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Fantastic Four 2
Two and a half Hearts

"Return of the Adequate Four"

Written by Steven Walker

Being a comic book fan, it is always difficult to review a movie like this. My critical brain cannot seperate from my geek influence, so I will never know how this movie might play for someone who has never read the comics. The plus side: It is better than the first one in every measurable way. The minus side: That is still not necessarily a good thing.

The one thing the first movie had going for it was that it perfectly captured the spirit of the Fantastic Four themselves. Argue all you want about the casting of Reed Richards and Sue Storm, but they ARE the characters we have loved all these years, like it or not. The Thing and the Human Torch were perfect. These pluses continue in part 2. Everything involving the family dynamics of the Fantastic Four hit all the right notes, even if most of them are clumsy.

I am relieved to say that they do not deficate all over the Silver Surfer or Galactus the way Spider-Man 3 did to Venom. The Silver Surfer is, in fact, almost perfect. Galactus is...well...a cloud. But let's face it, true believers, Galactus in the comics looks incredibly stupid when compared to what he is supposed to be. A giant man in a purple skirt and a helmet even George Lucas wouldn't put on film? C'mon. The movie's choice to depict him as a V'ger or Unicron like cloud kinda fits with the idea of a world devourer.

The Silver Surfer's looks and moves are just amazing...he is simply not given enough to do. He does not speak nearly enough and we are given no real insight into his character. I'm about to get into some serious spoilers so read no further if you haven't seen the movie.

All we get is that he was forced into service and he misses his girlfriend. Given the philosophical depths the Surfer's comics often attempted, this is frankly pathetic. Once seperated from his board, the Surfer is depicted as a weakling who is at the mercy of everyone around him. Unfortunately, this is just becasue of sloppy writing and not a real attempt at character development.

And casting Laurence Fishburne as his voice is just irritating. Fishburne does a fine job, but his voice is so recognizable that it takes you out of the movie, especially if you have seen the Matrix more than once. It's not as bad as casting Liam Neeson as Aslan in Narnia, but it's close. They should have found an unknown to voice the Surfer or even, heaven forbid, use Doug Jones.

These issues aside, it is still a better realization of the Surfer than I was expecting. The resolution with him and Galactus is depicted in such a vague way that both characters could easily return in future movies, perhaps with a director who has some vision.

That is the main problem with this movie and the first one...there is no clear artistic vision driving anything. It all feels workhorse. When Sue Storm "dies" at the end, I didn't buy it for a second. It was so painfully obvious by the way it was staged that the Surfer was going to revive her. It was like the director was just going through the motions and not trying to create a real emotional event.

That kind of generic direction plagues the film, especially with the humor element. Most of the jokes are painful, but not because they are bad jokes. I'm sure most of them were funny on paper. The problem is that they are staged like jokes. The blocking and timing plays like an SNL skit which highlights the punchlines and even leaves dead space for the audience to laugh through if they were laughing. Jokes in movies like this should not feel like jokes, they should be sincere character moments that happen to be funny.

And just like the first film, absolutely everthing with Dr. Doom is terrible. Just awful, awful, awful. I'm glad I never really cared about Dr. Doom or I would be foaming at the mouth over how poorly he is depicted. Julian McMahon is a fine actor who was horribly mis-cast. Dr. Doom should not be some Pretty-Boy Corporate Blow-Hard who's pissed off because he can't pay rent and he lost his frakking girlfriend! Dr. Doom is supposed to be a European Dictator for christ's sake! He is Saddam Hussein with a better fashion sense! I cannot believe a writer actually got paid to rape good material so thoroughly.

And why oh why they would hire a big name to voice the Surfer when Doug Jones would have done better while allowing Dr. Doom to retain McMahon's WRETCHEDLY inappropriate voice is beyond my comprehension as a writer, a director, and a comic book fan. Come to think of it, Laurence Fishburne would have made an awesome Dr. Doom.

Final Thoughts: Good try Marvel. Your heart is totally in the right place, now hire a director who is an actual artist.



Copyright 2008 Flaming Heart Enterprises, L.L.C.