Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Movie Review: Fantastic Four - Rise of the Silver Surfer

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Lots of action and great special effects
Cons: Predictable plot; flat characters
The Bottom Line:
There's still room to grow
Movie is better than first
It's enjoyable

Not Fantastic, but a Step in that Direction

I didn't especially care for the first Fantastic Four movie. I felt the character dramas were overdone and took away from the action. Still, I decided to go see Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. I'm pleased to say, while not perfect, this movie is worth seeing.

Once again, the action centers around four ordinary humans who have received super powers. The leader is Dr. Reed Richards (Ioan Gruffudd), who can stretch and bend his body as far as he wants. Then there are siblings Sue and Johnny Storm (Jessica Alba and Chris Evans). Sue can turn invisible and create force fields while Johnny can turn himself into a human torch and use that fire power to fly. Rounding out the group is the muscle, literally, in the form of Ben Grimm (Michael Chiklis), who looks like a living rock.

After three previous attempts, Reed and Sue are finally getting married. Reed promises that nothing will get in the way this time.

But that's before the weird anomalies start happening. A bay in Japan freezes over. It starts snowing in Egypt. And Los Angeles loses power.

This latest crisis just confirms Sue's fears that the two superheroes will never be able to raise kids and live a normal life. She and Reed begin to think about leaving the group, which doesn't sit well with Ben and Johnny.

Meanwhile, the threat just keeps growing. This creature is creating giant holes in the ground. And he has awakened Dr. Von Doom (Julian McMahon). Can the Fantastic Four work together to save the day?

Where this movie succeeds is with the story. When you go to see a super hero film, you expect action and special effects. This movie has it in spades. Yes, they still have the character arcs to help us get to know the characters, but the focus is on the main story and the action. It's like everything in the first movie was just a set up to get to a real story. And while there is only one real standout action sequence, there are plenty of smaller sequences to keep the audience entertained.

These days, it's more noteworthy when a film has poor special effects. As you would expect from a big budget feature, the effects are great. Nothing we have seen done before, but every one of them was believable.

Additionally, the movie is pretty funny. Johnny especially seemed to have lots of wise cracks that lightened the mood of what could have been a dark film. Fantastic Four creator Stan Lee makes his usual cameo, but this time it's absolutely hilarious.

So, what didn't I enjoy? The story was rather predictable. I was often a step or two ahead of the characters waiting for them to catch up. Sometimes I don't care because I'm having too much fun, but this time it took a little bit away from the film.

The other problem with the film is the characters. Despite the sub-plots they are given, they come across rather flat. The acting is decent, but does nothing to raise the level of the characters. Let's face it - this is a plot driven movie. The characters are just there to serve the story. The actors do what they can with their characters, but they really don't have that much to work with.

Finally, there's the editing. At times, the scene breaks seemed choppy, like bits and pieces were cut out to keep the running time down. It's a minor issue, but it did bother me a couple of times.

This isn't great cinema, but Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer is an enjoyable way to pass a couple hours. And the big budget effects and action sequences should make it a big summer movie. If you love these characters, you should be happy. And if you thought the first one was weak, give this one a chance. I'm certainly glad I did.

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