PG, because it really is as family friendly as the superhero movies get. The odd thing is that it is fundamentally about a creature who wants to eat the world and kill all living creatures on Earth, so that's an odd thing that I have to wrap my head around. But when chaos is on that level, it becomes way less scary. Making it about one person is way scarier. But I digress! There's some obscured nudity of Jessica Alba...again. I don't remember any bad language. It's got some very cartoon-y violence. Reed hits on girls at his bachelor party. Um...that's about it? A well justified PG.
DIRECTOR: Tim Story
It's official! My kids like these movies. Don't weep for me. I'm going to put it out there and say that there are way worse movies to watch. I remember, when this movie came out, I was the only one who thought it was actually better than the first movie. Yeah, it has its problems. And some of those problems are fairly major and can't be ignored. I know that because every image that was hi-res enough to put for the picture above reminded me of a terrible part of the movie. But Silver Surfer is rad and I'm glad to see a Fantastic Four movie that is not an origin story. Also, it's got Andre Braugher who gets something weird done to him that I'm not sure I can explain.
I don't know whether to go positive or negative first. The negative stuff has been done, but I also want to be honest with this movie with the mistakes that it made. Yeah, I'll go negative first and then try to dig myself out, trying to once again remind you that I actually enjoyed this movie overall. I know. I'm first defending The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and now I have to do Fantastic Four 2. A lot of my complaints about the fundamentals of the first movie still stay. The casting is great in the main team except for Jessica Alba. I don't get it. I know that Jessica Alba was a marketable name and that's why she is in the movie, but she contributes nothing but her looks. That's not Sue Storm. While Sue has always been depicted as gorgeous and occasionally sexual (I'm looking at you, the '90s.), that is her least interesting characteristic. The books, at least modern age and on, have depicted Sue Storm as the most important and vital member of the team. Occasionally she gets overlooked by Reed Richards, who builds ridiculous machines and things that adjust the complete fabric of the Marvel Universe, but Sue should have the strongest powers and the most control over the direction that the team is taking. Jessica Alba doesn't get that. Jessica Alba looks artificial and her performance is distractingly weak. She actually gets the most uncomfortable character arc as well. I'm going to step back and put on my progressive pants for a second. Sue in this movie is focused on a really weak goal. She wants the the world to be okay so she can have the prettiest, most perfect wedding. Literally, the world is about to be consumed by Galactus (we'll get there) and she just wants to have the idea wedding. That's her character arc. She realizes that she can be the perfect bride AND save the world. That's a real bummer. She tolerates the menfolk and their superhero shannanigans. That's about as generous as you could be. The rest of the cast is fine. Ioan Gruffudd really nails what I want to see out of a Mr. Fantastic. He's locked in his own little world and has the right degree of social ineptitude. We have seen a lot of Chris Evans as Captain America, but it's nice seeing the perfectly cocky Johnny Storm. His relationship with Michael Chiklis's Thing is even better. Those guys rock. It's just Jessica Alba who is absolutely terrible. (I always feel bad about writing these things. I don't like attacking individuals because i never want to be confused for a troll. But she really bugs me in this movie.)
Then there's Galactus. I know. It's nearly impossible to make a giant guy floating through space with a giant purple helmet. But a cloud? Really? We've been waiting to see one of the coolest villains in the Marvel Universe and he's just a cloud? I get it. He's a sentient cloud, but that's even barely communicated. Since Rise of the Silver Surfer, there have been a handful of challenging villains to communicate and those came across absolutely rad. Now comes my real critique of Tim Story. He doesn't understand villains and I think he's afraid of real challenges. Maybe it's a budget thing. I can't stress enough how much different the cinematic landscape looks now than it did before. The MCU has carte blanche because it has proven itself. Fantastic Four 2 was such a gamble. People didn't love the first one and this one needed to work on probably a limited budget. But then don't do Galactus. I know. The Fantastic Four really only have two memorable stories: their origin story and Galactus. There have been others, but nothing that completely blows minds. But we want Galactus to be earned. Galactus, as a cloud, is completely in the background of this movie. There's a reason that it is named Rise of the Silver Surfer. Don't get me wrong: the Silver Surfer is rad. He looks rad. He sounds rad. He is Radd. (Pun. Intended.) This is the moment where I realize that people are loving to hate the movie because people attack this element of the movie when it is perfectly fine. He actually looks and acts cool. But the focus should be on Galactus and he isn't. Instead, there's an absolutely goofy Doctor Doom plot that is meant to act as distraction. I'm going to act right now like Tim Story reads my blog (he doesn't, I'm sure), but Doctor Doom is allowed to take a break once in a while. I get it. He's the main enemy of the Fantastic Four. He keeps making their lives terrible. But we're allowed to make him scary over time. I wouldn't mind for him to have an entire empire by the time we visit him again. Why do I need to see him so quickly after the last movie? I know you teased that he was alive and in Latveria. But let that slowly play out. Our protagonists don't need to be involved in that. Make him truly terrifying. Doom is one of those villains that should be rare and impressive. When he shows up, the world is afraid because he's that impressive. Instead, we get Julian McMahon still being pretty. The Surfer healed him with his blasts? What kind of weapon is that? Did he not want to sit through the makeup? We were promised gross Doom and we got charming Tony Stark again. Mr. Story, you don't get villains, at all. At all. They are all terrible. Even General Andre Braugher. He's this really superficial bully who is easily taken down in this one.
The last really terrible thing in the movie is Johnny's powers. Yeah, we want more Johnny Storm. He worked the best in the first movie. But everything in this movie feels like a distraction from something we want, but can't actually get. We want the Fantastic Four and the Silver Surfer versus Galactus. That's the narrative we want. Everything that is not that is a lie. We are told that this is the Galactus storyline and instead we have a goofy Johnny who keeps trading powers with people. Story tries to cover it up as a character defining moment, but Johnny is fundamentally the same person that he was from the beginning to the end. He doesn't grow up in any way. He was pretty heroic in the first movie, so calling him not heroic for the sake of character development is pretty dumb. There are all these dramatic moments that really come to nothing. The same thing with Doom and the surfboard. Are people really so petty that the world coming to an end would lead to the Fantastic Four being locked up hours from the end of the world? It's just really bizarre. There are all these affordable set pieces when we want to see all of New York fearing getting smooshed by Galactus's giant boot. There's none of that stuff. We do get a thunderstorm in Japan that is meant to give us that sense of dread, but it doesn't really play out. Also, the fate of Sue Storm tied to that same scene is such a cop out. Don't tease us just to undo it without an explanation. That's some rough stuff. Okay, the product placement can really bite me too. (This all ties into my the-studio-didn't-trust-this-franchise theory.) When the Fantasticar shows up with the Dodge logo front and center, I could have lived without it.
But here's where the movie works, besides just being a great kids' action movie: it has a phenomenal tone. The main thing that made reboot straight-up unwatchable was the tone. This movie is playful in just the right way. Roll your eyes all you want, but there's something remarkably fun about Marvel's first family. Yeah, I'd love to see Reed interacting with the Reeds from other universes. I would love to see H.E.R.B.I.E. walking around after throwing trash into the Negative Zone. But if this series kept going, I'd like to think that the movies would have that kind of fun in the long run. The plot is stupid. I've complained about that enough. But it does make a kind of sense if you squint hard and shut off your brain. There's a clear beginning, middle, and end. Sure, there are all these distractions along the way. I will always encourage people to watch films critically. But if this movie is a popcorn film, and it definitely is, the story isn't too bogged down by insane technobabble and an overstuffed plot. The Fantastic Four have to stop the Silver Surfer from helping Galactus rip apart the planet. We actually know very little about Galactus in this film. We get just enough narrative from Norrin Radd for the story to make a modicum of sense. When the Four don't work together, they fail. When they do work together, they grow closer. It's a PG movie, guys. Sometimes simple isn't the worst. The stuff that doesn't work seems mostly a studio thing. It's a bunch of suits throwing things in there to make the movie seem more movie like, but the bones of the movie work. Yeah, there would be stuff I could change. If I had the money, there's a version of that script that might actually be pretty good. There are also a lot of delightful moments in the movie. I know that seems like putting artificial sweetener on a turd, but I beg to differ. This might be Stan Lee's greatest cameo. TINIEST SPOILER YET: He plays himself. That's super fun. I love that nod to the audience. Brian Posehn is the priest marrying them? Sure, that seems a little blasphemous knowing his theological beliefs, but he's a huge fan of Fantastic Four. A lot of the motorcross stuff has gone away and instead we get a nearly perfect Silver Surfer. I keep coming back to this, but I love this portrayal of the Silver Surfer. He's this CG nightmare that actually looks pretty good because the Silver Surfer is supposed to look a little weird. Lawrence Fishburne gives this gravitas to this character that Dough Jones manages to look cool. Again, this is me fawning over Darth Maul's double lightsaber in the Phantom Menace trailer, but the Surfer just going throuhg his own board is a very metal moment. (Pun intended.) There are probably a dozen other fun moments that make the movie fun.
If I had to be glib and shorten down the movie to a blurb, this movie is a dessert that you know is bad for you. You shouldn't be eating stuff like this and if more stuff was like this, you would hate food forever. But once in a while, a movie this dumb but fun really works. I don't know what separates this from something like Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. But I also kind of want to watch that movie as well. So at least I'm consistent.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.