‘Rise of the Silver Surfer’ visually stimulating but light on content

Thankfully, “Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer” is much better than its predecessor. It is better written and has better special effects. Yet even with those working in its favor, the film still leaves the audience unsatisfied.

This time around, there is actually a well-developed plot, and the characters are sympathetic. The story has more than just a “cool concept” going for it. It delves deeper into what life’s like for one of these superheroes and the sacrifices that life entails.

It was nice to see Johnny Storm’s character (Chris Evans, “Cellular,” “London”) develop into something more than just a shallow pretty-boy. This time he is allowed more depth as his mask slips and we are able to see the person behind the persona.

Yet for all that, the film failed to thrill or tell a new story. Even though the special effects broke new territory, the plot did not, instead presenting a story that has already been told a thousand times. There were no surprises.

A movie cannot survive on special effects alone. This is obviously a lesson that the director and producers still haven’t learned, as this is what the first movie tried to do.

However, as far as the special effects go, they are amazing in this film. They are much better and more impressive than in the previous film, breaking further ground in the FX world. It was a gorgeous film to watch.

This FX wizardry didn’t extend to Jessica Alba’s appearance as Susan Storm (“Into the Blue,” “Sin City”), though. The blonde hair and blue eyes still jar the viewer with their unnaturalness, despite the attempts with makeup to distract the viewer from them. Julian McMahon (“Premonition,” “Nip/Tuck”), however, was a delight to see again. As usual, he was excellent as the villain with his Machiavellian machinations.

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For that matter, the acting was good straight across the board. It was even a delight to discover that the voice of the Silver Surfer, hard to identify because of his mellow tones, was Laurence Fishburn (“The Matrix,” “Othello”). However, it was disappointing to see Michael Chiklis (“The Three Stooges,” “The Shield”) reduced to a grumpy ogre whose only purpose was to serve as a comedic foil to Johnny’s jokes.

Overall, it’s a fun film to watch with the family and not a bad way to spend a Friday night. It has a good sense of humor rolling throughout the film that does actually elicit some laughs, and the characters themselves are intriguing. It just left the audience hungry for more than the meager popcorn fare that was provided.