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MPAA Rating
Credits
Genre
Comedy, Drama, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Action/Adventure
Cast
Ioan Gruffudd as Reed Richards; Jessica Alba as Sue Storm; Chris Evans as Johnny Storm; Michael Chiklis as Ben Grimm; Julian McMahon as Victor Von Doom; Laurence Fishburne as the voice of Silver Surfer
Director
Tim Story (Fantastic Four, Taxi, Barbershop)
Distributor
20th Century Fox
Reviewer
Paul Asay
Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer

Life couldn't be better for the superhero team known as the Fantastic Four. The members of this über quartet have become the celebrity darlings of the superhero set, complete with paparazzi and sponsorship deals. And they're all happily preparing for the "Wedding of the Century" between super-stretchy Reed Richards and his main invisible squeeze, Sue Storm.

But there's trouble in paradise.

First, a mysterious metallic interloper sweeps in from outer space on his intergalactic surfboard. Unnatural and disturbing anomalies around the world follow in his wake. It snows in Egypt. A complete blackout strikes Los Angeles. More ominously, the alien visitor leaves behind a gigantic crater wherever he touches down. Johnny Storm, the Fantastic Four's Human Torch, dubs him the Silver Surfer.

And it seems pretty clear that this Surfer dude wants to hang 10 for destruction. Hotshot Johnny tussles with him and quickly discovers his fiery powers are no match for the Silver Surfer's prowess. That encounter messes with Johnny's signature power as well. Whenever he touches a fellow Four-mate, they switch powers.

But the Fantastic Four's real troubles are only just beginning. The Silver Surfer, it turns out, is only the herald of a much larger and disturbing bad 'un. He's called Galactus, the "Devourer of Worlds" (not a villain with an eye for subtlety, apparently). Galactus snacks on planets' thermal and organic energy, and now he's developed a craving for ours.

If that's not enough, Dr. Doom is back from the dead. And our fearless Four are dealing with their own internal angst. Girls practically line up for resident hottie Johnny. But that attention can't stem his growing desire for something deeper, what with Reed and Sue's impending wedding and Ben Grimm fawning over his blind girlfriend, Alicia. For their part, Sue and Richard wonder whether it's possible for superhuman celebrities to raise children that won't need, like, 40 years of counseling. Thus, they contemplate leaving the group, which would make the Fantastic Four the, um, Fantastic Two.

Positive Elements

Some might say this film is all about cool computer animation and grandiose explosions. And that would be true. But Silver Surfer also delves into the importance and beauty of sacrifice.

If Ben Grimm was the bittersweet focal point of the first Fantastic Four film, the sequel focuses on Johnny Storm, the team's hedonistic hotshot. He matures from a loose cannon who dates supermodels to a teammate who risks his life to help save others. Sue Storm has her moment of sacrifice, too, as she puts her life on the line to protect the enigmatic Silver Surfer from certain death.

None of these superheroes has the ability to deal with the Silver Surfer or Dr. Doom on their own. So it's a good thing Johnny learns how to play well with others. Only by working as a team do they have what it takes to get the job done. Reed and Sue flirt with the idea of leaving superherodom behind for a "normal" life, but eventually they decide (as other Marvel faves Spider-Man and the X-Men almost always do), "We can't run away from our responsibilities and the people we need to protect."

[Spoiler Warning] The Silver Surfer eventually comes to grips with his ultimate duty. As the story unfolds, we discover that he's not such a bad guy. He's compelled to serve Galactus to save his own planet and his one true love from destruction. He insists to Sue that the agreement leaves him no choice regarding his actions. She counters, "There's always a choice."

"Not always," he responds.

But as he glimpses Reed's devotion to his wounded wife, the Surfer is apparently reminded of his own love. (His last words to Reed: "Treasure every moment with her.") And that motivates the herald of Galactus to turn on his master and make the ultimate sacrifice to save all of humanity from certain destruction.

Spiritual Content

The filmmakers seem to imply that the Silver Surfer is a Christ-like figure. For starters, his severe messages echo the cadence of biblical prophets ("All that you know is at an end"). And during the climactic showdown, he stretches his arms out, as if on a cross. [Spoiler Warning] Lending even more credence to this comparison between Surfer and Savior are scenes in which he resurrects one character who's perished in action (and perhaps another as well) before willingly laying down his own life.

Elsewhere, Reed and Sue's weddings (the first is cut short due to a plummeting helicopter) are in the Christian tradition; they feature a priest wearing a clerical collar and a fleeting shot of the Bible. A television anchorman wonders aloud whether Surfer-induced atmospheric disturbances are the "hand of God."

Sexual Content

Before his wedding, Reed reluctantly agrees that Johnny can throw him a bachelor party on the condition there be "no exotic dancers." To Reed's initial dismay, the party at a local nightclub is full of scantily clad dancers (one of whom is practically falling out of her top). Johnny insists they're not exotic dancers: "They're just hot." Three of them exhibit a lot of affection for the almost-married superhero. In turn, Reed (a somewhat nerdy type who's enjoying the attention) gets carried away dancing, coiling two of them in his stretchy arms just as his bride-to-be walks in. Sue's not too mad, though, because she says her own bachelorette party was much wilder.

There are also several sly references to sex. A reporter asks Johnny's girlfriend-of-the-moment what it takes to be the Human Torch's significant other. "Fireproof lingerie and a lot of aloe," she says. Johnny awkwardly inquires how Ben and Alicia have sex ("Uh, how do you guys ..." he asks without completing the question). Then he jokes, "I'd hate to wake up one morning and find out she was killed in a rock slide."

Sue's accidental power-swap with Johnny burns off all her cloths, and we see the outline of her body in its fiery form. When the flames go off, though, she ends up naked (face-down) on a busy New York street. Moviegoers never see any exposed flesh, but bystanders and photographers in her vicinity get an eyeful (paparazzi cameras click away) before she cloaks herself with invisibility. More revealing, onscreen, are some of Sue's outfits (especially a leg- and cleavage-revealing bathrobe). Likewise, Johnny is shown coming out of the shower with nothing but a towel around his waist; steam evaporates from his body as he flirts with a female Army officer.

Sue tells Reed, "I'm so hot for you now" after he confronts a condescending Army general. "Me too!" Johnny says in jest. Reed and Sue kiss, as do Ben and Alicia.

Violent Content

When the tagline for one of the lead characters is, "It's clobberin' time!" viewers must expect some violence—comic-bookish though it might be.

The most disturbing violence is perpetrated by Dr. Doom who unleashes an energy blast at an Army officer who is shooting a pistol at him. The ray's impact partially disintegrates the officer, then leaves what remains frozen and broken, like a crumbling statue. In another Doom scene, we hear the sound of flesh tearing as he removes a metallic mask.

Also dramatic (but without blood or gore) are images of metal spikes penetrating Sue's force field and then her abdomen. It's implied that the Silver Surfer is tortured by U.S. government agents; we see a man removing electric defibrillator paddles from his body.

Other violence is intense but less graphic. The biggest party crasher at Reed and Sue's first wedding is an out-of-control helicopter that menaces guests with its bulk and rotors. Ben takes a face-full of tail rotor before ripping the tail section off. Civilians are often in peril. One example: The London Eye (essentially a huge Ferris wheel) comes unhinged and threatens to crash to the ground. A crash involving the Fantasticar (a hovercraft engineered by Reed) finds Sue's compartment colliding with concrete and other obstacles on a busy Chinese city street.

And, of course, there are fights galore. Johnny fights the Silver Surfer. Dr. Doom fights the Silver Surfer. Dr. Doom fights the military. Dr. Doom fights Johnny. The Fantastic Four fight, well, everybody. And it's implied that the Silver Surfer takes on Galactus in the film's final conflagration. Massive explosions, hand-to-hand melees, energy blasts, flying debris and characters getting tossed about are commonplace in these frenetic battles.

Crude or Profane Language

Characters utter "oh my god" at least a half-dozen times. About 10 other milder vulgarities include two or three uses each of "d--n," "a--," h---" and "p---ed off." Ben is fond of the word "crap."

Drug and Alcohol Content

Reed's bachelor party features lots of drinking. We witness Ben polish off a pitcher of beer (and see two other empty pitchers nearby) and then hear him emit a massive belch. No one appears to be drunk, but when Reed leaves, Sue sarcastically says she can wait if he wants to "do Jell-O shots off a girl's stomach." Johnny and Ben have a heart-to-heart in a bar. Both drink, and Johnny pours beer over a dartboard to douse a fire he accidentally started. There is champagne at the wedding.

Other Negative Elements

Reed keeps designing gadgets behind Sue's back, telling her that he's taking care of details for the wedding. He apologizes later, but it seems that Reed has an unhealthy attraction—perhaps even addiction—to his technology-filled worklife, something that looms as a big issue in his impending marriage. Johnny suggests that Reed should behave better, lest Sue deliver an invisible kick to his groin.

Conclusion

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer is a lightweight popcorn sequel, more likely to earn a gazillion dollars at the box office than a single Oscar. But its themes of sacrifice, and the curious role of the Silver Surfer, give it some unexpected depth.

Some important lessons can be drawn from the movie, and some interesting points to ponder center around the Silver Surfer. Was he good? Bad? Does his final goodness redeem his early role in Galactus' march toward earth? Would you ever put other people at risk to save the people you love? Just as the Spider-Man and X-Men franchises have done, so Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer uses comic-book fantasy to raise moral and perhaps even spiritual questions about our ultimate purpose in life and in our families.

Those redemptive qualities, though, are smudged by the ash of avoidable content issues: references to sex, excessive alcohol consumption, smattering of swearing and the excessive clobberin'. This film could easily have shed all of these issues without hurting its plot or fun factor one bit. As such, these unwanted additions to the story feel gratuitous. Without them, the second Four could've truly been Fantastic.

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