Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007) Review

Rating: 1 Star

The following review contains spoilers.

Overview:

The Fantastic Four are now huge national celebrities, though what they’ve actually been up to since their last movie is not explored in any way. They just are. We open with them flying back to New York from an unnamed city where they were handling an unknown issue, but hey, at least we get a lot of hacky airline humor out of it (The Thing has to sit in a middle seat! D’oh!). Though insane phenomena is occurring all over the world (snow in Egypt, water turning solid in Japan, massive craters appearing from nothing) Reed is forbidden by Sue from investigating because it might distract him from planning their wedding, because now Sue Storm, one of my favorite all-time super heroes, cares more about her getting ready for her magical day than she does about science, exploration, and super heroics. Awesome. Wasn’t she a “Director of Genetic Research” at Dr. Doom’s company? Now she’s all “Ugh, science! Let’s pick out china patterns.”

Eventually Reed just lies to Sue and investigates anyway, at some prodding from a totally unnecessary U.S. Army subplot, and gets early warning (like a few seconds early warning, but whatever) that the Silver Surfer is about to crash their wedding. Johnny goes after the Surfer but isn’t able to stop him, though close proximity to the Surfer’s cosmic radiation causes Johnny to switch powers with any member of the FF that he comes in physical contact with. This is super necessary because it gives Jessica Alba another humiliating “Oh no! I’m naked outside!” scene when she burns all of her clothes off with Johnny’s powers.

Another side-effect of the Surfer’s arrival is that Dr. Doom is revived from his FF-induced coma. A second encounter cures Dr. Doom’s physical deformities while allowing him to retain all his super powers, so that’s convenient for Julian McMahon. The Army forces Reed to work together with Doom to find a way to stop the Surfer, and then Doom proceeds to contribute absolutely nothing. You’d expect at least a cool scene of Doom and Reed struggling to co-exist (or surprisingly enjoying working with someone of similar intellect), but nothing like that. They all go out into a forest and use a “tachyon pulse” to separate the Surfer from his board, and learn that he’s not actually the one who’s going to destroy the world: he’s just a herald for… Galactus!

Best Parts:

Good on them I guess for even attempting a Silver Surfer and Galactus story, though it definitely feels like that should’ve been saved for a theoretical third FF movie. There’s nothing more comic book-y than the Silver Surfer.

There’s a brief moment where the FF are working together and all using their powers to save the London Eye from falling into the Thames, and it’s kind of thrilling.

Chris Evans and Michael Chiklis are still pretty good. They actually have scenes were they seem like friends, whereas in the last movie it came off as them legitimately despising each other.

Is this the only movie where Stan Lee cameos as himself?

Worst Parts:

Ioan Gruffudd and Jessica Alba are still terrible. Also, their characters are terrible. Sue comes off as a shrill stereotype most of the movie, and dies just to motivate the Surfer to save the Earth. Reed is an incompetent clown, and his scene dancing at his bachelor party is completely ridiculous and the special effects are a mess. I couldn’t stand any moment either of them were on-screen.

The whole characterization of the FF is wrong. They shouldn’t need the U.S. Army to force them to be super heroes. They’re supposed to be explorers. I don’t think you have to be 100% faithful to the comics when doing adaptations, but there are certain core concepts you need to follow, or why even bother? The filmmakers had an opportunity here, origin story already behind them, to take the FF to a new level and they whiffed it. It’s not just a dull retread of the first film’s characterization: it actually feels like a backslide.

I said above that the only thrilling scene in the movie is when the FF are combining their powers and working together, and for some insane reason they go completely the opposite way in the climax. They can’t seem to coordinate well-enough to take down Surfer Doom, and besides Sue is already fridged, so Johnny absorbs all their powers and fights Doom one-on-one. Chris Evans was probably the only part of the first film that was consistently praised, so instead of fixing the other characters they just doubled-down on him.

And then Galactus is defeated by the Surfer, acting alone, apparently having been given so much power by Galactus as his herald that he can kill Galactus and still walk away. How did the FF contribute to this victory? Well, they asked the Surfer nicely to not destroy the planet, and Sue reminds him of his girlfriend. It in no way feels like a triumph, and Galactus is defeated so easily and perfunctorily that it retroactively feels like it was never a legitimate threat.

And oh good lord the Dodge product placement on the Fantasticar is a nightmare:

“A hemi?”
“Of course!”

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