by Rob Gonsalves
We have here a silver-colored humanoid who zips around the cosmos on a surfboard. He is called the Silver Surfer. We have also a man who can stretch his flesh and bones, a man who can burst into flame and fly, a woman who can turn invisible and put up force fields, and a man made of orange rock. Last but not least, we have a villain called Victor von Doom, or, for short, Dr. Doom. The film in question has been termed “juvenile and simplistic” by the rottentomatoes.com consensus. This is like sneering at water for being wet and not solid enough.Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (perhaps the most agreeably absurd movie title since Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters) is based on comic books initially written by Stan Lee (who has a cameo, finally resorting to announcing “I’m Stan Lee!”) and drawn by Jack Kirby. The hundred and two issues these men collaborated on are an awful lot of fun, equal parts goofball and pop-transcendent, though spoken of in reverent tones by comics geeks. They were pure comics for kids, and the movies based on them — the previous 2005 entry, and even the terrible unreleased attempt from 1994 — proceed from the Lee/Kirby tone of joshing, self-mocking escapism.
"C'mon, y'all; it's a Fantastic Four movie. With a galactic surfer dude."
Reed Richards (Ioan Gruffudd), aka the stretchy Mr. Fantastic, and Sue Storm (Jessica Alba), aka the Invisible Woman, are set to tie the knot when the Surfer — whose actual name is Norrin Radd (totally radd, dude) — ungraciously whooshes into New York City. Sue’s brother Johnny (Chris Evans), aka the Human Torch, gives fiery chase and is slapped down; thereafter, a lot of humor hinges on Johnny inadvertently trading powers with Ben Grimm (Michael Chiklis), aka the Thing, who relishes the opportunity to cast off his stony orange burden and laugh at Johnny. The Surfer has come on behalf of his boss, Galactus, who goes around devouring planets, and Earth is next on his menu. That’s more or less the plot, though the nefarious Doom (Julian McMahon) enters the picture, offering Reed scientific assistance while cloaking his true agenda.
The filmmakers have more or less caught the bickering dynamic of the team, and the special effects are doled out sparingly but winningly, particularly when one of the Four gains the powers of all four members and puts them to satisfying use. I was charmed by small details like Ben rubbing his fingers together to produce granite pebbles for young fans; some longtime followers of the comic book may feel that’s what the movie is doing, too — distributing crumbs with minimal effort. The Fantastic Four films are essentially fantasies for kids, and those looking for gravitas in their funnybook flicks should probably hold out for The Dark Knight. I have read many of the legitimate criticisms of this sequel, and I agree with them, and I do not care. I do not bring much to the Fantastic Four franchise other than the expectation of light-hearted, light-headed fun. I am not among those who carp that Galactus is not shown in his full, purple-suited, tuning-fork-helmeted splendor, though that would have rendered the film, if anything, doubly silly and absurd.
The theme of the movie, in keeping with a great many other entertainments this summer, is that saving the world must take a back seat to relationships. The eternally libidinous Johnny is heard to regret not having anyone steady, unlike his teammates (even Ben has a sweetie, conveniently made blind in the comics and the movies, though some sighted women might find him cute). Not to be left out, the Silver Surfer has a loved one back home; he develops a bond with Sue, who reminds him of his sweetheart, and he shows her more ardent attention than does the perpetually gadget-distracted Reed. As for Doom, he has his mirror for companionship.To be honest, Pixar’s 2004 'The Incredibles' probably did the 'Fantastic Four' material better than the actual 'Fantastic Four' movies ever will, but I’m glad to see Reed, Sue, Johnny and Ben every few summers anyway, as a corrective to tormented X-men, spider-men, bat-men, and even emo supermen (picture Kal-El sniffling into his Cheerios over Lois Lane’s son last summer). This is about the only franchise left that still admits that being a superhero can be a blast.
link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=15530&reviewer=416
originally posted: 06/17/07 10:53:22