THE FANTASTIC FOUR:
92 minutes approx
Reed Richards -
Sue Storm -
Johnny Storm -
Ben Grimm -
Victor Von Doom -
Written by -
Mark Frost and Don Payne
Directed by -
The Fantastic Four, with their radiation-bestowed superpowers are now household names, something that makes the preparations for the wedding of Reed Richards and Sue Storm. On top of that, strange weather phenomena are happening across the world - bays freezing, snow on the pyramids and the like. All of these phenomena seem to be accompanied by a bright silver flash in the sky, not to mention the huge holes that appear, leading straight into the depths of the earth. The military think that this is a threat to national security and go to see Reed for help in finding out if they're right. Turns out that they are more right than they could ever have guessed.
The silver flash is the titular Silver Surfer, an alien being that travels the universe searching for planets full of life for a being known as Galactus to devour. And he's chosen earth. Whilst the military set about trying to blast big holes into Mr Silver and Victor Von Doom sets about stealing his powers, The fantastic foursome set about trying to forestall the doom of the planet, a thing made even less easy by the fact that Sue's brother Johnny will now swap powers with anyone that touches him.
The SCI FI FREAK SITE is one of the few places where you could actually find a positive review of the original FANTASTIC FOUR. It was no great classic, to be sure, but it was bright, colourful and cheerful. That's not such a bad thing in a world where every superhero seems locked in their own terminal angst. What was seriously missing from that film was action.
Well, there's a good deal more of that in the sequel, starting with the chase through New York between the surfer and the human torch featured in the trailer. This happens to be the high point, but there is also a rescue attempt when the London Eye starts to fall and the Thames dries up, an attempt to capture the surfer whilst the military are throwing around their missiles and a climactic aerial battle between the four who are fantastic and a Victor Von Doom now armed with the surfer's cosmic powers. None of this is up to the standards of SPIDER-MAN 2 or X-MEN 2, but it is diverting enough and plenty of stuff gets destroyed along the way.
The film also learns from the more illustrious superhero franchises that it is the human stories that have the power. Humanity is at the heart of the story here. Nothing that the military or the Fantastic Four can do is going to have any effect on the galaxy-travelling evil that is approaching. Only the surfer could stand against him. Reaching his humanity through acts of kindness and self-sacrifice are the only things likely to save Earth. The military torturing him and Von Doom stealing his surfboard aren't exactly going to help their case.
So we come to the surfer himself. During their first encounter, Johnny exclaims 'That is so cool' and so it proves to be. The comic book character has a few issues, like being manically depressive for one, but he does have an innate coolness and the CGI creation here looks the business and is the business. Thanks to Laurence Fishburne's voice, he also sounds the business. Sadly, though, he doesn't actually do a lot. Because he's not out to do anything than bring Galactus to the planet, he doesn't want to fight with anyone and only does so on one occasion when he wipes out the military so fast that the effect is lost.
The rest of the special effects are up to scratch, although Mr Fantastic's stretching is still proving to just be difficult to accept on screen. That doesn't matter too much because the superpowers don't get used too much in anger. The human torch is the main player with his flying and firing, but invisible girl's forcefields don't guard against the surfer's powers and The Thing does barely anything at all throughout.
Michael Chiklis ought to be calling his agent to demand more of the action, but the rest of the actors get ample screen time with the more down to earth story of Sue and Reed trying to get married and having second thoughts about family life in the centre of what they do. In keeping with the tone, though, this is never laboured and doesn't interfere with the lighter moments such as the first time that Johnny switches powers with his sister.
The Fantastic Four's second outing is much better than the original, though it is a long way from challenging the best of the genre.Top
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