, but then asks them to holster it.
Reed Richards (Ioan "Wooden" Gruffudd) and Sue Storm (Jessica "Lousy Blonde" Alba) are dealing with dilemmas of the emotional kind, as they rapidly near their wedding day. Reed is typically preoccupied with scientific endeavours, and Alba is trying to hold herself together and pull a grand celebration out of the air.
Johnny Storm (Chris "I'm-actually-not-half-bad" Evans), meanwhile, is relishing in the team's newfound fame, and The Thing (Michael "gravel-voice" Chiklis) just stomps around looking rubbery and keeping Johnny's ego in line with quips and asides.
Again, The Thing is used as a slapstick buffoon, which makes us groan with defeatist contempt for the writers. The Thing has the potential to be the most interesting character on the team, largely due to his flaws and hard-edged personality. But although his story is developed in sporadic bursts, mostly he's the token fool.
Things go pear-shaped when The Silver Surfer makes his appearance; his 'radiating energy' causes worldwide chaos with weather and electricity - and the mayhem extends to beings who come into contact with him, too. Suddenly, Surfer is a global threat, the military is called in and they shrug their collective shoulders, turning to Mr. Fantastic and the team for help.
This is a big-budget Summer release in America, and it shows. The increased budget has allowed for some pretty inventive and entertaining stunts and sequences. As massive craters begin to appear in the Earth's crust all around the world, the results are pretty spectacular. One appears in the middle of the Thames river, leading into arguably the most original action sequence in the film, where the team struggle to save the enormous ferris wheel, The Eye.
Unfortunately, the special effects definitely vary greatly in quality and execution. While The Silver Surfer looks utterly exact in CG reproduction, his facial animation and lip synching aren't up to par. Laurence Fishburne, who lends his mild, cultured voice, is a very nice touch though.