6.21.2007

Fantastic Four

Five movies into the summer of the sequel, the first release that is not a third installment is finally here. The Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer is merely the second in a series, following 2005’s original that introduced moviegoers to Mr. Fantastic (Ioan Gruffold), The Invisible Woman (Jessica Alba), her brother The Human Torch (Chris Evans), and The Thing (Michael Chiklis). (Audio review here.)

The story in this follow-up is basic superhero stuff, picking up not too long after the last one ended. Mr. Fantastic is getting ready to wed The Invisible Woman, then bad things happen, and The Fantastic Four are called upon to remedy the problem, which involves the Silver Surfer destroying the planet and Dr. Von Doom doing whatever it is he does.

From there the heroes do their hero thing, which is accompanied by just enough side story to form slightly rounded characters and plot. Like its predecessor and the comic books on which they both are based, Silver Surfer is a different breed of superhero movie, one that varies in tone and content from recent renditions of more popular heroes like Batman, Superman, and Spider-man. With its multiple lead characters, Silver Surfer occasionally reminds of the X-Men flicks, but does not match the gravity present in those movies or other recent hits featuring the aforementioned main characters. Those are serious, more intense movies that can create wonderful cinematic experiences that feel more “real”. Not that any of these kinds of movies are truly real, but both of the Fantastic Four movies have a more cartoon-ish feel that distances them from reality.

This is both a blessing and a curse. On the downside, Silver Surfer does not have the emotional attachment that other superhero pictures have or at least desire, which limits the scope of the movie’s power. A surprising side effect is the everyday levity that is provided. If you and your buddies had bizarre superpowers, wouldn’t you frequently be making fun of each other’s gifts and using your own for not entirely kosher reasons? Movies with solo protagonists are rarely able to capture such interactions, but with its tight-knit lead characters, Surfer can and does, with degrees of success that vary like most attempts at humor, from clever and hilarious to flat and unfunny. Nothing is brilliant or profound, everything just creates a casual surface relationship between movie and viewer.

The minimal depth also allows for a streamlined hour and a half movie that has cursory side stories, unexplainable technology, and vague villainous motives, all of which is completely fine, if not preferable. Just as popcorn should not be loaded with substantive fruits and vegetables, popcorn movies like this one should not be loaded down with messages and complications that don’t enhance the story.

The shallow story and characters possessing only one or two dimensions means that the movie never has much chance of succeeding on multiple levels, so if you expect a serious action movie, you will be disappointed with Rise of Silver Surfer, as you likely were with the original. If you expect mindless superhero entertainment and a near carbon copy of the first installment, then you will leave the theater content with what you saw.

Bottom Line: There is a place for movies like this: DVD rental. 5 of 10.

1 comment:

Paco de Goya said...

Well, I guess I'll wait for the DVD. Thanks for the heads up.