Wipe out

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer

If only I hadn’t had that last fajita with the refried beans and garlic.

If only I hadn’t had that last fajita with the refried beans and garlic.

Rated 1.0

I am just not getting it on with the big blockbusters this year. Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer marks the summer season’s low point thus far in big-budget busts. Spider-Man 3 was pretty bad, but it’s Chinatown compared to this crap.The first film of the franchise was disastrously bad, while this one is just very bad. Director Tim Story returns with a terrible crop of writers and F/X people and continues to insult Fantastic Four fans with a bad story, bad visuals and hellacious editing.

Apparently, it’s not evil enough defiling the Fantastic Four, so now they’ve dragged another beloved comic character into the fray. The Silver Surfer, a planet-killing silver guy on a surfboard, makes his movie debut. Voiced by Laurence Fishburne, this is a character who had always baffled me in the comics and continues to do so in the film. His mission is to destroy planets from his silver surfboard, with his master being an enormous, stormy energy thing called Galactus. Galactus has an appetite for planets and has threatened to destroy the Silver Surfer’s home (where his babe lives) if he doesn’t carry out his planet-killing duties.

So, while Silver Surfer is trying to kill entire planets, he’s really a good guy because he loves somebody. He makes his first earthly appearance by disrupting the wedding of Reed Richards (Ioan Gruffudd) and Sue Storm (Jessica Alba), alias Mr. Fantastic and The Invisible Woman. Johnny “The Human Torch” (a smarmy Chris Evans) gives chase, resulting in one of the film’s few decent scenes. We eventually find out that Susan Storm reminds the Surfer of his girlfriend, so our planet might stand a fighting chance.

Victor Von Doom (Julian McMahon) somehow resurrects himself in a way that is never really explained after dying in the first film, and he sets his sights on the atmosphere-destroying board. We know that Victor is a bad guy because he talks and performs all actions in slow motion. Not just slow, but really slow and overtly presentational. He’s my pick for worst screen villain since Mario Van Peebles in Highlander III: The Sorcerer.

McMahon’s irritating performance isn’t the film’s worst. That honor goes to Gruffudd, who renders Mr. Fantastic a rubber-duddy. The franchise low point occurs when Reed dances up a storm at his bachelor party, a truly painful scene. Gruffudd has absolute zero charisma, and I can’t help but think the series would be marginally better if they replaced him.

Actually, not much can be said for Evans as Johnny and Michael Chiklis as Ben “The Thing” Grimm, either. Alba is actually the closest thing to a true thespian in the cast, and that’s just scary.

As for the special effects, the Surfer is actually pretty cool to look at, even if he doesn’t make much sense. Most other effects shots are subpar, including cartoonish-looking renditions of planets and fuzzy looking visuals when Richards stretches. The planet-eating Galactus is cool, but for the bucks being thrown at this thing, it should look much better. It suffers from direct-to-video-worthy graphics.

In an effort to get some laughs, Johnny comes down with some condition that allows him to switch powers with his partners by touching them. So we get to see Johnny as the Thing. BRUU-HA-HA-HA-HA! Not funny.

I will say this: Bravo to Chiklis for not allowing himself to go topless. In one instance, as the end of the world is upon us, and he’s been switched back to human form thanks to Johnny, they have inserted a shot of Chiklis taking a pause to put on a hooded sweatshirt. We are spared his man boobs.

The film scored big at the box office for its opening, so we will probably get a third one. Until that film’s release, I will live every day with just a touch of fear.