Two summers ago "Fantastic Four," the franchise that gets even less respect than it deserves, made $330 million and change worldwide when no one was looking, thus making a sequel inevitable. That's precisely how "Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer" feels: inevitable.
It is passable comic book stuff, dumb and loud. Loud. LOUD. In the first one, based on the characters hatched by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, scientist Reed Richards turned into Mister Fantastic, a flesh-colored variation on Gumby, with the stretching and the bending. His comrades in fantastic-ness were Sue Storm, able to "go" invisible and create force fields; Johnny Storm, the human torch; and Ben Grimm, a pile of rocks nicknamed The Thing.
All have returned for "Silver Surfer," as has the foursome's primary antagonist, Dr. Doom (Julian McMahon, with eyebrows tweezed into very untrustworthy shapes). Doom squares off against the F.F. alongside a hang-10 agent of Earth's imminent destruction. The surfer, voiced by Laurence Fishburne at his most sonorous, looks like the penguin in "Surf's Up" if the penguin were a human, and silver.
What keeps things somewhat interesting here is the nature of the Silver Surfer, his agent-of-destruction status giving way to a more conflicted and worthwhile role in a story offering few surprises. Screenwriters Don Payne and Mark Frost begin the action off the coast of Japan and end things in China, where it looks pretty bad for Earth for a while but where a certain percentage of the franchise's global audience resides, so really, the planet has nothing to worry about.
The sequel's also concerned, deeply, with the long-delayed wedding of Reed and Sue, played by Ioan Gruffudd and Jessica Alba. (Michael Chiklis reprises his rock-man bit as Ben, and Chris Evans once again plays the flying flaming fellow with the yen for the fans.) A fair amount of dialogue is assigned to the topic of media celebrity and the pressures involved. This represents the summer's superhero theme, what with millions of multiplex attendees having sat through Peter Parker's egotistical fame-bingeing in "Spider-Man 3." I believe it's time to retire the burden-of-fame plot device. It has a way of making an audience root for an asteroid from the planet Obscurity to crash in out of nowhere.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times