Having spent decades wondering if any of their heroes would be properly honoured on the big screen, in the last nine years Marvel Comics fans have seen many of the legends get their own films. Since 1998 we've had Blade, The X-Men, Daredevil, Spider-Man, The Hulk, The Punisher, Elektra, Ghost Rider and The Fantastic Four in cinemas with varying degrees of success.
Marvel's current plan is to release two films every year, with The Hulk and Iron Man due in 2008. But if 'Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer' has one lesson that everyone should learn from it's that Marvel is running the risk of diminishing returns putting their characters in such average movies.
Picking up where the 2005 film left off, this sequel finds the quartet of DNA-altered superheroes - Reed 'Mr Fantastic' - Richards (Gruffudd), Susan 'The Invisible Woman' Storm (Alba), Johnny 'The Human Torch' Storm (Evans) and Ben 'The Thing' Grimm (Chiklis) - comfortable with their awesome powers but still trying to get a handle on some of the aspects of being household names. Richards doesn't know when to switch off from his work; his fiancée Storm wants their big day to be the start of a quieter life; her brother Johnny is intent on maximising the earnings potential of The Fantastic Four while Ben Grimm, well, there's not much attention paid to him and that's symptomatic of how bitty this film feels.
But the dilemmas of public and private life all pale into insignificance with the arrival of strange phenomena around the world, including seas drying up, snow in the desert and power cuts galore. What is behind them? Will The Fantastic Four be able to stop them? Will old adversary Doctor Doom (McMahon) get in the way again? Or are they facing an even bigger fight?
The first 'Fantastic Four' was no must see, but while there are some good special effects in this sequel, it's not worthy of queue time either.
The problems are numerous. Neither Gruffudd nor Alba has the chemistry or presence for superhero roles. Not enough is made of the comedic potential of The Human Torch and The Thing. The Thing still looks a little too Tellytubby while Doctor Doom is too panto. And with all the action crammed into a little over 90 minutes, the story of the Silver Surfer - one of Marvel's most interesting - never has the dramatic wallop that the filmmakers seem so convinced that it has.
This is a film that adheres to one of the oldest clichés: the most memorable thing about it is how unmemorable it is. While it will certainly keep much younger viewers entertained, older ones will feel that the more films Marvel churns out, the greater the impact and quality each one has to have.
Unless the powers that be can work some way of getting some of The Fantastic Four into other superhero movies - Wolverine and The Thing with better CGI, now there's one worth queuing for - Marvel should think long and hard about giving them another adventure.