Friday, June 29, 2007

4 Color Cinema

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver SurferToday is a pretty good time to be a comic book fan. As long as you are buying tradepaperbacks from Barnes and Nobles and discussing the critical merits of Watchmen to nodding sycophants who haven't read it, then everything's kosher. The upshot is that Hollywood is more than content to churn out pieces of 4 Color Cinema to a public willing to pay money to see them without having to worry about removing some sort of social stigma. The difference in marketting between Superman: The Movie ("It's not reverant to that stupid source material, honest!) and Spider-Man ("Remember those comics you read as a kid? SO DO WE!") is plain enough evidence of this.

Which gets us to the film I'm talking about today, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. The sequel to the "bomb" original (we all should be so lucky as to make "bombs" which gross $330mil worldwide), the film picks up a few years later, and the FF are America's favorite celebrity superheroes. Reed Richards' impending nupitials to Sue Storm has the paparazzi in a flashbulb frenzy, but deep in space, a new threat is slowly making its way towards Earth, one that not only will disrupt the wedding but also literally destroy the world.

ROTSS is a remarkable film primarily because of how different it is from a lot of its fellow comic book film brethren. First off, it's a brisk film, clocking in at 94 minutes. This tight cut restricts bloated setpieces and super-emotions from running wild, as well as dictating a fast pace which works very much in the film's favor. Furthermore, it's rated PG, another oddity. This means that we don't get to see one our beloved superheroes have to restrain himself from beating his opponent to death or such. And trust me, that is not a complaint.

The characters are spot-on, much as they were in the first film. But while the original did suffer from a lot of necessary exposition, this time around everything hits the ground running. We go from the home life of the team to the arrival of the mysterious anomaly to all-out action without a lot of plot-explanation bogging it all down. The effects are nicely done, although Sue's colored contacts are a bit distracting. The Surfer is wonderfully realized, a lithe, silver missle streaking across the screen while in action, but a commanding presence when he speaks. Even the returning Doom gets a makeover which improves upon his original performance.

Most of the complaints I have are what I call "nerd complaints." Galactus, for example, was not what I expected. And would it have killed screenwriter Don Payne to toss in a "To me, my board!" at some point? But those are minor quibbles in the grand scope of things, and I try to put them out of my mind while watching a film like this. This is a different FF and a different Galactus, and as such must be taken on their own terms, not unlike an "Ultimate" or "All-Star" comic book.

This film is accessible and safe, a good family-friendly action adventure story. And really, shouldn't a Fantastic Four film be like that? This was a fun film. I had a smile on my face for most of the running length as my fiancee and I happily munched popcorn and watched the story unfold. (My fiancee, I should say, is not a comic book fan, but really liked both the first FF as well as this one.) It's not a serious, straight-laced affair, blaoted on its own importance and granduer. You have no idea how much I wanted to say those words about Superman Returns.

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer is a high quality, enjoyable, and fun movie which harkens back to the days when you could get a globe hopping adventure yarn in the pages of 2 or 3 issues of Fantastic Four for about 20 cents apiece. Highly recommended.


Rick L. Phillips said...

I agree with you that this is one of the rare times that the sequal was better the the first film. I think that the 2nd was really done to get the Silver Surfer before movie audiences so that they could get a Silver Surfer movie made. If so I hope we finally see Galactus on film and not just that space storm that they showed. I hope they do a thrid FF film but let them fight someone else other then Dr. Doom. Maybe the Mole Man or the Super-Skrull.

Luke said...

You're on to something regarding this being an introduction to the Silver Surfer, especially with the end credits stinger.

Would I have liked to see the Big G in all his purple and blue Kirby-glory? Yeah, but honestly, I don't think that would have played too good on the big screen for Joe Bloggs on the street. The shadow on the Moon was nice, though.

I'm pining for the third FF film to feature either Atlantis, the Negative Zone, or the Mole Man. How cool would that be?