At the very least, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer gives us more than one action scene. As a result, it’s a more enjoyable film than the first Fantastic Four film of this series. Because the titular group actually acts like a superhero group — they finally use their powers for action scenes instead of trying to get rid of them — the audience is more entertained. This is a film that at least understands what needs to be present in order for it to be an enjoyable film.
We begin with a wedding being planned. Since Susan Storm (Jessica Alba), or, by codename, Invisible Woman and Reed Richards (Ioan Gruffudd), also known as Mr. Fantastic, are in love again, they’ve decided to get married. Apparently, the marriage has already been postponed 3 times, and they’re hoping that the fourth time’s the charm. The other members of the Fantastic Four are The Thing (Michael Chiklis) and the Human Torch (Chris Evans), and they’re both thrilled that the marriage is taking place.
Unfortunately, the nuptial will have to wait. A terrible CGI helicopter crashes the party, knocked down by a celestial being that they decide to call the Silver Surfer (played by Doug Jones, but voiced by Laurence Fishburne). The name is quite literal: He’s completely silver, and he travels by way of a surfboard. I’m not sure how he learned English, but he can speak to our characters. He’s also quite the force to be reckoned with; he’s able to grab The Human Torch by the neck, carry him up into space and then drop him back to Earth, all without much effort spent.
Dr. Doom (Julian McMahon) also decides to come back. Somehow, as hinted at during the ending of the first film, he survived both supernova temperatures, and being rapidly cooled from supernova temperatures. He’s also shed his metallic shell, and looks human again. He can, however, still use his lightning powers. He ends up working with the Fantastic Four in trying to capture the Silver Surfer, although he first tries to team up with the Surfer, which results in him being sent what seemed like a quarter-mile beneath the Earth’s surface.
At least the characters don’t spend their entire time on-screen whining about or trying to remove their powers. They embrace them, for the most part, and actually get involved in a few action scenes. There’s even a funny bit involving them switching powers, which ends up being a fairly important story point later on, although it’s not really explained how it all works.
The director is Tim Story, who previously was at the head of the earlier big screen adaptation of the comic book franchise. This time around, he understood that when people go to see a Fantastic Four movie, they want to watch the Fantastic Four fight the bad guy(s). They don’t want to see people mope around for 90 minutes before finally coming to the realization that their powers are a blessing and that they should use them to keep the world safe. So, at the very least, Rise of the Silver Surfer includes a bunch of action scenes.
That doesn’t make them good action scenes, but at least they’re in the film. Story doesn’t seem to quite understand what makes an action scene enjoyable, but at least he gave it an effort this time around. If you’re here just to see fire, stretchy people, invisible force fields and miscellaneous thrown objects all being used against the villains, without caring about anything else, you might actually enjoy this film.
However, if you care about the why, or the people involved, you’ll be disappointed. Just like its predecessor, Rise of the Silver Surfer doesn’t concern itself with characters, and the motivation we’re given for their battles is that the world is in danger. Our real villain — and spoiler alert: The Silver Surfer isn’t the main villain — isn’t actually revealed until the very end, and everything just feels like a mess. It’s a production that felt like it was being made up on the spot, and as a result, there’s no coherency to the story or consistency to, well, anything.
There’s still no depth to the characters. Johnny Storm, the Human Torch, has what almost amounts to a character arc, in that he starts out self-obsessed and ends up slightly less self-obsessed. Everyone else is static and poorly acted. At one point, one of the four is killed, and nobody even sheds a tear. Are we really expected to believe that they care so little about one another, especially given how much time they spend with one another. Maybe they knew that the character probably wouldn’t stay dead for long, although if that’s the case. why include the death in the first place? If it was a move to incite emotion within us or the characters, it completely failed.
Even though it’s a marginal improvement over its predecessor, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer suffers from many of the same problems. The characters still have no depth, the plot doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, and the action scenes aren’t all that impressive. At least there’s more than one action scene this time around, and since the characters aren’t spending most of the time trying to get rid of their powers, this is a better film. It’s still nowhere near worth watching, but if you enjoyed the earlier Fantastic Four, you’ll probably like this one too. I just couldn’t find much to like.