Surf the Skies (Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, 2007)
I think people were a little surprised that the Fantastic Four got a sequel. And you gotta admit, doing the Silver Surfer/Galactus saga is a grand idea. Then they get Doug Jones for the physical body and Laurence Fishburne as the voice of the Silver Surfer (this was not actually a great idea in retrospect). Things are looking good! Man, who will they cast a Galactus, right?! Will he be totally CGI or what?!
So, we start off with Galactus eating a planet. Actually, we get a planet sized version of the Smoke Creature from Lost. Not kidding. Maybe Galactus is inside the cloud, right?! Then the Silver Surfer heads towards earth… where we find Sue totally freaking out about her pending nuptials. Seriously, how freaky must an invisible Bridezilla be?! But the Surfer ruins their first wedding attempt.
Johnny chases after the Surfer and ends up being dragged nearly into out space. He has trouble as he falls to earth. We find out that this is due to the effects of the cosmic energy that the Silver Surfer gives off. The Surfer continues gliding across the globe-his magic (so to speak) starts to impact the atmosphere and even frees Dr. Doom from his statue state.
Reed discovers Johnny can now switch powers with his team mates. This allows for another “Sue Caught Naked In Public” scene. It also gives an amusing moment when Johnny becomes Thing-i-fied and Ben returns to normal and has fire powers. The team has to try and save people from the effects of the Surfer’s travels, and find it harder than usual as they keep switching powers every time Johnny bumps into someone.
Reed soon discovers a pattern by tracing the Silver Surfer’s path through the cosmos. All the planets he has visited have been destroyed. So he starts formulating a plan to catch the Surfer. Both the Military and Dr. Doom join in. Of course, the audience knows he has an ulterior motive. Sue, meanwhile contributes about whining about not getting married yet. Eventually, they catch the Surfer (partially because he is enamored by Sue). This is when Doom strikes, stealing the Surfer’s tubular board-the apparent source of his power.
Dr. Doom plans to rule the world-while the giant cloud of smoke threatens to destroy it. The Fantastic Four tries to fight Cosmic Doom, but instead, he hits Sue with a fatal shot. Johnny takes everyone’s powers and beats the crap out of Doom, gets the Surfer his board back. The Surfer uses his magic to heal Sue and he flies into space to take on Galactus. So, now we finally get to see the real Galactus!!! AWESOME!!!! Oh wait…it actually is just a big cloud.
The Surfer seems to sacrifice himself to save the earth (except we find out he survived for a potential spin off). Reed and Sue get married and everyone is totally happy.
Well, except the viewer. The first film stumbled a lot, and the folks behind the this one (the same team as the first, pretty much) seemed to indicate they learned their lesson. But from character design to strange choices… Sue is once again reduced to offering little in the way of being a strong heroine, as she spends the whole film whining about getting married. It gets so bad that she chastises Reed both for having fun dancing in a club and also trying to protect the world instead of focusing on getting married. Because…why save the world, y’know?
While the power switching issue is an interesting concept, it never quite gels. And frankly, a Fantastic Four movie where three members sit out the final battle and one member pummels the bad guy? It kind of misses the point of calling them the Fantastic Four.
Galactus seems so secondary as a threat… Doctor Doom and his scheme to get the Surfer’s power. Once he has that power? He does not run off to stop Galactus from destroying the planet he wants to rule. No, he just goes around flaunting his power. This is a terrible lapse in logic and reduces one of the great complex comic book villains to Bad Guy with No Real Plan.
And let’s look at Galactus. I’ve commented on this before, but it bears repeating. A giant cloud is not awe inspiring. I get that folks involved might have thought the traditional appearance of the character would look goofy. But the cloud has no identity. What, a large (twelve feet or so) guy in a ship that is his life support machine was impossible to create? Make the ship in the shape of the helmet from the comics as a tip to fans. Done.
I will say that I found Ioan Gruffud far more engaging this time around. McMahon less so. Evans and Chiklis were terrific…and Alba? Well, god bless her, she tries to make a thankless role work… but they really give her two jobs… pout and be pretty. And yet again, the second film finds a way to get a sequence where she is naked in public. Oi. Kerry Washington is back as Alicia Masters…she does fine, but the role is pretty much there to show that the only person who could love Ben Grimm is a person unable to see him. Granted, that is part of the character in the comics as well…but still.
I will say the effects are pretty solid, and the Silver Surfer looks terrific. And Doug Jones is a top notch performer. I had the opportunity to speak with Jones last year and he noted he had actually been recording a really unique voice for the Surfer, which makes it a shame they over dubbed him, even if it was Laurence Fishburne.
Instead of stepping up and blowing it’s predecessor out of the water, the second film feels even more lackluster, and screws up a great comic story that should have been pretty easy to pull off.