Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer

For the past several years, one comic-book movie template has been to pack as many heroes and villains into one movie, and allow their fascinating powers and vices to propel the plot. With advances in CGI animation and other filmmaking techniques, it usually works.

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer is perfect for such a premise: four superheroes who each possess a unique and interesting ability. Problem is, they spend too much time about the people and not the powers.

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer

For the past several years, one comic-book movie template has been to pack as many heroes and villains into one movie, and allow their fascinating powers and vices to propel the plot. With advances in CGI animation and other filmmaking techniques, it usually works.

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer is perfect for such a premise: four superheroes who each possess a unique and interesting ability. Problem is, they spend too much time about the people and not the powers.

The screenwriters and director Tony Story keep the focus tight, and the film clocks in at around 90 minutes, an admirable running time for a type of movie usually given carte blanche. Special effects are tasteful, and the plot involves a central narrative devoid of the painful, confusing subtexts that destroyed Spider-Man 3.

Jessica Alba, Ioan Gruffudd, Chris Evans and Michael Chiklis, who play the mutated foursome, just aren't interesting people; they seem less a group of dilligent super-martyrs than a group of friends who work at a big-city magazine on a prime-time network sitcom that wouldn't last six episodes.

Watching them discuss the fate of the world is similar to watching the cheeky put-overs on How I Met Your Mother. No chemistry, much cornballing, the inability to believe real people would do and say such punchy things in such situations.

And these four people are faced with some heavy stuff: Geological disturbances are recorded when a mercurial alien on a glistening surfboard begins shooting around the globe. A bit of scientific research performed by Reed Richards (Gruffudd) indicates that the Silver Surfer seems to be a messenger of sorts; whichever plant he visits dies eight days later.

Joined by government agents and Victor Von Doom (Julian McMahon), the Fantastic Four agree to trap the surfer, learn his secrets and save the planet.

The film doesn't go much further. Instead it learns that the Surfer can rescue the rest of the actors and action from a slow, steady decline into the abyss (literally and figuratively).

Not only does the Surfer (voiced by Laurence Fishburne) add the intriguing back story lacking in each protagonist, but he also provides the focal point for the coolest fight scenes. These happen on land and in the cold, black pit of space; none is wasted.

And that, my friends, is why this movie is ultimately a great summer diversion: Candy for the eyes and little else.

I wouldn't expect anything less.

Grade: B