Combustible Celluloid
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With: Ioan Gruffudd, Jessica Alba, Chris Evans, Michael Chiklis, Julian McMahon, Kerry Washington, Andre Braugher, Laurence Fishburne (voice), Doug Jones, Beau Garrett, Brian Posehn, Zach Grenier, Kenneth Welsh, Patricia Harras, Gonzalo Menendez
Written by: Mark Frost, Don Payne, based on a story by Mark Frost, John Turman
Directed by: Tim Story
MPAA Rating: PG for sequences of action violence, some mild language and innuendo
Running Time: 92
Date: 03/19/2013

Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Plastic 'Fantastic'

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Spider-Man gets dumped by his girlfriend and loses his job. The X-Men face discrimination and fearsome inner demons. Many ordinary folks can relate to some or all of these things. But in the new sequel Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer, their problems begin when first class is overbooked. So Mr. Fantastic, a.k.a. Reed Richards (Ioan Gruffudd), simply builds his own plane, and a convertible at that.

Their problems continue in the same vein. The million-dollar wedding between Reed and Sue Storm, a.k.a. the Invisible Girl (Jessica Alba), is over-publicized, and Sue worries about how they're going to raise a family when they're so famous. Their wedding is subsequently interrupted when the Silver Surfer (embodied by Doug Jones and somberly voiced by Laurence Fishburne) begins blowing holes in the planet and knocking out electrical systems. Unfortunately, he's just the minion of the planet-eater Galactus, who has now been informed that earth is on the menu.

In other words, these are not problems that normal people care about, unless of course it has something to do with how to spend doomsday. Directed by Tim Story, the film hinges entirely on these gigantic, yet straightforward, simple conflicts, resulting in little or no emotional involvement in the characters. Here's another one: Johnny Storm, a.k.a. the Human Torch (Chris Evans) picks up some kind of molecular virus from the Surfer, wherein whenever he touches one of his teammates, he swaps powers with them. Poor baby.

Story (previously known for Barbershop) is still stuck with the losing formula that made the first film, Fantastic Four (2005), so awful, particularly the Z-grade cast. Even so, he manages some improvements. Evans is less arrogant and Gruffudd is less of a fuddy-duddy, but Ben Grimm, a.k.a. the Thing (Michael Chiklis), who is far and away the most interesting character in the comic books, is treated as more or less a comic sidekick. Alba looks like she's covered in orange tanning spray and Tammy Faye Baker-style eye shadow, and Julian McMahon is just dreadful as resident villain Victor Von Doom.

Stan Lee, who -- along with the late, great artist Jack Kirby -- created the original comic books, appears in a cameo, as a wedding guest turned away at the door. Lee knew how to make his characters human, and his rejection is an apt metaphor for this film.

Fox's technically superb two-disc DVD release comes with two commentary tracks, one by director Tim Story, and a second one by producer Avi Arad, writer Don Payne, and editors Peter S. Elliot and William Hoy. There is one English audio track (5.1), plus a Spanish and French track, plus optional English and Spanish subtitles. Disc two comes with extended/deleted scenes, a 46-minute "making of" featurette, an "interactive Fantasticar" (alternate angles of drawings), five other short featurettes, a still gallery (including some terrific "concept art") and trailers for this, the original film, the X-Men movies, "Dark Angel," Deck the Halls and "Futurama." The disc has refreshingly simple menus that don't take forever to load.

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