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FANTASTIC FOUR 2: RISE OF THE SILVER SURFER
Rise

Director
Tim Story

Starring
Ioan Gruffudd
Jessica Alba
Chris Evans
Michael Chiklis
Julian McMahon

It's not exactly unknown that I didn't much care for the first instalment in the Fantastic Four series. To be perfectly honest, I was never that interested in the comic either. I just didn't see the appeal of their powers; they all felt like after thoughts. Still, that's just my opinion. For some reason, I was sent a free copy of the extended cut of 2005's Fantastic Four and free tickets to see the sequel. I re-watched the first film, still thought it was pants and made my way to the cinema to sit through another ninety two minutes of schlock. Strangely enough, this sequel is not only a vast improvement over the original but it's not that bad at all. It's still not on par with other Marvel/DC adaptations but as it has clearly aimed itself at younger audiences, Fantastic Four has the ability to deliver impressive CGI drenched scenes while maintaining a fun, summer blockbuster feel.

The epic nature of the plot is rather far fetched and you do wonder why other, more important elements (such as the world outside of America) are waiting in the wings but I suppose you can't have everything. Essentially there is a giant, planet devouring cloud, called Galactus. Ok, a little boring history lesson for you now; Galactus is not a cloud, he adopts the look of the species he has targeted; which mostly looks like a robot/bloke with a really stupid looking helmet. Galactus was the sole survivor of the Big Crunch - this being the collapse leading to the Big Bang. To maintain his existence, he must consume planets that have the potential for life. On one particular planet called Zenn-La, a young astronomer named Norrin Radd offers himself to spare his planet and the one he loves. As his journey throughout space is a tiresome one, Galactus spares the astronomer on the sole condition that he becomes his herald to scout the universe for new planets to engulf. Believe it or not, despite the debate about Galactus being a robot or not, I found the whole thing entertaining enough and for a brief moment, as the surfer talks to the tornado, you can just make out the outlines of a strange, point helmet wreathed in fire. So this silver-coated alien flies around on a surfboard, which acts as a homing beacon, finding planets for this thing to eat. Understood? Good. On top of all this, the fantasti-couple (Reed Richards [Gruffuld] and Sue Storm [Alba]) are planning to marry, Johnny Storm [Evans] is still an immature brat and Ben Grimm [Chiklis] is slowly adjusting to the public eye. The fantasti-nemesis, Victor Von Doom [McMahon] has managed to revive and free himself and offers his services, under military protection. That's pretty much it, other than the return of Grimm's blind love interest, Alicia Masters [Kerry Washington] and a few minor characters, there's very little on offer here. Oddly enough, this seems to be one of the winning points; the plot is simple and easy to follow, yet still remains enjoyable; the characters have a little more depth but refrain from hanging on the running time to resolve their issues; and the villains (being only two of them) don't crowd the screen like other sequels of late.

Although the film looks impressive, the lead four feel a little neglected, as if all efforts have been channelled into the surfer. The invisibility and force-field powers work well visually, as does the flaming human torch but stretchy Reed Richards and the very orange Ben Grimm still look plastic and fake. Which leads me to the surfer, voiced by Laurence Fishburne and embodied by the ever-talented Doug Jones. The surfer is a fairly limited yet beloved Marvel character, who first appeared in the Fantastic Four comics in 1966. In the comics, the surfer meets the fantasti-team, who convince him to fantasti-rebel against his master, for which he is fantasti-exiled and must spend eternity on Earth - for someone who has been freely roaming the whole universe, that's a fairly harsh punishment. After his popularity he was rewarded a spin-off and did stuff... alone... in space... when no one was looking. Although this film is a step up for the fantastic four, it feels like a poor vehicle for the surfer, who deserved a better introduction. The flaws from the first film are still present, though less stressed and a large portion of the cheese has been cut down, thanks to the inclusion of the surfer. The group, bar Johnny, are still fairly bland and Doom is still a pretty poor bad guy but my main concerns were with the childish dialogue, clichéd set-pieces - for example randomly chasing the silver surfer through New York, before making a U-turn at Washington DC. Ok, I can possibly believe that but escaping from an AMERICAN military stronghold in Siberia and suddenly flying alongside the Great Wall of China before crashing in Beijing? Hmm... a bit much, methinks. Despite the flaws, this is still a well-paced summer blockbuster that should tide kids over until the release of the Transformers in late July.

Release Date:
15th June 2007

The Scene To Look Out For:
It's difficult; I'm trying to focus on a particular scene but I'm just distracted by the comments I want to make about Jessica Alba. Let me go fill that in first and get back to you. One second. ... There we go, much better. Well, I know my girlfriend especially liked the line, "but this is Dolce" when Johnny is asked to burn his new suit; but I would have to say the most memorable scene was the opening wedding sequence, in which Stan Lee cameos as himself. Why? It's sort of dumb but there we go. In all seriousness, I would like to quickly talk about the London Eye scene. Nobody really cares about that trumped-up Ferris Wheel. I'm a Londoner, born and raised and can honestly say, I really couldn't care less if it fell over. More importantly, is the wonderful reaction, scripted by the Americans, which shows a group of US soldiers and superheroes saving our beloved tourists from certain doom. I don't know what our own government was doing at this stage but how fortunate for us to have friends like the Americans, pfer! Either that or the attempt at a 'monk's reward' at the start of the credits, instead of right at the end.

Notable Characters:
Chris Evans plays Johnny Storm perfectly well but I can't go into that too much. No, I have to comment about Jessica Alba. Ms. Alba is a commendable actress; she hasn't really stood out in anything particular but gets the job done. She was very easy to read and a little whiney in the first film but at least she wasn't bloody Mary Jane. I couldn't tell you why but further attempts have been made to help us believe that Alba is in fact a member of the Aryan race. Namely, appearing less tan, a lifeless blonde wig and the worst contact lenses I have seen in a long time. It was unbearable, I couldn’t look away from her; everything just seemed completely unnatural, even her physique seemed questionable, as if she decided to shed numerous pounds for the role. In the end, all I could do was moan about casting Alba, if they wanted to go that way, why not stick with their original choices (Julia Stiles, Rachel McAdams, Scarlett Johansson)? Let's have one last stab, while I can. I hated Kerry Washington's blind acting in the first film and I hated it in this one. She is one of the worst blind actors I have ever seen in my entire movie-watching career. She looks as if she's been blind for a day, staring blankly forward as characters walk around her, yet she can recognise the scent of Johnny's ash from a mile away. Hmm... if you say so. Another classic incident is on the rooftop of the fantasti-building, as a helicopter's tail blade hurtles slowly towards her. All she does is stare into the breeze and timidly call out, "Ben?" Blind or not, you think she would have felt the immense gusts of wind rushing around her and possibly moved back a bit.

Highlighted Quote:
"There's always a choice"

In A Few Words:
"Turned out to be a lot better than I had expected but I may have to go for a second viewing - couldn't see past Jessica Alba's bloody awful wig"

Total Score:
6/10


Matthew Stogdon