Fantastic Four — Rise of the Silver Surfer

June 21st, 2007 Film, Film Reviews, Xpress

Can a movie have an attitude? We all know who most movies are speaking to — that’s evident by both the rating and the time of year the film comes out.

But who’s doing the speaking? What sort of voice is telling you the story? Is it an adult who understands the ambiguities, neuroses, concession and compromises of love, or a kid who’s learnt her moral guidance from the Saddle Club and Sweet Valley High?

When the Invisible Woman (Alba) stares daggers at Mr Fantastic (Gruffold) when she sees him dancing with two babes at his bachelor party — organised by Johnny Storm (Evans), you know you’re watching a movie with the 13 year old moral compass in mind, when even so much as a simple attracted look automatically equates to a life of marriage and children.

It doesn’t bode well for the rest of the film, and plenty of aspects — from the lame gags and hammy attempted catchphrases to the jokey, this-is-really-a-cartoon tone of the film suffer as a result of being told from some a juvenile standpoint. But 20th Century Fox knew what they were doing, and somebody paid them back three times the $100m budget of the original film.

Things are going less than swimmingly for the Fantastic Four since deciding to become full time crime fighters. Reed and Susan are planning their oft-postponed wedding for the fifth time after various crimes and desperate government officials keep interrupting, and history is doomed to repeat as a strange life form from outer space arrives on Earth the day of the wedding, causing strange meteorological phenomenon and enormous round sinkholes all over Earth’s surface.

Almost at ‘I do’, the Silver Surfer arrives in New York and the Four have a new fight ahead, especially when the first film’s villain Von Doom (McMahon) is released from his capture and finds himself armed with knowledge about the surfer’s power, making him the Four’s closest unwanted ally.

The Surfer is voiced by Laurence Fishburne, whose every utterance is so reverential and critical to life on earth you’ll be waiting for him to say ‘what is the Matrix?’. It turns out he’s the messenger of a destructive galactic power which follows him from one planet to another, destroying it before moving on. Why he comes early to warn/prepare Earth or destruction is never explained (and might have been obvious if you read the comic), but it’s a mere detail in servitude to CGI.

With more at stake than just their hairstyles and signature quips, the Four have to take orders from a thankless army officer you just want to slap, deal with von Doom and overcome their own adolescent bickering to save the day.

With a bigger budget and more confidence placed in him by Fox, director Tim Story delivers bigger effects and more of them, but no amount of pixel engineering can save a by-numbers plot and some of the worst dialogue since Star Wars Episode I.

Enjoy the effects and the spectacle but don’t expect too much more from this comic strip romp — you’ve seen it too many times, and the tween target market lowers the bar too far, making it impossible to ignore the clunky drama and desperate grab for laughs.

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