Reed Richards (Iaon Gruffudd, TV’s “Horatio Hornblower”) and Sue Storm (Jessica Alba) are supposed to get married. They have spent a lot of time planning what will hopefully be Sue’s dream wedding, but that is looking less and less likely; each of the previous wedding ceremonies has been canceled due to various emergencies. You know, they are superheroes and when duty calls… And now, the paparazzi are out in force to try to capture the nuptials. Sue’s brother, Johnny (Chris Evans, “Cellular”, the upcoming “Sunshine”) and Ben (Michael Chiklis, TV’s “The Shield”) are in attendance, ready to give their friends and fellow super-heroes, a grand send-off. But a mysterious force appears and dries up a bay in Japan, causing General Hager (Andre Braugher, having difficulty finding roles worthy of his talent since TV’s “Homicide”) to approach Richards and ask him to build a detection device. They soon learn the force is from another world and going from one planet to the other, robbing it of life force and then moving on, just as the planet self-destructs. This force, who rides a silvery surfboard, prompting the Fantastic Four to name him the Silver Surfer (they’re a bright bunch), has set his sights on Earth. Naturally, they can’t let that happen. But they don’t know what to do. Enter Dr. Doom (Julian McMahon, TV’s “Nip/ Tuck”) who wants in on the action. Will he be able to help the Fantastic Four?
I pretty much hated the original Fantastic Four”. In an era when “Spiderman” and “Batman Begins” can show how to make a superhero film right, “Fantastic Four” seems like a throwback to the bad superhero films of the 70s. Everything is too jokey, too commercial and too fast-paced.
Actually, that last complaint is a blessing in disguise. Each of the two films runs between 90 and 100 minutes. Given the time it takes to establish characters, both good and bad, the running time of these films is very brief. Everything seems rushed and the characters seem cartoonier because of it. We never have any time with the characters to build a real relationship, to watch them build any relationships of meaning. It makes the entire thing seem more than a little shallow.
See Reed in love with Sue.
See Sue in love with Reed.
But given the quality of these films, it is probably just as well that they don’t make us sit through an attempt to create something more meaningful, something more interesting.
“Silver Surfer” has all the same problems that “Four” had. Dr. Richards (Gruffudd) is the only one who seems to be an actual scientist. The rest of the group are merely worker bees or assistants. They aren’t equals; yet, the film seems to want them to be equals, to use their superpowers as a team. Also, Richards is the only one who ever appears to be serious about his work. For instance, when General Haggard approaches him with the problem, he secretly tries to create the device they will need to help the government. As important as her wedding is, because Sue (Alba) is so concerned about this and only this, it makes her a bit stereotypical. At one point, she even says, “I just want this wedding to be as I always dreamed it would be.” I expected her to continue on and say ‘Since I was a little girl’ and then pull out her Barbie dolls. Sue is a superhero for goodness sake. Sure, she should have normal wants and desires, but ‘the perfect wedding’?
Ben “The Thing” Grimm (Chiklis) is still in love with his blind girlfriend, Alicia (Kerry Washington) and he still has to put up with Johnny’s (Evans) dumb jokes about his size and their relationship. But that is basically the extent of this character.
At one point, Johnny returns to their headquarters holding a superhero outfit that more closely resembles a NASCAR driver’s gear; the front and back are covered with endorsements. Johnny is all for it, he wants the endorsements, the fame, the public’s adulation. But this is also what he wanted in “Four”, so his character doesn’t really develop.
After General Haggard enters the picture, Johnny makes goo-goo eyes at one of his assistants, a blonde woman who wants to have nothing to do with him. This is amusing for about half a second, but the same joke was played out in “Four.” Johnny wants fame, he wants girls, and he wants attention. We get it. Is there nothing else we can learn about this character? Is there nothing else we can learn about any of these characters?
When the Silver Surfer first appears, Johnny chases him and tries to stop him. Their interaction causes Johnny to experience some changes; basically if he touches one of the other team members, their powers switch. This leads to an amusing moment, but when they do the joke again. And again. It starts to wear thin.
Another problem with both films is that two of the super heroes are only possible through the use of CGI. Yes, I know Batman and Spiderman are also greatly aided by CGI, but anytime Sue becomes Invisible Woman or Johnny becomes the Human Torch, they are completely animated. Worse yet, the Silver Surfer is never seen in a human form. Therefore, he is always computer generated. We can’t feel empathetic for a computer creation. We have to have some link to the human side of these characters for us to feel for them, to make a connection. Because their superhero personas always look like a cartoon, it is difficult to care for them, or feel fear for them.
I don’t know who made the decision, but whoever decided to cast Jessica Alba, as the Invisible Woman needs their head examined. Alba is one of the most beautiful women working in film today and you want her to play a character that is largely unseen? And Chris Evans as the Human Torch? Again, a good-looking guy, but anytime he is a superhero, he is covered with animated flames and fire. I did notice that in “Silver Surfer”, they made more use of Invisible Woman’s ability to create force fields, allowing Invisible Woman to stay visible. Also, “Surfer” seems to show Johnny in his superhero outfit on more occasions, before he becomes the Human Torch, allowing his fans the opportunity to see him in a skintight outfit.
When Johnny walks in with the NASCAR outfit, Reed and Sue look at him like he is crazy and the corporate sponsorship is dismissed. Yet, as Reed is attempting to build the tracking device, he wants to use a handheld phone unit, providing the filmmakers with many opportunities to show the company’s logo. Later, Reed creates a floating car, unveiling it to the rest of the team. Imagine my surprise when I saw the Dodge logo on the front of the vehicle. Dodge helped build this floating car? Did they provide the money? This type of thing is so prevalent in today’s films, but when they spend a lot of effort to show these elements, it crosses the line. Anyone who has seen “Casino Royale” can probably tell you which cell phone James Bond uses in the film, but it was a passing moment and it wasn’t lingered on for so long.
All of this might be more acceptable if we had any idea of the origins or the purpose of the Silver Surfer. He wants to destroy planets by robbing them of their natural resources? Why? During the course of the film, the Surfer (voiced by Laurence Fishburne) provides an enigmatic reason, which only adds to the confusion.
This sequel is not worthy of your time or attention. Let’s make sure they don’t subject us to “Fantastic Four: Dr. Doom and Silver Surfer Tie The Knot”. Don’t spend your money on a ticket for this film. Don’t do it.