June 16, 2007

"Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer" review

With school now out, me and a teaching buddy hit a matinee yesterday to see the sequel to the averagely mediocre "Fantastic Four" flick from a couple years ago. The trailers looked promising: One of the coolest characters Marvel's ever conceived of -- the Silver Surfer -- makes his big screen debut as the herald of the planet-consuming Galactus.

Warning! Spoilers ahead! Continue at your own risk! (Which, actually, ain't that much considering the movie ... !)

The one big positive of this sequel is that the F/X are killer. The Silver Surfer is perfectly done, and add Laurence Fishburne's voice to him and it's nigh unbeatable. The film starts where we see a planet being destroyed by the [unseen] Galactus. The Surfer flits away from the destruction -- his next stop: Earth. The Surfer's appearance results in freak weather changes/accidents across the globe, and eventually the US government comes to scientific genius Reed Richards (Mr. Fantastic, the guy who can stretch) for assistance in tracking down the Surfer.


The Silver Surfer as drawn by John Buscema,
the best artist ever to sketch the character.

The Surfer, true to form from the comics, is virtually omnipotent; the FF can do little to stop him. The arrogant, egotistical Human Torch gets schooled by the Surfer who grabs him by the throat and zooms off to the edge of space -- the Torch's flame winks out and Johnny Storm (the Torch's real ID) plummets to Earth. Even Sue Storm's (the Invisible Woman, played by the oh-so gorgeous Jessica Alba) force field cannot thwart the Surfer.

Eventually the FF learns what the Surfer's true purpose is: He precedes the destruction of any planet on which he appears. Massive craters have appeared all over the planet, but after Reed and team fail to capture the Surfer (after deducing where his next appearance would be), the "so-smart" US government then enlists the aid of ... Dr. Doom! Played by "Nip/Tuck"'s Julian McMahon, Doom was fused into his armor and presumed deceased at the end of the first movie. Now, back in his home country of "Latveria," it is never clearly explained how he extricates himself from this predicament. Doom has figured out something is up with the Surfer (he, too, is a genius after all) and sets out to confront him. Probably the biggest unintentional chuckle of the film comes when Doom flies to an arctic locale to surprise the Surfer. On the side of Doom's helicopter is a huge decal that reads "VON DOOM." WTF?? He's the monarch of a his own friggin' country!! At least have a coat of arms on the side of the chopper or something! But a generic "VON DOOM" in a green triangle? LOL!!

At least it's somewhat explained how Doom overcomes his horrific, notorious scarring -- a blast by the Surfer inadvertantly heals him. But even Doom cannot thwart the Surfer, and as mentioned, the US government bigwigs insist that Richards team up with Doom to devise a method of capturing the herald. They do, of course, but the devious Doom has his own plans: Steal the Surfer's power! This, among other items, ties neatly into Fantastic Four lore. In issue #60 (first series, see below) of the FF, Doom lured the Surfer to his Latverian castle and stripped him of his cosmic power. He then threatened to take over the planet, and toyed with the FF in the process.

After Richards and Doom successfully build a device that captures the Silver Surfer, Doom snatches the power of the Surfer's board, and just like in the comics he begins wreaking all kinds of mayhem. But the part that is, well, "ridiculous" about this is that McMahon's Doom is a wisecrack-uttering smart-ass as opposed to the regal monarch/would-be conquerer of the comics. His Doom is sadly reminiscient of the Doom featured in the never-released 1994 "Fantastic Four" film that was made on a shoe-string budget. (I was "fortunate" enough to have viewed a bootleg copy of this disaster a couple years ago.) That Doom acted more like Spider-Man, making snappy patter all the while never being a real threat to the FF (and never did come off as an all-powerful menace). My buddy and I couldn't help but laugh our asses off at the Doom of the bootleg flick, including his always-silly comments.

At any rate, Doom steals the Surfer's power, but the FF has managed to free the herald from his captivity. The quartet has convinced him to spare the life of the Earth, if indeed it is within his power. But first, he needs to get his power back from the dastardly Doc Doom! In a move that was another hat-tip to a classic FF villain, the Human Torch absorbs all the powers of his teammates (made possible by an inadvertant side-effect of fighting the Surfer) and defeats Doom. The hat-tip is to the super-powerful Super Skrull, who was genetically engineered with all the powers of he FF (see below).

All that remains now is whether the Silver Surfer, now fully re-empowered, can thwart the coming of Galactus. In probably the biggest disappointment of the film (aside from not seeing more of a semi-clad Jessica Alba, that is!), we never get to see Galactus in full. The closest we get is a silhouette of his head passing over a nearby moon. Ugh. Not good enough. I'll provide, at least, a pic of what he looks like:

The Surfer is obviously successful; he apparently sacrifices his own life to stop the threat. (Although we see him floating lifelessly in space as the credits roll!) This never happened in the comics -- the Surfer was given his power by Galactus so how in the world could he actually stop him? It wouldn't make sense. So creators Stan Lee and Jack Kirby had the enigmatic, all-powerful Watcher intervene on behalf of planet Earth giving the FF a device (called the "Ultimate Nullifier") that could destroy even Galactus:

The movie also featured the subplot of Reed Richards and Sue Storm getting married (or, at least trying to amid all the chaos), not to mention the appearance of the way-cool "Fantasticar." The banter between the Human Torch and the Thing was funny, especially since the Torch's Chris Evans has the role of the wise-ass early twenty-something down cold! So let's sum up:

POSITIVES:

  • Boffo F/X,
  • Jessica Alba,
  • great Human Torch characterization,
  • plot fairly true to comic, good hat-tips.

NEGATIVES:

  • Totally lame Doctor Doom characterization,
  • didn't get to see all-out Thing vs. Doom fight,
  • didn't get to see Galactus, the most dire threat ever.

OVERALL RATING: Two and a half stars (out of four).

Posted by Hube at June 16, 2007 11:09 AM | TrackBack

Comments  (We reserve the right to edit and/or delete any comments. If your comment is blocked or won't post, e-mail us and we'll post it for you.)

You should list "not enough Jessica Alba shirtless" under the negatives.

Posted by: jason330 at June 16, 2007 12:51 PM

What's keeping me away? The ridiculously-short-for-a-comic-movie running time of 92 minutes as well as the PG rating. PG-13 is the rating all movie studios shoot for nowadays. I bet someone at Fox was pissed off when the MPAA came back with the PG. I knew something was wrong when two weeks before the film's release trailers still said "This film is not yet rated." I bet Fox and the producers appealed (bribed) multiple times to get the rating upped to PG-13 to no avail.

Posted by: Mike Matthews at June 16, 2007 01:02 PM

I hated the blatant Dodge commercial.

Posted by: jef at June 17, 2007 09:05 PM

That was indeed lame, jef!

Posted by: Hube at June 17, 2007 09:33 PM

So many critics have panned this film, but I thought it was fantastic (pardon the pun) compared to other current sequels. Spiderman 3 had great special effects, but the story was lame - the characters spent half their time crying during the movie. It's good to have films like 'Batman Begins' and 'Spiderman' (first film) which treat their characters seriously and pay homage to the comics genre, but ROTSS was great in that it injects some much needed humour into the mix as well. Forget about Ang Lee's brooding 'The Hulk' and Spiderman's fun being taken away by his bitchy girlfriend MJ - what you have in ROTSS is a film that isn't afraid to add some fun outside of the serious moments, and becomes a much better film as a result.

Posted by: Dave at June 23, 2007 05:26 PM

This movie was great. Much better than the first Fantastic Four. Yes, Doom was not presented properly, and there are a few inaccuracies, but I highly recommend any Surfer or Fantastic Four fan see this !

Posted by: Mike Hock at June 24, 2007 11:53 PM