Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007) – Directed by Tim Story – Starring Ioan Gruffudd, Jessica Alba, Chris Evans, Michael Chiklis, Julian McMahon, Andre Braugher, Kerry Washington, Doug Jones, Laurence Fishburne, Beau Garrett, Brian Posehn, and Stan Lee.
FANTASTIC FOUR: RISE OF THE SILVER SURFER is not the worst superhero movie ever made, but it may very well be the dumbest.
The sinkhole that drags this film down is the Invisible Woman, but it would be terribly unfair to lay the blame solely at the feet of Jessica Alba. Don’t misunderstand me, she’s absolutely horrific in much of this film, but neither the script nor the director have put Alba in a position to succeed. RISE’s conception of Invisible Woman is of a nervous, bitchy, whiny, indecisive, overly emotional little girl playing grown up, and they cake so much make-up onto her face and hair that she ends up looking less realistic than the Thing.
The Invisible Woman is a completely tedious and dreadful character that’s largely defined by negative qualities. Her and Reed are on attempt #4 to get married. The idea that these two keep trying to get married and keep having things come up to stop the vows from being taken is a good one, but instead of the film treating it with a knowing wink acknowledging the history of wedding interruptions in comic book history, it’s made Sue twitchy, uptight, and questioning not only her marriage to Reed but their entire existence as superheroes.
How long have you been kicking around the Anxiety, hearing me talk about superhero movies? Because if it’s more than a week you know what’s coming:
I HAVE LITTLE INTEREST IN SUPERHERO STORIES ABOUT SUPERHEROES WHO DO NOT WANT TO BE SUPERHEROES.
Honestly, if that’s the story you want to tell, then why tell it? It’s one thing if someone like Ben Grimm (Michael Chiklis) temporarily wants out because his superpower has hugely negative consequences, but even then I get tired of it real quick. Do you know what superhero never existed? Mister Mopey Pants. Or Sister Mopey Pants. Do you know why?
Because who the f*ck wants to read about a superhero who’s depressed every month? (Wait. Wasn’t that Spawn during his “sit in the alley” years? Maybe there is a reason these stupid stories keep getting told and that reason is that I’m out of touch.) RISE even includes the freaking SILVER SURFER, who’s not exactly know for bringing the happy fun time with him. Honestly, what were the creative people thinking? We’ve got a somber cosmic visitor so let’s make one of our main characters be all “I don’t think I want to do this anymore.” It’s nonsense, even if we didn’t go through this plot with Ben, Reed, and Sue the first time around.
Apparently, Sue wanting to get married manifests a new superpower that makes everyone else stupid. This power has a particular effect on director Tim Story’s narrative, which tells us right up front that this is attempt #4, but then has everyone act like this is attempt #1. Johnny (Chris Evans) tries to get Reed to agree to a bachelor party (said party consisting of Reed, Johnny, and Ben), and right before the wedding, Sue is pouting to Alicia Masters (Kerry Washington) about this marriage not feeling right and how they’ll never be normal. Sue is a bit uncomfortable about their celebrity status, yet still decides to hold their wedding in the middle of freaking New York City. Reed agrees to go out with Johnny and Ben, and of course Johnny sets Reed up with two hotties who are all over him.
Reed has made such a big deal about how he would only agree to a bachelor party as long as there were no “exotic dancers” that I’m pretty sure these women are escorts.
They’re all over him, he eventually loosens up and has some fun, and then Sue shows up with General Hager (Andre Braugher) to look all angry at Reed for having fun. I mean, it’s a bachelor party. What did she expect? She revels in telling Reed later on that she’s not actually mad at him because her bachelorette party was super crazy, but we don’t get to see that.
Probably because Sue’s only friend is Alicia and-
Right. That brings this up – who the hell are all these people at their wedding? They’re just nameless people from Wedding Central Casting. Why does Sue need to have this big, fancy public wedding if no one there acts like they even know these people. It’s particularly funny at the end of the movie when Reed and Sue try to get married again. Attempt #5 comes in Japan and, I swear, their wedding is full of guests from Wedding Central Casting in Japanese costumes. Who are these people? Did Ben and Johnny walk around Japan and collect random people?
Or are these more of Johnny’s escorts paid to act like a wedding party?
What adds to the general dreariness of the film is that Johnny has a run-in with the Silver Surfer and as a result, his powers are on the fritz. Basically, if you touch Johnny, your powers and his exchange bodies. Why? This subplot actually takes the most enjoyable character and wraps him in a wet blanket for much of the film. It’s tedious to watch and the payoff of having Johnny go all Super Skrull at the end of the movie when he combines all of the FF’s powers into his body isn’t worth it, as cool as it is to look at. (And why everyone touching at once sends all their powers into Johnny is … yes, something better not thought about.)
RISE is a very simple film that almost seems designed for children. Characters have little complexity and everything happens because the story needs it to happen, not because it makes any kind of sense.
The relationship between Ben and Johnny is still the best part of this franchise, and Chiklis and Evans do everything that’s asked of them. As bad as RISE is, they are enjoyable to watch – at least until Johnny gets all emotional with Frankie Raye (Beau Garrett) about her needing to trust them or else the world is going to get destroyed.
I mean, honestly, you’re the freaking Fantastic Four and there’s an army officer holding a gun on you and YOU STOP IN YOUR TRACKS TO ASK PERMISSION EVEN THOUGH THE WORLD IS COMING TO AN END?
Speaking of being destroyed – when RISE was released, people lost their bananas over the fact that Galactus is a big storm cloud instead of, you know, Galactus. I’m sure I complained about it, too, but now … it’s really not a big deal. (It’s amazing how the greatness of the whole Avengers cinematic franchise has mellowed many of us.) In fact, I think it’s a pretty cool visual idea and when this big cosmic cloud is about to consume the Earth, it feels like a major threat.
There’s a good movie in here somewhere, but I have never wanted Jessica Alba on-screen less than I do in RISE. Ioan Gruffudd isn’t much better as Reed, and there’s nothing Andre Braugher can do with the simplistic General Hager. RISE is the kind of movie where the end of the world is coming and people like Hager and Reed are still fighting battles begun in high school.
Doug Jones and Laurence Fishburne team up to give the Surfer more decency and intelligence than anyone else around them, although the whole idea that Surfer is willing to save the Earth because Sue reminds him of someone … ugh.
Is RISE better than Story’s first FF film?
I don’t care.
I’m glad we never got a third FF film if it was going to be of this quality. I’d rather have seen a MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE movie with Ben and Johnny on a road trip. Given what Chiklis and Evans have brought to these past two films, that would have been a fun movie to watch.