Comic Defilement

The 'Fantastic Four' franchise stumbles along with this lame sequel

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer marks the summer season's low point thus far in big-budget busts. Spider-Man 3 was pretty bad, but it's Chinatown compared to this crap.

The first film of the franchise was disastrously bad, while this one is just very bad. Director Tim Story returns with a terrible crop of writers and special-effects people, continuing to insult Fantastic Four fans with a bad story, terrible visuals and hellacious editing.

Apparently, it's not evil enough to defile the Fantastic Four, so now they've dragged another beloved comic character into the fray: The Silver Surfer makes his movie debut. Voiced by Laurence Fishburne, this is a character that always baffled me in the comics, and he continues to do so in the film. His mission is to destroy planets on his silver surfboard, with his master being an enormous, stormy-energy thing called Galactus. Galactus has an appetite for planets and has threatened to destroy the Silver Surfer's home (where his babe lives) if he doesn't carry out his planet-killing duties.

In other words, even though Silver Surfer is trying to kill entire planets, he's really a good guy, because he loves somebody. He makes his first earthly appearance by disrupting the wedding of Reed Richards (Ioan Gruffudd) and Sue Storm (Jessica Alba), aka Mr. Fantastic and The Invisible Woman. Johnny "The Human Torch" (a smarmy Chris Evans) gives chase, resulting in one of the film's few decent scenes. We eventually find out that Susan Storm reminds the Surfer of his girlfriend, so our planet might stand a fighting chance.

After dying in the first film, Victor Von Doom (Julian McMahon) somehow resurrects himself in a way that is never really explained, and he sets his sights on the atmosphere-destroying board. We know that Victor is a bad guy, because he talks and performs all actions in slow motion--not just slow, but really slow. He's my pick for worst screen villain since Mario Van Peebles in Highlander III: The Sorcerer.

McMahon's irritating performance isn't the film's worst. That honor goes to Gruffudd, who turns Mr. Fantastic into a dud. The franchise low point occurs when Reed dances up a storm at his bachelor party, a truly painful scene. Gruffudd has absolutely zero charisma, and I can't help but think the series would be marginally better if they replaced him.

Actually, not much can be said for Evans as Johnny and Michael Chiklis as Ben "The Thing" Grimm, either. Alba is actually the closest thing to a true thespian in the cast, and that's just scary.

As for the special effects, the Surfer is actually pretty cool to look at, even if he doesn't make much sense. Most other effects are subpar, including cartoonish-looking renditions of planets and fuzzy-looking visuals when Richards stretches. The planet-eating Galactus is cool, but for the bucks being thrown at this thing, it should look much better. The film suffers from direct-to-video-worthy graphics.

In an effort to get laughs, Johnny comes down with some condition that allows him to switch powers with his partners by touching them. So we get to see Johnny as the Thing. BRUU-HA-HA-HA-HA! Not funny.

I will say this: Bravo to Chiklis for not allowing himself to go topless. In one instance, as the end of the world is upon us, and he's been switched back to human form thanks to Johnny, the filmmakers insert a shot of Chiklis pausing to put on a hooded sweatshirt. We are spared his man boobs.

The film scored big box office for its opening, so we will probably get a third one. Until that film's release, I will live everyday with just a touch of fear.

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