I’m not much of a comic book aficionado, so I’m not certain where the Fantastic Four fit in the pantheon-slash-food-chain of super heroes. I guess the fact that I’m aware of them means they’re pretty popular. As a film franchise, however, they are strictly bush league. This movie is a $1.98 sitcom with $130 million worth of special effects. The decline in quality from the first movie to this one isn’t as far as it was with Spider-Man 3, but there wasn’t that far to fall, either.
It’s somewhat telling that the comedic subplot about continually interrupted wedding plans is actually more entertaining than the main plot about some interstellar menace trying to destroy the earth. The bits about the media frenzy surrounding the nuptials of two superheroes are not terribly original or deep but they have a ring of truth that the rest of the movie lacks. It appears that various world crises have three times postponed the marriage of our heroes Reed Richard (a bland Ioan Gruffud) and Sue Storm (Jessica Alba sporting a blond wig that looks about as natural as Pamela Anderson’s bust line). As the movie opens, they’re hoping that the fourth time is the charm, but it appears that a strange object from space is doing freaky things to the climate, like flash-freezing lakes and making it snow on the Pyramids.
The Four are approached by an army general (a thoroughly bored Andre Braugher) for help but Reed turns him down initially but secretly begins working on, keeping it secret from his bride to be (Richards has to be the most pussy-whipped super hero in movie history). It is probably inevitable that the main bad guy makes his big appearance on the wedding and completely ruins the occasion. Johnny Storm (Chris Evans) gives chase and finds out the Big Threat is a silver guy on a flying surfboard and he talks just like that guy from The Matrix (Laurence Fishburne, no doubt grateful to just be doing voice work). The Silver Surfer completely schools Johnny and leaves him with the ability to switch mutations with the rest of the Four. This leads Sue to burst into flames and burn off all of her clothes, a sight gag that is criminally wasted in a PG-rated movie.
It turns out that the silver beach bum is just prepping the way for another threat, a giant space cloud known as Galactus, digging giant holes in the ground so Galactus can make a meal of our planet. Since the big cloud seems perfectly able to destroy the Earth without any help, the whole point of the Silver Surfer running around playing the flying gopher is lost.
There’s also a forced, awkward and illogical subplot in which Andre Braugher, as tired as we are of the Four’s juvenile bickering, brings in their nemesis from the last movie, Victor von Doom (Nip/Tuck’s Julian McMahon, looking annoyed to just be in this movie), to help out.
Given how much screen time it takes to get all the pieces in place, this movie is mercifully short at 90 minutes. That’s about as much time as I can tolerate in the company of this dull, shallow freak show of a super-quartet. Not only is Gruffud a complete zero as Richards but Jessica Alba was clearly cast simply for how she looks in a skintight bodysuit (and how teenage males imagine she’d look out of it). Michael Chiklis is wasted as Ben Grimm, who doesn’t even get to have the sympathetic character moments he had in the first film. Finally, Chris Evans appears to be trying to set the record for the most juvenile super hero since Clark Kent was in diapers. Frankly, I’d rather watch George Clooney play Batman again than another Fantastic Four movie.