Review of Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer

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A sequel to the superhero action movie from 2005, Rise of the Silver Surfer stars Jessica Alba and Chris Evans. This time around the Fantastic Four learn they aren't the only super-powered beings in the universe as they square off against the Silver Surfer and the planet-eating Galactus.
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Movie Review: "Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer"

-- Rating: PG
Length: 92 minutes
Release Date: June 15, 2007
Directed by: Tim Story
Genre: Action / Adventure / Fantasy

"Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer" picks up where the previous "Fantastic 4" movie left off. Reed Richards (Ioan Gruffud), Sue Storm (Jessica Alba), Ben Grimm (Michael Chiklis) and Johnny Storm (Chris Evans) are superheroes with incredible powers who seek to protect the world from threats. Richards, as Mr. Fantastic, can stretch his body to great lengths. Sue Storm, The Invisible Woman, controls force fields and can disappear at will. Ben Grimm is a hulking monstrosity known as The Thing. Johnny Storm's alter ego, The Human Torch, possesses flame powers that allow him to fly and manipulate fire. All of these powers come to bear in the film as a great threat emerges from outer space.

The Silver Surfer (Doug Jones) flies through space seeking a meal for his master, destroying planets in his wake. He awakens Dr. Victor Von Doom (Julain McMahon) when he arrives on Earth. Doom, the Fantastic 4's greatest nemesis, quickly realizes the potential of the cosmic power of the surfer and attempts to take it for himself. The plot hinges on the battle between the Surfer, Doom and the Fantastic 4.

Overall, the actors do a fantastic job of portraying their characters. Gruffud is larger than life as obsessed scientist Reed Richards. Alba provides a very convincing performance as Sue Storm and exhibits great passion in the many scenes dealing with her marriage to Richards. Chiklis and Evans are back in their roles as the comic relief in the series, though Evans manages to transcend the humor a few times in this film and evoke some very real emotion on screen.
The film does not lack adventure or excitement but falls into typical summer movie fare with explosions and superhero combat a bit too often. Battles are magnificent CG-enhanced events but occasionally seem overbearing and contrived in some instances. The humor of the film tends to take center stage for most of the picture as supernatural powers go haywire and The Thing goes head-to-head with a wild bear.

However, the plot is shaky at many points,. The party accepts the assistance of their arch-nemesis too quickly and turns to an outsider responsible for millions of dollars in damage practically without hesitation. Comic book fans used to the deeply detailed scientific underpinnings of traditional Marvel comics may be disenchanted with the deus ex machina-style machinery and tactics used. It's unclear if this hiccup in the film's otherwise enjoyable romp is due to the script or direction, but such unclear transitions and quick "heel-turn" events interrupt the suspension of disbelief. It almost seems as if the team expects The Surfer to save them long before they consider him anything other than a galactic menace.

The film really picks up towards the end, however, as the stakes rise, and the Fantastic 4 begin to realize the magnitude of the problem. The true villain emerges from space ready to devour the planet and many minor details, such as an apparently humorous event early on in the film, come together to help spell the end of the galactic threat looming over Earth. This focus at the end of the film on the Surfer and his master instead of the Fantastic 4 may seem to steal the show from the title characters, but it provides a relief from the traditional hero team formula.

The romance subplot, involving Richards and Sue Storm getting married, provides an excellent level of interaction between the main characters in the story. Much of the humor and drama of the film comes from this element; the entire work is elevated because of it. The lighting, special effects and use of computer-generated elements are top-notch. Flying scenes involving the Human Torch and The Surfer are some of the film's most thrilling moments and serve to highlight the overall scope of the film.

Even though The Silver Surfer steals the show, this film is a worthy addition to almost any Marvel comic fan's collection. Those who are less into comics and over-the-top hero antics may still wish to check it out for the love story and humorous interludes. The movie doesn't change anyone's perceptions of love, or redefine any familiar characters, but it does give a good look at the lives of some of the most popular comic book heroes out there.

"Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer" is a decent summer film worth picking up for a fun night with friends.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars