Thursday, June 21, 2007

Hanging 10 with the 'Silver Surfer'

With the Reel Fanatic on expedition in South Africa, I've been asked to guest blog about "Silver Surfer" ... oops ... I mean the "Fantastic 4" sequel. First, allow me to admit that I'm nowhere near the movie buff as the Fanatic, my co-worker and cubicle neighbor. I tend to like a lot of movies the critics dislike, and vice versa. The Fanatic, however, has never steered me wrong.

With that said, I must confess that I enjoyed the first "Fantastic 4" movie. It was not great cinema. It lacked the emotional punch delivered by the likes of the "Spider-Man" and "X-Men" flicks. But it entertained me, which was surprising considering it's doubtful there's a single "Fantastic 4" in the box of comics collected as a kid and now stored in my attic.

OK, now to "Fantastic 4:The Rise of the Silver Surfer."

The movie opens with the obliteration of a planet, then with a comet-like being high-tailing it to Earth, where it begins to wreak more havoc. This being, of course, is the Surfer, the absolute coolest villain (or is he a hero?) to hit the big screen since Arnold met his match in "Terminator 2." (In fact, he reminds one an awful lot of Robert Patrick's Terminator model when he went all metallic on somebody.)

The Surfer, voiced in silky-smooth baritone by the great Laurence Fishburne, glides around in shimmering CGI. He dumps snow on Egypt, freezes the water around Japan, and blows up stuff. Lots and lots of stuff. When he crashes the wedding of Mr. Fantastic Reed Richards (Ioan Gruffudd) and Susan Storm, the Invisible Woman (Jessica Alba), Storm's hot-headed brother, Johnny, aka the Human Torch (Chris Evans), flies off to take care of business.

Silver dispatches of Johnny with such ease that it's clear the Surfer dude is a force to be reckoned with. The government pulls out all the stops, even coercing the Four to team up with their old nemesis, Dr. Doom, played with sufficient creepiness by Julian McMahon (of FX's "Nip Tuck").

Of course, the good Doctor has more in mind than saving the world, and there's more to the Surfer than the narrow-minded Army general can see. (There's always one in these movies; this time he's played by Andre Braugher, which was a nice surprise.)

The special effects, for the most part, rock. They still haven't quite mastering Mr. Fantastic's contorting moves, but the fight and flight scenes roll seamslessly.

There's a seriousness to the sequel that wasn't there in the original. But the humor that helped make the first movie watchable remains. Michael Chikilis (FX's "The Shield") returns as Ben Grimm, aka the rock-like Thing, the muscle behind Fantastic 4. He doesn't get enough "clobberin' time!" if you ask me, but he and Evans' personality clashes provide lots of laughs.

But let's not kid ourselves — this is the Silver Surfer's show. Just when things seem to begin to drag a little, he shows up in the nick of time. The harbinger of death may not be there to save the world, but he certainly saves the movie.

The story moves along briskly, which is a nice change of pace in this summer of three-hour sequels. But it shortchanges the subplots and in developing the massive menace that at the end puts the Earth on the brink of destruction.

If the idea was to leave you wanting more, it worked. But only the Surfer comes along for the ride.
— Rodney Manley


kookiejar said...

I see Keith left things in very good hands. Excellent review, Rodney. If my plans to see '1408' this weekend don't pan out, 'Silver Surfer' may be plan B. Thanks.

Ian said...

Like you, I didn't think the first film was as bad as so many of the critics kept making out. But I thought this second outing was a weaker film. The humour worked, but little else did. The direction, particularly for the first half hour, was all over the place. Some of the CGI work on Silver Surfer was embarrassingly bad - work on that Terminator film you mention from many years ago was better than some of this stuff. Dr Doom is horribly miscast. And Mr Fantastic just look like he's permanently embarrassed to be in the film. If they make another one they really need to ditch Tim Storey and get a director who knows how to tell a good story on board.

Divinity said...

Thanks, Rodney! I didn't watch the first one but I will if you can tell me just one thing: I need to know if they put Galactus on-screen.

Mercurie said...

I really didn't care too much for the first one, but I liked the second one (which should have been titled The Silver Surfer. It's hardly a great film, but it is a good, old fashioned popcorn movie. Entertaining, nothing more, nothing less.

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Anonymous said...

Excellent review.

Rodney said...

Sorry. No Galactus. Maybe they're saving him for the next film, or the first Silver Surfer. I was in such a rush Thursday night to watch and review the film before the weekend, that I failed to note a huge shortcoming. This was a fun flick, but had they taken just 15 minutes or so to tell - better yet, show - us more of the Silver Surfer story, it could have been so much better.

Dan M. said...

Despite whatever merits this movie has as a live-action comic book, I will forever regret buying a ticket to see it. That's because it contains the most egregious product-placement shtick in the history of cinema. I refer, of course, to the scene where Mr. Fantastic shows up with his super-slick supersonic flying machine. The camera lingers on the machine's official Dodge grille and the Human Torch asks, "Has it got a hemi?" I just threw up a little in my throat as I typed this. It was also pretty sickening listening to all those sportscasters fawn over Jessica Alba as she made the rounds at the NBA playoffs pimping this movie prior to its release. (Keep up the good work, Rodney.)

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