Something from outer space is making it’s way through the galaxy and devouring planets in it’s wake, it’s on a course for Earth and it’s being preceded by a strange silver-glazed being riding what appears to be a surfboard. On Earth, The Fantastic Four have become huge public eye stars for their fantastic exploits, and now we’re just days away from the wedding of Reed Richards and Susan Storm. The Surfer makes his appearance on Earth, causing calamity in his wake, leaving the US military to get in touch with the Fantastic Four to help devise a way to at least figure out what this is… And inadvertently, through his own power after effects, the Surfer revives Victor Von Doom, who wants nothing more than to gain the power of the Surfer for himself.
And that’s the basic premise of Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer which so far for me is the best of the Marvel Comics movies to come out this year. Now I really liked the first film too (even more so now that there’s an Extended Edition out there) and one of the big reasons that I liked this, is that by the nature of the Fantastic Four comic itself, these films don’t come in and get as heavy as say Spider-Man movies do, or Batman, or even something like Daredevil. The Fantastic Four should be more fanciful, more whimsical than the other comic movies out there, and I think they’ve certainly succeeded with both of them thus far.
There’s lots of nods to the comic here, although there’s lots of stuff that’s also going to really piss off the internet-vocal fanboy crowd as well- in particular the portrayal of Galactus in the film, which still to me is more vague than “just a big cloud.” There’s a space in there where there could’ve been a little something more shown, but I ain’t gonna hold that against the movie… and I certainly can understand the decision to not show Galactus in his traditional sense, simply because they’re wanting more than just the fanboy element to like the film and I’d tend to think that the mainstream audience seeing a building-sized humanoid wearing a Jack Kirby designed purple helmet might not take it the way it should be taken (although again, there is a moment where there could’ve certainly had been a compromise between the two- which I could see being opened up a bit in what will probably be the inevitable Extended Edition of this film).
Director Tim Story and his crew have certainly made some changes along the way, compared to the first film… this one is way more effects-heavy and I tend to think for the most part they’re all pretty cool effects, especially when you’re dealing with these characters in particular who’s entire bodies are pure effects. The make-up for the Thing has really been improved on, particularly around Ben Grimm’s upper body and his brow… to me, it really allows Michael Chiklis to actually perform better. And finally, a character that’s been talked about for film ever since 1980 (when someone connected to Olivia Newton-John- this was around the time of Xanadu– had the option on the Surfer) has finally made it to film and fulfilled some promise that effects movies like Terminator 2 promised you could see. The Surfer is really nicely done here- acted out by actor Doug Jones and voiced by Laurence Fishburne, he’s a true commanding presence in the movie.
But I don’t at all want to slight the four leads- Ioan Gruffod, Jessica Alba, Chris Evans and Michael Chiklis all reprise their roles and they’re all real comfortable with each other on-screen. There’s some moments near the end of the film where that chemistry is really evident and you do buy that they’re a family. I’ve got to give some huge marks to Chris Evans here, who gets to give Johnny Storm a lot more depth than he’s had before and still have fun with the part. Also returning is Julian McMahon as Doctor Doom, and again, he’s obviously having a real ball with the part. New to this cast, and continuing the trend of hiring FX TV series actors for this movie is solid-as-a-rock Andre Braugher as the general who gets in touch with the Four (I figure Denis Leary must be the next in line to get a part in the film- no doubt looking both tortured and sardonic at the same time)
Out of all the big Marvel Comics movies this year, this was the one that I was looking forward to the most, and for me anyway it delivered the goods. On top of that, again I got to see this in digital projection and as such that made the viewing experience even more special. I’d say that if you liked the first movie, I’d definitely recommend this film. But if you got your nose all out of joint over the first one, you should probably just stay home, there’s probably not much that this one is going to do for you. And if you’re the type that’s gonna get real steamed off that Galactus ain’t a big guy in a big purple helmet, don’t go at all and don’t forget your helmet when you leave the house…