Fantastic Four: Rise Of The Silver Surfer

Fantastic Four: Rise Of The Silver Surfer

***

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

The first instalment of a super-hero franchise is always tough to carry off. You have to set up the men in tights’ back story and establish the bad guy. That’s tricky enough when you’ve got one of each – Superman, Batman et al, but when it comes to the Fantastic Four, it’s a quadruple problem.

So it came to pass that one of the biggest failings of the original Fantastic Four movie was that it took so long to set up the idea of Reed Richards (his top is made out of rubber, his bottom is made out of spring), Sue Storm (invisible and sexily naked by turns), Johnny Storm (the feisty fireball) and Ben Grimm aka The Thing (think a more brick-like, intelligent version of The Hulk) that there was hardly any room for bad guy Victor Von Doom’s plot.

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Thankfully, all of this is now in the past and the sequel – which features just one new character, the Silver Surfer of the title - is a much better effort.

This time around, the team are preparing for Sue and Reed’s wedding. Things, of course, don’t go to plan and soon they’re on a mission to save the planet – this time from the mysterious surfer and a world-wolfing entity called Galactus.

Their hunt for the surfer takes them on an action romp round the globe, including some fun and games with the London Eye and the Great Wall of China. Freed from the need for the amount of exposition required in the first film, there’s much more room for creativity in the script. While the gags are aimed squarely at a family audience, there’s nothing wrong with that and this is certainly a film you could take even tiddlers to without worrying they are going to have nightmares later. Equally, the runtime is a family-friendly 92 minutes, which should come as a relief to parents still traumatised from sitting through the bladder-busting behemoth that is Pirates Of The Caribbean.

Screenwriters Don Payne (who has good comedy credentials thanks to his work on The Simpsons) and Mark Frost (let’s not dwell on his contribution to the first film) use the sarcasm of Ben and Johnny – “Wow, that’s really boring” - to neatly cut through Reed’s ‘science bit’ and the script is generally much tighter than the previous outing, with more decent one-liners and less reliance on tired slapstick.

Gone, too, is the rock soundtrack that was so dreadfully derivative in the original, here replaced for the most part by decent, if unremarkable, scoring by John Ottman.

You’re probably not going to be heading to the multiplex to see this for the Academy Award-winning performances, but most of the cast acquit themselves well. Sadly the super-power of acting is still way beyond Jessica Alba’s grasp as Sue, but it seems this has not gone unnoticed by the scriptwriters, as the weight of the material falls on the shoulders of Ioann Gruffudd (Reed), Chris Evans (Johnny) and Michael Chiklis (Ben). Julian McMahon – whose previous turn as Dr Doom was hammier than a field of pigs – also turns down his performance to something a little shy of stun, which is a relief.

Also much improved on the original are both the effects and the make-up. The ever-wonderful Chiklis was fighting more of a battle with his costume than the bad guys last time around but they’ve clearly worked on giving him more flexibility, which pays off. The Silver Surfer (body by the ever-excellent Doug Jones, previously seen as the faun in Pan’s Labyrinth among many other roles; voice by Laurence Fishburne) is also well-realised in an enhanced Terminator 2 kind of a way. If the characterisation lacks depth, it will doubtless be dealt with in an inevitable spin-off.

While director Tim Story’s direction can, at best, still only be described as workmanlike, at least it does work on this occasion… maybe by the time the franchise reaches number four, he’ll manage something truly fantastic.

Reviewed on: 13 Jun 2007
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Fantastic Four: Rise Of The Silver Surfer packshot
The Marvel superheroes have a slight hitch with a wedding when the earth is threatened with destruction.
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Director: Tim Story

Writer: Don Payne, Mark Frost, based on a story by John Turman and Mark Frost, based on characters created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby

Starring: Ioan Gruffudd Chris Evans, Michael Chiklis, Jessica Alba, Julian McMahon, Kerry Washington, Laurence Fishburne, Doug Jones, Andre Braugher, Beau Garrett, Brian Posehn

Year: 2007

Runtime: 92 minutes

BBFC: PG - Parental Guidance

Country: USA, Germany

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