To call the comic book adaptation sequel Fantastic Four: Rise Of The Silver Surfer a better film than its predecessor, would be damning it with the faintest of praise. The film manages to capitalize and improve upon what worked in the first installment, but unfortunately finds a whole new series of problems as well.
A combination of two classic comic book storylines, this film finds the super-powered Fantastic Four investigating a series of mysterious events only to discover that there cause is a cosmically powered entity they dub the “Silver Surfer.” Things go from bad to worse when the Surfer reveals that he is preparing Earth to be consumed by an even more powerful alien creature called Galactus who feeds off of the life forces of entire planets. Racing against time to find a way to stop Galactus, the Four find themselves allied with their old enemy Doctor Doom. But Doom has an agenda of his own.
Essential a rather unconventional family of superheroes, this installment of the Fantastic Four’s adventures is aimed strictly at family audiences. Despite the threat of planetary genocide, the film’s tone is light and jokey. Sure, some of the moments strain credulity. It’s funny seeing the bulky Ben Grimm (Michael Chiklis) trying to squeeze into an airline’s narrow coach-class seat, though you may balk at the idea that media darlings like the Four have become would be flying a regular commercial flight.
As with the first film, the character moments are what the film captures best. Super scientist and super-elastic Reed Richards (Ioan Gruffudd) and his fiancée Sue Storm (Jessica Alba) are preparing for their wedding but are stressed by the media scrutiny their nuptials have come under. Sue’s brother Johnny (Chris Evans), the Human Torch, and Ben continue their friendly rivalry, but also share an honest and heartfelt chat in a bar that reveals a bit more about the each of them to the other than they’d probably care to admit.
Director Tim Story shows courage for attempting to bring the comic story of the Silver Surfer to the big screen, especially as it depends on the character Galactus – a hundreds feet tall giant dressed in purple and blue with a giant tuning fork-like helmet – who would be hard to translate cinematically without him looking entirely goofy. As such, he makes the only choice possible- by keeping the world-devouring entity off camera or obscured by a giant debris cloud, only hinted at in quick glimpses of shadow. The unfortunate side-effect is that any real tension and sense of urgency the film tries to generate is severely undercut because the film’s primary threat is often talked about, but seldom seen.
Someone we see far too much of in the film is Julian McMahon’s Doctor Doom. With the film not being as weighted and dark an affair as many other superhero adaptations that have graced the screens in recent years, McMahon takes this as license to turn in a rather hammy, over-the-top performance that helps to unbalance the film.