The second “Fantastic Four” movie opens with the destruction of an entire planet, which is pretty big as these things go. A mysterious metallic being appears shortly thereafter, and immediately makes its way towards the more familiar big, blue marble we call Earth, where the residents are unaware of the disaster bearing down on them.

The big news of the day on our world is the pending wedding between the two romantically linked members of the Fantastic Four: Mr. Fantastic, Reed Richards (Ioan Gruffudd), and the Invisible Girl, Sue Storm (Jessica Alba). Even as preparations are made, Reed is tracking a series of strange events, all seemingly related to the same cosmic radiation that created the Fantastic Four in the first place. He’s doing this at the behest of the U.S. Government, represented by one General Hager (Andre Braugher), who has a history with Reed.

They’re not the only ones, as the events have also attracted the notice of a certain badly scarred Latverian (Julian McMahon).

“Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer” is a scant 90 minutes long, and the first third of that is taken up by wedding preparation and weak romantic tension between Sue and Reed. She wonders if they’ll ever be able to lead a “normal” life, reviving an annoying trend from the original. By the time the Surfer finally crashes the wedding, we’re ready for some righteous PG-style violence.

The first “Fantastic Four” was pretty bad: the effects were lousy, there were two paltry fight scenes, and Dr. Doom was an aluminum shell of the villain he should’ve been. “Rise of the Silver Surfer” is better, partly because of the accepted premise that the second comic book movie in a series is always an improvement on the first, but also because I came to a few realizations during the course of the film’s running time.

For starters, the “Fantastic Four” movies are refreshing for the sole reason that, unlike other Marvel franchises like “X-Men” or even “Spider-Man,” they steer clear of anything resembling soul-searching or rumination. These are fluffy bunny cloud movies, where – even when Galactus, Devourer of Worlds makes his appearance – the quips fly between the Thing (Michael Chiklis) and the Human Torch (Chris Evans) and the outcome is never in doubt… less so than in regular comic flicks, I mean.

Second, I said in my review of the original that the “FF” films are written for 14-year old boys. I was mistaken. With its goofy-a*s combat scenes and sitcom-level dialogue, “Rise of the Silver Surfer” is aimed squarely at the 12-and-under crowd.

The list of negatives goes on: Alba continues to prove she’s in for some real trouble when her looks go, they still can’t seem to get the Mr. Fantastic effects right, and there are other fairly ridiculous things, like the premise that the U.S. military could operate a base in Siberia, or the use (in addition to countless other incidents of product placement) of the “got a hemi?” gag. And when you see the finale, if you don’t think to yourself, “You mean he could do that all along?” you’re less of an anal retentive than me.

Then there’s the matter of Galactus looking less like Jack “King” Kirby’s creation and more like a giant space lamprey, but what are you gonna do?

As I said, “Rise of the Silver Surfer” is a better-quality sequel, but that wasn’t really too difficult. The original was one of the worst movies of 2005, and while “Rise” won’t win any awards, it’s (mostly) less offensive than its predecessor. Faint praise, but I’ll be damned if I go any further than that.

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