Sometimes people, when faced with an adaption of beloved literature, can focus too much on the negative while being wilfully blind to the positive that’s staring them straight in the face. Let’s take Tim Story’s second Fantastic Four for example as, despite lugging around a Fantasti-Car load of flaws (mostly holdovers from the first movie and therefore technically unavoidable), actually gets a LOT of things utterly bang on the money. However you generally won’t hear people singing it’s praises mostly because they are still stinging from 20th Century Fox reworking one of Marvel’s most interesting antagonists into an amorphous giant space cloud with all the personality of a muddy puddle.
The Fantastic Four, a squabbling, but ultimately loving family of super powered citizens have settled into their roles as protectors of all things nice and good: super-strong rock man Ben Grimm has made peace with his transformation and has found love with blind sculptor Alicia Masters; stretchy genius Reed Richards and Invisible Woman Susan Storm are planning their long awaited nuptials and spontaneous combusting, hothead Johnny Storm is… well Johnny’s still pretty much a jerk, but a much more LIKABLE jerk. However, weird elemental anomalies around the globe are happening heralded by a shining unidentified flying object so the US military demand that Richards help despite the clash with his wedding day much to Susan’s chagrin (having super powers is no defence against being a bride-zilla, it seems). Crashing the big event, the UFO reveals itself to be an all-powerful silver being able to fly super speeds on what looks to be a similarly shiny surfboard and after an altercation with this “Silver Surfer” Johnny’s flame powers are left in a dangerous flux, able to unwittingly swap powers with his teammates at a touch. Further adding to the friction is the resurgence of all round egotistical butt-hat Victor Von Doom who, despite teaming with the military, has his eye on the Surfer for more nefarious means. Eventually the soaring sentinel of the space ways (God love you, Stan Lee) reveals himself to be noble but also is a herald of something much worse; a planet devouring entity known only as… Galactus. Can the Fantastic Four get their collective super shit together for five whole minutes in order to thwart this intergalactic face stuffer or will the world meet it’s end as history’s biggest cocktail olive?
So, in order to finish on somewhat of a positive note, let’s focus on the bad first, shall we? As I mentioned earlier, the misdemeanors of the first film are unfortunately still set in stone. Both Ioan Gruffudd and Julian McMahon are still woefully miscast as Richards and Von Doom, aiming for whiny and camp respectively and Jessica Alba still fails to convince as Chris Evans’ blood relative, a respected scientist OR a natural blonde. Reed’s stretching CGI only stretches believability accurately, some of the bigger set pieces suffer from very noticable “green screen-itis” and the overriding message behind the whole movies still seems to be that being famous is like, “totes” hard. On top of previous sins resurfacing; as I stated earlier, acolytes of the towering purple planet eater rightfully raged that such a fan favorite character such as Galactus (his three issue debut in comics is still hailed as a pinnacle of the creativity that Stan Lee and Jack Kirby was coming up with at the time) would be so hideously underserved. Why waste time giving nods to the original character with a shadow of his pronged helmet (steady on…) draped over the moon if you aren’t going to honor it?
Anyway, as stuffed as inconsistencies and irritants as it is, F4:ROTSS is also a far more relaxed and confident movie than it’s predecessor and is occasionally packed to the gills with moments and images torn right out of the pages of Marvel’s first family that gone long way to addressing all the wrongs.
Alonside Evans and Chicklis continuing their good work (and in a better Thing suit, no less) long time F4 readers (like myself) will get a suprising amount of mileage from these scenes, be it Stan Lee being turned away from the wedding to Doom’s plan to board-jack the Surfer’s sweet ride (both actual moments from the printed page) and even a climatic visual tip of the hat to the Super-Skrull and a Fantasti-car which splits into four separate modules. Such pandering doesn’t make the final product rise significantly above the crap but it does help send down the rougher edges.
However, the movie’s number one bullseye is that of the Silver Surfer himself, an enigmatic, shiny, unhappy person portrayed by creature performer Doug Jones and voiced by the rumbling larynx of Lawrence Fishburne who, while whizzing around the globe and morphing THROUGH his board like the T-1000 has taken up extreme sports, give the character the messianic gravity he truly deserves. Not bad for a movie that cheap shots yet another Alba-in-her-underwear gag.
Still woefully below the kind of screen treatment these characters deserve, this is still the best Fantasic Four movie made to date (not exactly a great yardstick, I realise) although nowhere near as good a Fantastic Four movie as The Incredibles.
Maybe that elusive perfect adaptation lies ahead in our future but for now, I refuse to let this review be a completely Negative Zone.
…see what I did there?