The good news is that the Silver Surfer, the melancholic, existentially tormented, ultracool icon of the Marvel universe, looks fantastic and is brought to vivid life by the tag team of Doug Jones and Laurence Fishburne, with considerable assist from the Weta Digital effects team. The bad news is that otherwise, this follow-up to the much-reviled FANTASTIC FOUR (2005) is cheerfully stupid, shallow and, frankly, more than a little tedious.
Having become superheroes after exposure to a cosmic storm and supercelebrities once they got a handle on their powers and began using them for the greater good, the Fantastic Four are still on a learning curve. Cocky, self-aggrandizing Johnny "The Human Torch" Storm (Chris Evans) is wallowing in his tabloid fame, dating supermodels and acting like a Hollywood scene-maker. Hulking Thing Ben Grimm (Michael Chiklis) was dumped by his fiancee but has found happiness with Alicia (Kerry Washington), the blind artist who made him see that being an ossified man-mountain isn't so bad after all. Rubbery superscientist Reed Richards (Ioan Gruffudd) and Invisible Woman Sue Storm (Jessica Alba, whose wooden performance is exacerbated by her distracting blue contact lenses and a criminally unconvincing blonde wig) just want to get married, but their nuptials have turned into a media circus. And then along comes the harbinger of Armageddon: The Silver Surfer, advance man for planet-eater Galactus, leaving weird weather, bizarre electromagnetic phenomena and great yawning holes in the Earth's crust in his wake. His arrival ruins Sue and Reed's wedding, roils up Dr. Doom (Julian McMahon), who's been off seething in his family's Latvernian castle, and leaves Johnny with the ability to switch powers with the other members of the team. Who is this Silver Surfer, and can the Fantastic Four stop squabbling long enough to save the green planet?
To its credit, this installment moves more briskly than the ponderous FANTASTIC FOUR, and the filmmakers appear to have clarified their take on the material: RISE OF THE SILVER SURFER is a kids' movie through and through. But its missteps are many and grievous, including Mr. Fantastic's stretchy, supergoofy dance sequence (which just might make detractors appreciate Peter Parker's controversial hoofing in SPIDER-MAN 3), the unfortunate image of the hulking Dr. Doom surfing on the silver alien's board, and the might-makes-right ending. Director Tim Story alternates between ponderous spectacle — with the exception of a nifty chase scene that finds the Torch and the Surfer zigzagging through New York's traffic-clogged Holland Tunnel — and infantile gags, and the result is strictly for those who like their comic-book movies short and stupid. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh