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Last night my friend Sam and I went to the midnight showing of Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. Sam and I are both quite fond of the Fantastic Four. A dysfunctional group of super-powereds being saving the planet every month isn’t really all that unique in comic books, but the Fantastic Four are different than most, they’re a family. Their dysfunction is that of people who live together and love one another despite (or perhaps because of) various personality conflicts.

The Fantastic Four also have one of the greatest nemeses to grace the four color page, Dr. Victor Von Doom. Doom is a power mad genius so consumed by his obsessions that he really doesn’t see anything else. He has two key motivators: the death of Reed Richards, and saving his mother’s soul from an other-dimensional realm that is reminiscent of Hell. Doom is a bit of a Renaissance Villain. He not only built a suit of armor (among various other technological devices) to further his goals he is also a practitioner of magic and the dictator of a small Eastern European nation. Doom has posed a major threat to both men and Gods throughout his career.

Unfortunately, as much as Sam and I love the Fantastic Four and their arch-villain, we both thought the first Fantastic Four movie was a disappointment. In general, the first film felt like it rushed through the plot, and the characters weren’t quite right. The Human Torch and The Thing were spot on in the first film (whoever got Michael Chiklis for the Thing should get a hefty raise), but Reed, Sue, and Doom just didn’t feel right. The depiction of Doom in the movie was particularly disappointing, he was a vain rich boy, he was pathetic. On top of the characterizations not quite working the final battle between the team and Doom was pretty weak. Doom didn’t really seem to pose a real threat and was pretty easily dispatched. Overall the movie’s highlights were Chiklis’ Ben Grimm/The Thing and Chris Evans‘ Human Torch/Johnny Storm

So, last night, Sam and I were not anticipating much. In fact, we both pretty much expected the movie to suck, but that we would enjoy watching the Silver Surfer streak across the screen. The movie really wasn’t that bad. It was far from great, but it was a pleasant surprise. Ioan Gruffudd‘s Reed was actually quite good and this is probably the only movie I have seen Jessica Alba in where I enjoyed watching her. Unfortunately, Julian McMahon‘s Doom still comes off as a pathetic minor threat, though, and it just makes me hope they don’t bring him back for anymore sequels.

The plot’s better, I did get the feeling that there was a genuine challenge before our heroes. Still, at only 92 minutes the plot feels a bit thin. More time could’ve been spent on the celebrity status of the group and how that affects their ability to live like normal people and I think a lot more time could’ve been spent really building up the Surfer and that the Four are trying to stop their planet from being consumed by an unstoppable force. The ending was a bit anti-climactic, but not quite as disappointing as the first film. Perhaps that’s because I was anticipating it.

The movie scored some minor points with me because it features Andre Braugher (who I’ve enjoyed watching ever since he was Detective Frank Pembleton on Homicide) as a U.S. Army General without much love for the 4 and the choice of Laurence Fishburne as the voice of the Silver Surfer. One thing I found amusing was a couple of lines lifted more or less right out of Warren Ellis‘ Ultimate Galactus Trilogy. It worked in the context of Ellis’ story, but felt a bit out of place in the movie, which is too bad, because the lines are good ones. It’s an exchange between Braugher’s General Hager and Mr. Fantastic. Hager uses a football analogy to describe the situation then makes a dismissive comment about how Mr. Fantastic wouldn’t get it because he never played football in high school. Fantastic’s retort is ripped right out of the pages of Ellis’ book.

Overall, the movie’s not great but it’s fun. The characterizations are better, the special effects are better, the humor is better, and the plot is better than the first film. If forced to give it stars I’d give it 3 out of 5, worth a matinĂ©e ticket at the very least.


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