Friday, July 20, 2007
Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer
Posted by Octopunk
I started a review of this movie the day after I saw it and stalled out, mostly because I didn't trust the sound of my own gushing. The movie started out with nearly the same clumsiness as the first one, but by the end it had rocketed far past my expectations. The final scene (and I'm not giving anything away here) has a sudden emergency interrupt them in the middle of something, so they take off into the sky in the Fantasticar, and the three non-flyers split the car and skywrite a big "4" in the sky above the watching crowd, and Johnny skywrites a big circle around it as they fly out. I went into this wanting to give this movie nothing but grief, but that moment was just one of several that made me think they just nailed it this time.
I hear you ask "Nailed what, exactly?" That thing, that comic-book thing. Hollywood doesn't make that thing look too good, but we fanboys know better. At their best comic books are something great, something as thrilling as cruising into the Death Star trench or watching Eowyn take down the Witch King of Angmar. What they're NOT and have never been are these forgettable, half-assed efforts that keep getting spat onto movie screens.
In the process of stalling out on this review I was making lists of all the other cinematic comic book moments I thought really worked, but it got too involved. I'll save that for another post. Here's what's good about FF2:
It has a good plot. If you can separate the writing from the basic structure of the story, this movie's elements fall together well with a pace that never slows down. Once the first action scene kicks up it never takes too long to get to the next one.
The Silver Surfer is cool. Neat to look at, kind of creepy, possessed of a frightening amount of power, the Surfer comes off one smooth dude. Not really somebody you'd want to watch chasing muggers or taking on the criminal underworld, but he's got a specific part to play and it's fun to watch.
The action is global. Not only does catching the Surfer mean staking out a few different international locations, there's plain old speed to consider. Johnny's initial pursuit of the Surfer goes from Manhattan to Washington D.C. in no time flat, and Reed's Fantasticar moves so fast it can rendezvous with the team in Russia and have them battling over China in the next scene. And it should be like this for the FF. The Marvel heroes have always bowed to the DC heroes in terms of raw power; Marvel's vibe has always meant to be more "street." But the FF (and the Avengers, who don't have a movie yet) are the premier super talents of that universe, and as such don't just belong to the streets of New York.
Galactus, while being a big cloud, is still kind of cool. The opening shot of the flick is not reassuring; it's a planet being ripped apart by Galactus, which means the cloud itself has coated the planet and doesn't look all that big. Later shots of this horror moving towards Earth are better; it's a big cloud of huge rocks that move in spirals. When you finally see this thing about to gobble us down it's fairly effective. The cloud is much bigger than the Earth and its lead spiral gapes like a huge maw. I can't deny it was a disappointing choice, but they made it better than I thought they would.
The power-switching thing is also kind of cool. This seemed like a cheesy gimmick but it paid off nicely. The FF stories are full of examples of someone or something that (gasp) "combines the powers of all four of us!" That they found a way to work that into the movie -- and use it well -- is to their credit.
Despite the problems with casting and writing, the team kind of won me over. Yeah, it's true. Reed gives a great speech about nerds vs. jocks that probably spoke right to the hearts of at least half of the people who will ever see this. After that I was pretty much on board.
Problems? You bet!
Reed: I still can't figure out why they cast this guy. He's such a twit. And for some reason the effects of his stretching remain the worst in the movie. It's irksome that his street clothes stretch with him, that just makes no sense. BUT there are some great scenes of his powers at work, especially in the London scene.
Sue: Sigh. When they first cast Jessica Alba I quietly thought the following: Sue Storm is like the Jackie Kennedy of the Marvel universe. When I picture her, I imagine her with Jackie's haircut in blonde, with some big silver sci-fi engine whirring behind her -- the personification of some 1960's, space age feminine ideal. When they cast Alba I kept my mouth shut because, well, because saying they should have honored that particular ideal would have been, well, uh...racist.
But now I feel it's okay to air these ideas because they took their half-Mexican actress and stuck these riDONKulous blue contact lenses in her eyes to go with her blonde wig. I mean it, the color of her eyes pops on screen like a Johnny Torch effect. Why they took the courageous step of casting an actress of color and then Michael Jacksoned the hell out of her is beyond me.
BUT if you can get past those distracting blue beacons on the screen, Alba's performance is passable.
The Thing: Michael Chiklis does a fine job with this role, but the Thing himself continues to disappoint. I just don't think he should've been done as a costume. In the comics the Thing is almost an elemental force; he's the only Marvel denizen who can really go toe-to-toe with the Hulk. But in the team's first scene the Thing is stuck in the middle seat on a passenger jet, har dee har har. He should be too big to use just one seat -- heck, in the comic he's probably way too heavy to be flown that way.
I feel like the movie Thing would be made much better if they gave him some ominous sound effects instead of what sounds like the rubber parts of his costume rubbing together. Remember how much of Robocop's presence was communicated through sound effects?
BUT he's got a couple of good moments in the first couple of action scenes.
The Torch: Is great. Chris Evans is perfect for that part, and handles it perfectly, and the effects are cool and everything. No problems here.
So I wouldn't say you all have to rush out and find where this is still playing, but you might be pleasantly surprised if you did.
at 12:58 AM