As I write this, there are midnight screenings of Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer happening all over the place. I wonder why. I mean, I get the midnight screening thing: I’ve done it. I just don’t get it for this film. Are geeks really that caught up in these characters that they’d haul ass to the multiplex on a school night because they just can’t wait to find out what happens? I mean, after the first Fantastic Four flick, which was like discovering that a roller coaster that looked totally bad-ass actually turned out to be a kiddie ride?
The audience for this new Fantastic Four, perhaps even more so than the first one, is long asleep at midnight, or should be, if they’re going to be peppy for third grade on Friday morning. Seriously, the only person excited about this movie at the promo screening I attended on Thursday night — mere hours before public screenings would begin, which is never a sign of confidence from a Hollywood studio — was the four-year-old sitting behind me, who kept asking his daddy for confirmation that he was grasping the vast intricacies of the plot.
Here’s a hint to the intellectual level of this flick: He was. Because this pre-K kiddie was precisely in the target demographic.
“Wow, that’s really boring,” Johnny “The Human Torch” Storm (Chris Evans: TMNT, Cellular) moans in response to some bit of nonsense about cosmic radiation Reed “Mr. Fantastic” Richards (Ioan Gruffudd: King Arthur, Horatio Hornblower) is prattling on about, and that about sums up Rise of the Silver Surfer. It commits the greatest sin a movie can commit: it is really boring, and feels about 187 times longer than its actual running time of 90 minutes. The planet — the fate of the whole planet Earth! — is at stake here, and no one seems to care overly much. See, it’s interfering with the wedding plans of Reed and Sue “The Invisible Woman” Storm (Jessica Alba: Into the Blue, Sin City): he, at least, devotes a modicum of concern for the entire fucking planet, but she’s just turning into a whiny bitch, as if the Silver Surfer, herald of Galactus (and try saying that without giggling), chose this moment in particular to arrive from the farthest reaches of distant outer space to prepare the Earth for devouring by the, yup, Devourer of Planets specifically to ruin her wedding. She can’t pick out china patterns for the reception because giant 200-meter-wide craters are mysteriously appearing all over the planet, along with that weird cosmic radiation. Folk, presumably, are dying and all, and even if they aren’t this cannot be good, for reasons other than that it’s interrupting Reed’s bachelor party.
These people are the worst superheroes ever. “What the hell is wrong with you people?” demands the army general (Andre Braugher: Poseidon, Soldier’s Girl) who is lumbered with the unfortunate task of trying to herd the “Fantastic” Four into doing something, anything to help save the planet from utter destruction. No answer is proffered.
It’s all like a Saturday morning cartoon, and I don’t mean the Saturday morning cartoons of that brief moment when genius flowered in the early 90s, when it was all Animaniacs and Batman and grim and ironic stuff. I mean the rest of the continuum of Saturday morning cartoons: dumb and tedious and puny and petty and idiotic and wrapped up so tightly in its own acquiescence of its own irrelevance that even the end of all life on Earth can be no big deal — cuz, c’mon, everything’s gonna be cool by the end of the episode, right? Don’t get your spandex in a bunch, dude. It’s so pointless and inconsequential that the “jokes” about torture and human rights are not even worth complaining about. And the blatant and obnoxious product placement? All part of the plan.
If I got this movie as the junk prize in a Happy Meal, I might be okay with that. But as, you know, Our Feature Presentation? Not so much.