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FANTASTIC FOUR: RISE OF THE SILVER SURFER

SYNOPSIS:
Leader of the Fantastic Four, stretcher Reed Richards (Ioan Gruffud), his girlfriend, forcefield wielder Sue Storm (Jessica Alba), her younger brother, flaming Johnny Storm (Chris Evans) and rock-thing Ben Grimm (Michael Chiklis), are called on to help the US military to defend the world against an unknown new power that is creating global havoc. Reed discovers it's a unique new element, embodied in the figure of a 'silver surfer' character who soars around the world, interfering with power and electronics. When they learn that the silver surfer is drawing his enormous power from a distant source intent on absorbing the earth's energies - including organic - they realize the stakes are the survival of humanity itself.

Review by Louise Keller:
Superhero movies these days have become like serial installments, in which the world continues to be saved, each time with an acceleration of wizardry from the palette of digital effects. The Fantastic Four sequel starts well with plenty of character-driven jokes and a healthy rush of attitude. Just as well, because we know that before long, script will take second place to the special effects, which, as expected, are slick and impressive. Catering for its young target market, the film is lively and fun, as it delivers big stunts, a predictably so-so story and some jovial humour that keeps our superheroes grounded.

Storyline tells that recent global disturbances represent threats, not only to the survival of the world and its inhabitants, but also to the impending nuptials between Mister Fantastic and the Invisible Woman. From the bachelor party to the planned picture-book wedding itself, nothing goes according to plan and the bride gets unexpected hot flushes when The Human Torch accidentally transmits his flaming superpowers to her, after experiencing molecular changes. The changes come from contact with the latest superhero character, The Silver Surfer, who needs to be separated from his surfboard, in order to curb his powers. Attempts are made by the writers to humanise this shiny Weta Workshop creation with the soulful face and sculpted abs, but special effects take precedence, relegating emotional involvement to the bare minimum.

The Fab Four pool their strength for an imposing disaster sequence involving the London Eye, as well as the final climactic confrontation held high above the clouds. All the members of the team have appeal: Ioan Gruffudd as the studiously elastic Mister Fantastic, Chris Evans as the fiery Johnny Storm and picture-perfect Jessica Alba, who keeps the hairdressers busy with her super-long, super-thick, super-blonde tresses. Julian McMahon comes back from the dead as the sneering Dr Doom, but for all the explosions and gee-whizzery, there's little gravitas and the stakes never feel as high as they could be. As the film's moral reminds us, there is always a choice, and for a popcorn comic-book fantasy audience, this one has plenty of appeal.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Thrilling in its use of visual magic (aka digital effects), this second Fantastic Four movie will enthral FF fans with the way it extends every element of the original comic, from playful humour to fantastic scenarios, evil intent and our doggedly determined heroes. They will overlook and forgive the inconsistencies and occasional silliness, which are all part and parcel of comicbookland. The Silver Surfer itself, created at the wickedly wonderful Weta lab for all things digital, has the characteristics (and appearance) of mercury that's given shape for the single purpose of creating havoc. But there is more to him than meets the eye - as we later discover.

The plot is like a very large jigsaw; anyone can piece it together, and the entertainment comes from a series of adventures within the overall plot. And yes, Julian McMahon is indeed among the cast, so Dr Doom is (somehow) back - but all I'll say is his return is stage managed to perfection. And he hasn't changed his evil ways.

The four leads are given a little more breathing space this time, enabling some characteristics to show through, but this isn't a character driven drama, so don't expect too much. Still, we are treated to the wedding (indeed, more than one) of Reed and Sue, which the film notes say is the comic world's equivalent to the Charles & Diana wedding. Not exactly, of course ... Director Tim Story manages to balance the frenetic action with moments of relative calm, and the payoff at the end is grand. It's not my kind of movie, but the target market will love it.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 0
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 2

FANTASTIC FOUR: RISE OF THE SILVER SURFER (PG)
(US/Germany, 2007)

CAST: Ioan Gruffud, Jessica Alba, Michael Chiklis, Chris Evans, Doug Jones, Julian McMahon, Kerry Washington, Beau Garrett

VOICES: Laurence Fishburn

PRODUCER: Avi Arad, Berndt Eichinger, Ralph Winter

DIRECTOR: Tim Story

SCRIPT: Don Payne, Mark Frost (characters Stan Lee, Jack Kirby)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Larry Blanford

EDITOR: Peter S. Elliott, William Hoy, Michael McCusker

MUSIC: John Ottman

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Kirk M. Petrucelli

RUNNING TIME: 92 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: 20th Century Fox

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: June 21, 2007







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