If there’s a saving grace to this sequel to the movie based on Marvel Comics’ first family of superheroes is that it surpasses the original. But that’s not saying much given the fact that the first Fantastic Four was… well, is craptastic a word? (Spell check says it isn’t.) Basically, it was underwhelming to the point of “Wow I never thought that I could care less about a rock man, a stretchy dude, an invisible woman and a guy that can light himself on fire, but here’s the proof.”
In Rise of the Silver Surfer, we catch up with the quartet of Reed Richards (Ioan Griffudd), Susan Storm (Jessica Alba), Ben Grimm (Michael Chiklis) and Johnny Storm (Chris Evans) as they prepare for the fourth try at a wedding for Reed and Sue. Appearing on cue, however, is a cosmic entity that’s travelling all over the world, digging massive holes in far-flung places like the Sea of Japan and Giza Egypt. The US military employs Reed to devise a way to track the entity, an alien in silver skin and riding something that appears to be a surfboard. Reed succeeds at tracking the Surfer, but the team fails to capture him. So re-enter everyone’s favourite Latverian despot Dr. Doom (Julian McMahon), who offers his help for motives which are surely beneficial to him alone.
The film is pretty straightforward without nearly a hint of some kind of underline complexity. Surfer arrives, Surfer goes about his business, Surfer fights our heroes, gets taken out, learns the error of being a scout for a big, cosmic thing that munches on planets and everyone goes home happy. Everyone except the fanboys that is, and while I sometimes count myself among them, there are some things I am capable of overlooking, organic web shooters or flames on Optimus for example.
The Fantastic Four movies seem so scared of their own mythology. In the comics, like in the movie, the Surfer is the herald for Galactus, an ancient alien entity that has to snack on planets to survive. In the comics, Galactus, as designed by the legendary Jack Kirby, is a giant in a purple and pink outfit with a massive helmet that looks like a tuning fork. In the movie Galactus is a big old space tornado, and his presence is almost an after thought, as the Surfer just kind of casually mentions him while in military custody. He might as well have said, “Oh yeah, you see there’s this guy that’s going to meet me here for dinner.”
I actually like most of the actors; Griffudd, Alba, Chiklis and Evans all play their roles well. Doug Jones (Hellboy, Pan’s Labyrinth) is majestic and graceful as the Surfer, but I think dubbing over him with the voice of Laurence Fishbourne was too much; just because the Surfer comes from outer space doesn’t mean he has to sound like Darth Vader.
Which brings me to McMahon as Doom. And if you don’t know your Dr Doom from your Dr Doolittle, let me explain something. In the Marvel Universe, pretty much every hero, and even a few villains, have a reason to hate Doom. He’s a tyrant and sociopath so convinced of his own genius he’s been heard to say that in Latveria, his merest whim is law. He’s a mad scientist and an evil wizard combined, nearly every super-villain created since the 60s has copied off of his test.
McMahon as Doom is pathetic. The writers were smart to toss out the moronic love triangle between Doom, Sue and Reed in part one and just focus on the villainy, too bad McMahon isn’t even remotely frightening or dangerous. He’s like Ed Rooney with Christian Troy’s face. When Doom refers to Reed as “Richards” it’s supposed to be a label of hatred and condemnation, like Mr. Fantastic is beneath him. When McMahon says “Richards” it’s like he’s mincing, talking to his most hated nemesis in as if they’re in a collegial debating society. “I say Richards, you’re compassion for silver skinned alien surfers is most off the mark.”
The fact though that this epic story about world eating aliens and something called the power cosmic is twiddled down into an easy to digest hour-and-a-half proves that the director of Barbershop is ill-suited to helm these movies. The FF aren’t the X-Men, their adventures are not Earth bound for the most part. Hopefully, if there is a part three, the team will become more like the cosmic adventurers they’re supposed to be and fight a less wimpy Doom.