Captain Obvious Revisits: FANTASTIC FOUR: RISE OF THE SILVER SURFER

Captain Obvious Revisits: FANTASTIC FOUR: RISE OF THE SILVER SURFER

With the release of the latest iteration in the Fantastic Four franchise imminent, I've decided to take a look-back on the previous installments. To wrap up this brief retrospective, here is my review of Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer.

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer came out when a new era was about to dawn for comic book movies. This was a year before Iron Man kicked off what would eventually become the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Christopher Nolan continued his Batman saga with the now iconic The Dark Knight. So it’s only fitting that a film as cliché and perfunctory as this one would bring an end to an era that was mostly cluttered with others of its kind. While it’s slightly better than the first film, Rise of the Silver still suffers from most of the problems of its predecessor; effectively learning nothing from the mistakes of the past. It may have a shorter runtime (98 minutes) and more action beats, but every one of those minutes is felt in a film full of missed opportunities, boring villains, and a climax that squanders any potential a Fantastic Four film could have.

Taking place sometime after the events of the previous film, Reed Richards (Ioan Gruffudd) and Susan Storm (Jessica Alba) are close to getting married. Meanwhile, a mysterious figure arrives on Earth, creating craters and causing abnormal weather patterns. During an encounter with the being now known as the Silver Surfer (voiced by Laurence Fishburne), Johnny Storm (Chris Evans) is given the ability to switch powers with any of his teammates. Tracing the Surfer’s energy, Reed discovers that every planet the Surfer has visited resulted in all the planets dying. Now the Four most stop the Surfer and find a way to save the Earth from total annihilation.

If it’s predecessor was about removing superhero tropes and not replacing them with anything new, then it’s sequel is all about putting those tropes right back in. I have no idea why it has been so hard for the Fantastic Four to get a solid film adaptation, but that’s probably because each entry feels like the people behind the scenes are embarrassed of the source material. The Fantastic Four comic labelled itself as “The World’s Greatest Comic Magazine;” promising readers with out-of-this-world adventures filled with likable characters, operatic villains, and thrilling action and adventure. But this film has none of that as we’re stuck with scenes featuring Reed Richards dancing, Sue Storm getting naked (again), and boring military stereotypes.

There are so many missed opportunities to indulge in the sci-fi extravaganza of the comics, but each chances are wasted on serving unsatisfying payoffs. Dr. Doom (Julian McMahon), a character whose return was teased at the end of the first film, returns only to serve as an obligatory punching bag for our heroes to fight in the third act. Johnny’s newfound ability to switch powers with any of the Four goes absolutely nowhere, and seems only to exist to show off cartoonish effects in a battle that is eerily familiar in length to the climax of the first film. The biggest slaps in the face are introducing popular characters the Silver Surfer and Galactus. With the chance to now explore the cosmic side of the Fantastic Four, we are left Earthbound with not just Laurence Fishburne’s incredibly wooden vocal performance as the Surfer, but a bastardization of Galactus that rivals the infamy of Barakapool from X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Here we have villain with the power to devour entire worlds, downgraded into a giant cloud. Nothing more needs to be said about that.

There may have been more (manufactured) action beats this time around and more of our heroes actually being heroic, but that wasn’t enough to overcome the feeling that audiences had been cheated again out of a good Fantastic Four movie. This time there wouldn’t be high box office numbers to save the franchise. Fox wisely decided to pull the plug on any sequels and spin-offs in favor of a reboot. Whether that decision will prove fruitful is about to be seen. But after three failed attempts, you have to asked yourself if the Fantastic Four are even worth putting on the screen.

Final Rating: 4 out of 10

Tomorrow- My review of Fantastic Four (2015)

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