Friday, June 15, 2007

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007)

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer

I enjoyed the movie. Even though most of the critics and comic geek purists said I shouldn't, I did.

I went in without any expectations except to enjoy myself, drink my freezie coke, and ogle super-hero antics on the big screen.

The movie is much better than the first, in my opinion.

First, it was a mere 85 minutes long. There was plot, story, and action ... no tedious fluff that tends to pad out and bloat more recent movies. I felt almost as if I were watching a comic book come to life. (Well, okay, comic books from a few years ago, not these melodramas the comic industry seems keen on churning out lately. I'm all for backstory and seeing the inner workings of super-hero, but 20 of 24 pages of standing or sitting around chewing the fat gets old, fast.)

With the origin of how the Fantastic Four came to be already told, the story could focus more on ... well, the story.

It was lifted from classic Fantastic Four comic mythology.

A being of cosmic enormity which devours worlds to sustain itself is on its way to Earth, sending its Herald (Silver Surfer) to prepare for its arrival. This being is Galactus.

Stop Laughing at Me! I Am the Devourer of Worlds! Stop Looking Up my Kilt Thinggie, Too!Now, comic purists are howling that Galactus is not realized on screen as he is in the comics. And, to be brutally honest, I'm glad. I mean, would you really want to see a bright pinky-purple and blue clad cosmic giant with a goofy horned helmet and no pants show up to eat your world?

Of course not! He wouldn't even have to destroy life on Earth before he ate it. We'd already have laughed ourselves to death at first sight of him.

Instead, we get this destructive, cosmic nebula-type thing, with vague shadows of the classic horned helmet and other anthropomorphic details here and there. If you aren't looking for them, you may not even notice them.

Could Galactus have been designed better for the movie? Possibly. But I feel this was a decent choice given the absurdity of the original (yet classic) look of the Devourer of Worlds. (Early appearances of Galactus even had a huge G emblazoned across his chest, while latter showings added blue pants to his outfit).

I suppose the film writers could have opted for the Ultimate version of The Devourer of Worlds, Gah Lak Tus. An immense, 100,000 mile long hive mind conglomeration of city-sized robots. It may have worked on screen, but I do prefer the more simplistic (possibly shrouding?) space cloud used in the current film. The novelization of the film does refer to Galactus as Gah Lak Tus, however, so ... who knows?

Maybe the shrouded mystery is what it should be. A being so immense, so powerful, so far beyond mortal comprehension that we can only see a swirling vortex of cosmic nebula.

Victor von Doom is also back again. The cosmic power which gives the Silver surfer his abilities as Galactus' Herald, revive and restore Dr. Doom. He plays a typically villainous role in the film, one suited to the comic book style. He wants to steal the Surfer's power. I am not a big fan of Julian McMahon as Doom, though he is less stiff and annoying than in the first film. He does pull off the smarmy, egotistical persona fairly well, however.

The titular heroes of the film, the Fantastic Four, are played with more familiarity then in the first one.

Thing is more at ease with his grotesque appearance. Even in love with his blind lady friend, Alicia Masters. Michael Chiklis seems to be the comedic side-kick of the series. Much more so than in the first, or in the comics. It is not overly distracting, but it is slightly overdone. I missed him bellowing his signature battle cry in the film, though he does quip it once. He makes a darn good Ben Grimm, though I always envisioned the Thing to be taller.

The Human Torch is as arrogant and greedy as ever, yet still with the strong core of love for friends and family. Chris Evans plays him perfectly, I think. He has the looks, the build, and the attitude to carry off the disaffected sarcasm and hot-headedness of Johnny Storm.

The Invisible Woman has the best powers of the bunch, in my opinion. Force fields, invisibility, and telekinesis (basically). Jessica Alba is a credible Sue Storm, though she too has gotten bashed for her portrayal of Invisible Woman.

Mister Fantastic is as pliable as ever, and he seems to be loosening up in this go-round. He even steals a page from ol' Spidey and gives us a dance number, Fantastic style. Ioan Gruffudd comes into his own as Reed Richards in this movie. I did not care for him in the first one, but he really made the part his own now.

All the characters' powers were showcased, more believably than before, and with more versatility. I particularly enjoy seeing the powers used in everyday circumstances. I mean, c'mon, who in their right mind wouldn't use their super-powers to make life easier for themselves?

Lastly, we have the Silver Surfer.

An iconic character from Marvel, who got his start in the pages of the Fantastic Four.

He was portrayed nicely in the movie, much as I imagined he would be were he a real entity. You'd think a big silver man flying around on a surfboard would be ludicrous, but you somehow buy into the fantasy without question.

The great Doug Jones plays the non CG-body of the Surfer, with a melodramatic Laurence Fishburne providing the voice. Jones was fantastic, Fishburne was adequate. I'm not sure who's voice would have fit the character better, but the stilted enunciation of Fishburne, coupled with the attempted other-worldly deepness of voice just didn't quite fit for me.

On second thought, I think I would have rather seen Doug Jones provide the voice, as he did for his portrayal of Abe Sapien in Hellboy. But then the producers may have feared for too much comparison between Jones' Ape Sapien and the Silver Surfer.

It's bad enough everyone is saying the Surfer looks too much like the T-1000 terminator from Terminator 2.

I say the T-1000 looks like the Silver Surfer.

Speaking of which, the look was dead on to what I expected he would appear as. The CGI was a bit stiff, a bit other-worldly, but that may have been what the SFX guys were going for. Still, I feel the Silver Surfer was the best part of the movie, and the rumors of a Silver Surfer movie make me very happy.

I'm definitely getting this on DVD when it comes out. And I would love to see a third film, perhaps one featuring Prince Namor, the Sub-Mariner! (Who has his own movie in the pipe-line, but I'd like to see him in a FF film first).

If you didn't like the first movie, you may not like this one. It is an improvement, and as I said, more like a live-action comic book than a typical super-hero flick. Try it and you may find yourself pleasantly surprised.

If you liked the first one, you will really like this one. Less fluff, more stuff. Brighter, faster, and more fun than the original. A very good successor to it's progenitor.

It's not the best movie you'll see this year, by far. But, by far, it's not the worst.

I recommend seeing it at the theater for the big screen experience and the great surround sound effects. Especially if you can suck down a freezie coke while you watch! ~.^

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