Employing a formative approach to superhero-dom, another comic strip from the
minds of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby hits the celluloid. And, if Lee and Kirby
know anything, it is that every superhero needs individuality, however
In the beginning, there is scientist Reed Richards (Ioan Gruffudd--"King Arthur") and astronaut
buddy cum advisor Ben Grimm (Michael Chiklis--"The Shield") who need funding
for an outer space experiment involving a cosmic storm whose radiation has
DNA altering applications here on Earth. The idea is to tap into some of
that. But NASA, the natural funder for spatial spectaculars, ain't buyin'.
Richards is forced, then, to approach his billionaire nemesis in the
scientific-industrial world, profoundly named Victor Von Doom (Julian McMahon,
This guy's footprint in the financial cosmos is large enough to include his
own private orbit, space station included. But, as with many outsize
self-made men, he's got megalomaniacal visions of greater wealth, power and
domination of all he beholds, none of which is a match for his vanity and
tendency to glorify himself every chance he gets. But he didn't get where
he's at by being dumb, so he offers the desperate scientist a mere 25% and
calls the mission his own, which he then uses to impress the comely genetic
researcher in his employ, Sue Storm (Jessica Alba, "Sin City," "Dark Angel"). But,
this slim bit of sensual dynamite is Richard's ex-flame, and she's still got
eyes for the nerd.
Thinking he's got all the winning cards, Von Doom pops a diamond ring in
Storm's face after wowing her on his space ship with our blue planet
revolving outside the windows. What paramour could ask for a more astounding
setting for going down on his knees for a lady's hand? But before he gets
there, the mission goes catastrophic. Can you believe it, the gauges are off
and they're miles closer to the radiation maelstrom than they thought,
proving NASA's good judgement in not investing in these clowns. With no
chance to ponder that aspect, the space adventurers, with Ben outside on a
space walk in his EV suit, suddenly find themselves caught up in the
radiation field. Ben gets the worst of it but they narrowly escape and return
They're all relieved to have survived what seemed like certain death. But
things start to happen to their genetic encoding and each one discovers
unique changes in themselves. Richards finds he can stretch his limbs like
Elastigirl (Holly Hunter) in "The Incredibles." Sue can make herself invisible (but not
her garments, so it's a problem) and generate a protective shield, her
impulsive younger brother Johnny Storm (Chris Evans) is a walking
flamethrower who can
surroundings with the BTU's of the sun and fly like an incandescent missile.
And then there's the likable Ben.
Of the newly empowered quartet, he's become the 800 pound, armor-plated
Schwarzenegger and the only one who can't revert back to his normal self.
He's also the saddest and suffers the strongest regrets over his mutation,
power notwithstanding. To fuel his Dostoevskian depression, his new
umber-colored armadillo look is too much for his disloyal wife, who returns
his wedding ring just when he needs her most. Boooo.
So, this comprises the team of good guys, the "Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer" and, as every
comic book reader knows, a supervillain is as necessary to superheroes
as a defendant to a prosecutor--they're nothing without one. For this,
there's Von Doom, who has now acquired a new level of maniacal nastiness
along with justification for his name. A small wound on his face turns into a
titanium scar that grows along with his power to discharge spears of
high-energy voltage that could light the city or melt an enemy. In the case
of a superhero, it's enough to incapacitate, at the very least.
Two supporting roles stand out. Hamish Linklater ("Final Draft") as Von
Doom's "assistant" Leonard creates his own unctuously efficient enabler that
calls to mind Stryker, Dracula's demonic "arranger." And, Kerry Washington
("Mr. & Mrs. Smith") as
Ben's blind, black, understanding beauty and new companion, is worth seeing
With such a volume of CGI effects variation, director Tim Story and
co-writers Michael France and Mark Frost hope to ignite a new franchise in
the comic strip-to-movie universe, employing the ruse of a modest beginning.
The casting is largely TV grade, the dialogue is pale but serviceable, and
the inspiration slightly below Johnny's incandescence. But maybe the
attraction of a sympathetic strong man, a funny, irresponsible cut up of a
super-BIC, a scientist malleable enough to win the girl, and a girl whose
dimensions men dream about might just have the potential for more dosages of
amiable action fantasy. Consider a sequel inevitable.
~~ Jules Brenner