Well, mobility provided me with the means to get to the movie theater, and I finally managed to squeeze in a matinee of Fantastic Four: Rise of The Silver Surfer.
Rise of The Silver Surfer is proof that much of the visceral reaction - mine included - to the initial Fantastic Four was not wrong: this middling attempt to make a franchise series out of the FF team is just not working out. Like much of its cast - pretty, yet dim - Rise of The Silver Surfer just isn't ready to play in the big leagues.
Which is a shame really. If nothing else I hate to pan a Jessica Alba movie. Sure, I could wax on about the triumvirate of Chris Evans, Julian McMahon, and even Ioan Gruffudd (and I will), but I'm not blind. Or dead. Alba is gorgeous, and it pains me to say that her limited acting skills are put to the test here, and not in a good way. These dumb summer things should be right up her... um... alley - and that it's not, I think, is what shows the Fantastic Four series to be such a mistake.
Of course weekend grosses guarantee we'll be getting more of the same, but I hope someone in charge puts on a thinking cap before the next one and tries to figure out how to actually get a coherent plot, and something for these actors to do. Much of Rise of The Silver Surfer is spent tap dancing - that is, trying to fill the time before the next disaster set piece arrives by trying to be cute. Or by looking anxiously at computer screens and nodding one's head in a way that suggests great knowledge.
Of course, when the head nodding is Jessica Alba's, we might as well just give up now. Alba's playing one of those "only in the movies" roles beautiful women often get - sure, she looks like a smokin' hot model, but she's actually a nuclear physicist! Or a psychiatrist. Or ... well, I'm not exactly sure what science Sue Storm studied, and the writers don't seem to know either, so no one really even works up the pretense that Alba's Sue has much to contribute in the lab - except a fine specimen of a woman.
Luckily, she has a brother. Given that Chris Evans, like Alba, is so unabashedly comfortable with his hunkitude, it's just odd that the film can't seem to get any ziz out of these great bods. Johnny Storm (The Human Torch) is saddled with a crisis of personal confidence, and Evans tries his best to act his way out of that wet paper bag, to middling success. But it's not him; there's just little to the role (again) besides swagger and studly, and his "crisis" seems undercooked and overwrought all at once. And yet the whole film hangs on his redemption.
If anyone benefits from a fuller part this time around, it's Gruffudd, who gets to invest Reed Richards with a sly sexiness and some much needed lightness after nearly killing the first film with dry seriousness. Gruffudd is of course severely talented, but he's largely alone here in a room full of eye candy, and he should probably be forgiven for letting his own inner eye candy out to play. Eye candy alone can work perfectly well in a film. It just doesn't here.
As for the villains - or quasi-villains; really, one thing the film lacks is a good definable antagonist - poor Julian McMahon is left with next to nothing to do in reprising his role as Von Doom, presenting an unconvincing conversion to the good side that turns out to be just what you thought it was all along. Even his eye candy qualities seem overly subdued. On the other hand Doug Jones - a/k/a Hollywood's handsomest CGI stand-in - is cruelly denied what should be his big break (though, if Fox is seriously spinning out The Silver Surfer on his own, that will be a great joy). He is every gleaming inch what one would imagine The Silver Surfer could be, brought to life, and he's wasted, just simply wasted, in this shoddy effort.
The plot - I should at least try - hinges on the Surfer's arival on Earth as a mysterious harbinger of doom, as the FF team realizes that every planet he visits is destroyed 8 days later. Turns out he's just the homing signal for a bigger evil, an unhappy bringer of Destruction. When Von Doom intervenes and kidnaps his "surfboard of power" (only in California, kids, only in California), the FF team has to work with the Surfer to save humanity. And, well... oh come on, we're all still here, what do you think happens?
Frankly if the world is going to end, one should care more than the tired goings-on here manage to generate. Nothing seems crucial, the fight scenes are amazingly dull, and rarely has so much skin been so wasted on bodies this good. Fantastic Four remains the guilty pleasure that's all guilt and no fun. Armed with all the elements to be a silly, campy funfest of babes, bods and boom, instead we get dim, dull, and drab. I blame director Tim Story, who has yet to show any skill with this material worth saving. Jessica, I'm sorry. So, so sorry. Please don't give up on me yet. :)