Saturday, January 30, 2021




Back in 2006, I had been surprised by the news that 20th Century Fox had green-lighted a sequel to the 2005 movie, "THE FANTASTIC FOUR". When the latter was released, many critics had panned the movie as a ghost of other Marvel cinematic hits such as the "SPIDER-MAN" films, the "X-MEN" franchise movies and the DC Comics hit, "BATMAN BEGINS".

Unlike the above-mentioned films and others such as 2003's "DAREDEVIL""THE FANTASTIC FOUR" told the story of how four people with close connections ended up with super powers . . . and how they dealt with it. It also introduced the quartet's main antagonist, Victor Von Doom. But it felt more like a character study than a costumed action film. Although this new sequel, "THE FANTASTIC FOUR: RISE OF THE SILVER SURFER" managed to retain the comedic element of the first story, it turned out to be a surprisingly good action piece with strong character development.

The movie began with the arrival of a mysterious alien presence that caused havoc with the Earth's resources in various locations. This alien turns out to be the Silver Surfer. The movie soon shifted to more familiar ground - namely the upcoming marriage of Reed Richards aka "Mr. Fantastic" and Sue Storm aka "The Invisible Woman". Or should I say . . . another attempt by the couple to get married. It seemed their past efforts at matrimony have ended up being delayed by either their roles as costumed super heroes, or Reed's anal obsession with his work. With the threat of the new alien presence announced by U.S. Army General Hager, Reed and Sue are forced to cancel their wedding plans once more and join other Fantastic Four members - Ben Grimm aka "The Thing" and Sue's younger brother, Johnny Storm aka "The Human Torch" - to save the Earth from the Silver Surfer.

The blue-suited quartet are eventually embroiled in other crisis as well. As I had stated earlier, Reed and Sue end up enduring an angst fest over their failure to get married. Johnny's first encounter with the Silver Surfer ended up changing his DNA structure. Because of this, he is able to exchange powers with any of his colleagues with only a touch. Even worse, Johnny's uncertainty regarding his powers and his failure to seduce General Hager's beautiful aide - Captain Raye - led him into an emotional crisis. Also, an old nemesis returned in the form of Dr. Victor von Doom aka "Doctor Doom". Claiming a desire to help the Army and the Fantastic Four deal with the threat of the Silver Surfer, Victor' real agenda turned out to be a desire to claim the Surfer's power source for his own use.

As I had earlier stated, the 2005 movie mainly told the story about how the quarter acquired their powers and became a costumed super hero team. The 2007 sequel, on the other hand, features a solid action-filled story on how the Fantastic Four battled the Silver Surfer, Victor von Doom, the U.S. Army and their own neurosis. Which is probably why this new story is a lot better than the original one from the 2005. Yes, the humor had remained. But the new movie seemed better paced, more solid . . . and dare I say it? More mature. Their interactions with both the Silver Surfer and General Hager turned the story from a basic comic book action flick into something more complex. And adding to the complexity were Reed and Sue's further obstacles facing their relationship, and Johnny Storm's troubles with his powers and his own self esteem.

Thankfully, the people at Marvel had decided to reunite director Tim Story with the cast of the 2005 film. Because of this, Story was able to maintain the style created two years ago and take the FANTASTIC FOUR franchise to a more complex level. With the exception of Michael Chiklis and Julian McMahon, the returning cast managed to take their roles to a new level in characterization. Do not get me wrong . . . both Chiklis and McMahon gave excellent performances. But their characters were never able to shine as much as the others. I suspect this was due to possible conflicting schedules with their respective TV series ("THE SHIELD" and "NIP/TUCK"). Andre Braugher's tough and intimidating performance as General Hager seemed to have put the rest of the cast on their toes. Both Ioan Gruffudd and Jessica Alba's screen chemistry seemed a lot more believable in this film as their characters, Reed Richards and Sue Storm, struggled to take their relationship to another level despite the obstacles put in their paths.

The real surprise turned out to be Chris Evans' portrayal as the usually shallow Johnny Storm, who discovered their was more to his life than fast vehicles, women and his celebrity status as one of the Fantastic Four. Who would have thought that this superficially charming character could possess real pathos? Yet, Evans' first-class performance made this possible. He also provided one of the movie's funniest scenes, when he "accidentally" torched the bridal bouquet before his new girlfriend, Captain Raye, could catch it. Although I found the Silver Surfer's abilities and his impact upon the Fantastic Four impressive thanks to Doug Jones' physical performance, I must say that his personality struck me as a little too distant for me to really care about him. At least the revelation of his bondage to a powerful and destructive alien entity made his character a little more interesting than I had originally believed. And I have to give Laurence Fishburne kudos for doing an excellent job with the character's voice over.

I would highly recommend "THE FANTASTIC FOUR: RISE OF THE SILVER SURFER" if you are looking for in-house viewing. Granted, it did not have the level of angst or epic-like proportion of other Marvel movies around that decade such as the "SPIDER-MAN" or the "X-MEN" franchises, it was still a more complex and interesting story than its 2005 predecessor, "THE FANTASTIC FOUR".

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