Fantastic Four and Rise of the Silver Surfer
These two particular films came out in 2005 and 2007, right when superhero movies were starting to take off. They re-did Fantastic Four in 2015 and appears they are trying again in 2024…I don’t know why they think they need re-done that often; these weren’t too bad. Not mind-blowing, but not bad. These particular films star Ioan Gruffudd (again, I adore him in Amazing Grace and my brother knows him from the miniseries Horatio Hornblower based on the novel series; he also briefly appeared in Titanic, was Lancelot in the King Arthur movie with Keira Knightley, and star of the short run Forever show on ABC) as Reed Richards, Jessica Alba as Sue Storm, Chris Evans (we’ll be seeing him in the MCU as Captain America soon) as Johnny Storm, Michael Chiklis (this guy reminds me of Mike Holmes from HGTV) as Ben Grimm, and Julian McMahon (I know him best as Cole Turner in Charmed [the early 2000’s version, not the remake that CW has decided to do…seriously, has TV run out of completely new ideas?) as Victor Von Doom.
The film opens with Reed and Ben going to Von Doom Industries to secure funding for a project Reed has in mind. Victor agrees, mainly because he wants the satisfaction of Reed Richards begging for his help after making him feel inferior in M.I.T., and to show off that Reed’s old girlfriend, Sue Storm, works for Victor now. And there is a history between Ben and Sue’s brother, Johnny, going back to NASA. Doom also wants the research from Reed’s trip because it will boost his own company. And Reed of course, has to utter “what’s the worst that can happen?” when talking to Ben about the trip. Well, the worst that can happen is that the cloud accelerates and they have to get Ben inside before it hits. Sue leaves Victor in the middle of his proposal so she can help.
The team returns to Von Doom’s medical facility on Earth. Everything seems fine at first (and Reed gets a small scene to showcase that he remembers special things about his former girlfriend, when he instructs a nurse to move the orchids away since she’s allergic and instead, put the sunflowers closer to her since they’re her favorite…and Sue hears him, but doesn’t let on). Johnny heads out with a nurse to go skiing and discovers that he can light himself on fire. Sue manages to turn invisible during a conversation with Reed and he quickly discovers his new ability to stretch himself. They run to check on Ben, who got hit with more of a direct blast, but he’s run off to check on his wife. His wife is now terrified of him because his skin has turned rocklike. (The way the cloud hit them teases what kind of powers they received, which is cool). So he sits on a bridge to think about his life and tries to save a suicide jumper, only to cause a traffic jam for his trouble. But when a fire engine starts to fall off the bridge, the team leaps into action. Johnny protects a little girl from an explosion, Ben pulls the truck back on to the bridge, Reed stretches to save a falling firefighter, and Sue can project an energy shield which holds back the fire. The crowd applauds their actions and the four are deemed superheroes.
Reed suggests everyone stays at his apartment in the Baxter Building while he theorizes what happened, mainly, the cloud fundamentally altered their DNA.” [And cameo by Stan Lee; I think I watched this film before I ever watched X-Men, since I like Ioan Gruffudd, so this was the first time I saw him in a superhero film.] Victor was not unaffected by the cloud, but hides his symptoms, like controlling electricity. He orders Reed to figure out what went on, but is also secretly plotting. He’s not pleased that the investors drop out of his company and is desperate to get his wealth and good name back. And win Sue back; only to get back at Reed, as he admits to his assistant. Victor is also turning into metal and kills his doctor when it’s suggested they inform the CDC. That begins his power trip; he next targets the head of the board.
Reed vows to Ben that he will fix his friend. Along the way, Ben meets a blind woman who is not scared of him (played by Kerry Washington). Johnny’s had enough of being cooped up, so he enters into an extreme motorcycle competition, which leads to a public argument between the four. Victor, who has cameras in Reed’s apartment, learns that Reed is working on a cure, by re-creating the cloud in a hope to reverse the wave. And Victor knows he needs to take Ben out first, as the strongest and most loyal to Reed. He points out to Ben that Reed and Sue are getting cozy again and that is delaying the cure. Which leads to Ben and Reed fighting. And then Reed tests the machine on himself because he’s willing to risk his life to make sure the machine is perfect for his friend. And they think it works for a minute, until Reed melts. Victor brings Ben back to the Baxter Building and uses his power to increase the output from the machine so Ben becomes human again. Which leaves Ben vulnerable and gives Victor more power. He then electrocutes Reed and drags him back to Von Doom Industries, hooked up to freezing spray. Victor uses a heat-seeking missile to try to take out Johnny, who luckily learns to fly at that point divert the missile.
Sue sneaks in invisibly to rescue Reed and tries to take on Victor, who asks his ex-girlfriend: “do you really think fate turns us into gods so we could refuse these gifts?” Not the first time Victor thought he was a god, according to Sue. Ben also realizes he needs his new powers in order to save his friends, and uses the machine again, clobbering Victor to save Sue and Reed. The battle ends up outside and Reed uses science to take down Doom, now masked in a metal mask from his home country of Latveria (like Doom was doing to Reed). Reed has Johnny superheat Doom, then has Ben spray a fire hydrant on the guy: “what happens when you rapidly cool hot metal?” The heroes are victorious and Victor is now due to be shipped back to Latveria. There’s a cheerful party at the end, Ben now dating the blind Angela and happier with his lot in life. And Reed finally proposes to Sue (using a gasket from the space station because he’s a dork). Everyone is happy for the couple and Jonny lights a flaming “4” in the sky to celebrate, and to escape Ben.
Rise of the Silver Surfer picks up with the team a few years later, with Reed and Sue attempting to get married; but apparently the ceremony keeps getting postponed. However, there is a strange shooting star flying over the earth (which wakes up Von Doom in Latveria) and the military wants Reed to help track it. He initially turns them down because he wants to be a good husband-to-be and focus on his upcoming wedding. But of course, he actually does work on the tracking system and Ben drags him away an hour before the ceremony. Sue is a little nervous about getting married since she wants a normal life and family and that’s impossible as a superhero. Their wedding begins beautifully, until an alarm goes off on Reed’s PDA, then a cosmic entity descends on NYC and disrupts the ceremony. Johnny flies after the Silver Surfer (voiced by Laurence Fishburne; Morpheus from The Matrix), then gets choked and dropped. Now, when he touches one of his teammates, they switch powers. Johnny also overhears Reed promise Sue that, after this mission, they can quit the team and have a quiet, normal life.
The team figures out that the next crater will appear in London, so they try to stop him. But Johnny flies into Reed and switches powers, which almost puts the mission at risk. At the same time, Victor is back and has spoken to the Surfer, but tells the military that he wants to help. The key is that the Surfer’s power comes from his board, so they need to enlist Reed again to figure out how to get the two apart. But Victor secretly works on his own plan. Reed manages to stand up to the general, highlighting that he is one of the greatest minds in the twentieth century and it’s the general who came to him, asking for help.
Sue meets the Surfer and tries to have a conversation, until the military takes over and fires a missile. The Surfer protects Sue, but they still have to use Reed’s device to get the board so they can talk to the Surfer, which the military takes over. Doom shows his true colors when he takes the board and uses his enhanced powers to kill the general. Sue sneaks in to speak to the Surfer, who admits that he is acting as a beacon to Galactus, the Devourer of Worlds, in order to save his own world. The Fantastic Four break the Surfer out in order to take on Galactus, after they get the board off of Doom. They use Reed’s new jet, which can also split apart, to track down Doom. But it’s too late, the Devourer has arrived. Sue protects the Surfer from a spear that Doom throws, getting impaled in the process. Johnny offers to take on all four powers to take on Victor and Ben even follows him. The Surfer gives Sue some of his life force, when it appears she’s died, Reed cradling her body. With his board back, he flies up into Galactus, with a bit of a push from Johnny. A bright light explodes and the cloud disperses.
Hugs all around at the end, Sue is not dead, and now Johnny has his own powers back and no switching. Reed and Sue decide to keep the team together because that’s the best way to save the world. They have one more wedding and both agree to cut it short when they get another alert. Sue tosses the bouquet, but Johnny burns it when it looks like his new girlfriend might catch it. They hop back in their new jet and make another “4” in the sky.
As I already commented, these are not the most epic of superhero movies, but they’re a pleasant watch. Victor von Doom doesn’t really have much of a reason to be a villain aside from the general “I want power,” spiel. It’s fun to watch the four interact and know that there is already a backstory to them; it’s not just a new team. Yes, I agree that Chris Evans makes a better Captain America than Human Torch, because he’s just immature and a jerk part of the time. (And apparently, Michael B. Jordan was the Human Torch in the 2015 remake, before getting cast as Erik Killmonger in Black Panther; so there’s a joke that those who are Human Torches get better roles in the MCU). So, overall, the films are OK. I’ll still probably watch them because I like a few of the actors, but they’re not favorites. I never got into them as much as I got into the newer X-Men or as much as the MCU.
Up Next: For me, taking a break to work on some plotting and worldbuilding, but come the new year, I’ll hop back in with the MCU, starting with Iron Man.