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Power for good

Movies | What's a home with a family when you can be out saving the world?

Issue: "The 2007 Books Issue," June 30, 2007

In the annals of hypotheticals, nothing captures imaginations like superpower questions. But beyond the standard Flight vs. Invisibility conundrum comes an even more vexing question: If you had a superpower, how would you use it? Would you use that power for good or evil? To fight crime or to get to Paris without the hassle of booking a flight?

Comic books-and films based on comics-always are keen to explore such hypotheticals. That's the case for Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, rated PG. As the film opens, two of the four-the elastic Reed Richards (Mr. Fantastic played by Ioan Gruffud) and the fading Sue Storm (the Invisible Woman played by Jessica Alba)-are preparing to marry. Naturally, the job of superhero interferes with their wedding plans. And Richards must balance his attention between his annoyed fiancé and a growing threat by a mysterious doom prophet riding a silver surfboard.

Here's the crux of the hypothetical: Faced with the possibility of a normal married life with children, Storm convinces Richards to retire once the matter with the Silver Surfer is closed. Naturally, Invisible Woman shuns the Fantastic Four's tabloid lifestyle and wants to fade into anonymity. Richards makes promises to his fiancé, but his heart isn't in them.

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Good thing, too. When the Silver Surfer's total-Earth-destruction plot becomes evident, Richards is ready with just the right tools. The Thing, played by Michael Chiklis (always a shock to consider that The Thing also was The Commish), is ready as usual, although Human Torch (Chris Evans) loses some of his mojo from a previous encounter with the Surfer.

But even that isn't enough. Eventually the Fantastic Four need a superpower showcase to avert crisis and save the world. Without them, it may have been exploded into an asteroid field. And that's the whole point: With so much power and responsibility to use it for good, how can they aspire to be normal?


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