It Must Be The End Of All That We Know... cuz Harry enjoyed the hell out of FANTASTIC FOUR: RISE OF THE SILVER SURFER!
I can’t believe I actually enjoyed myself tonight.
It is, by no means, a perfect film, but this time… it’s really really close to being an old school FANTASTIC FOUR silver age story.
Now it’s not a point for point adaptation… but tonally, this is a Fantastic Four movie. Tonally, the Silver Surfer is the Silver Surfer. The family dynamic is there, Sue ragging on Reed to get his head out of the books, Johnny teasing Ben, Ben ragging on Johnny – them both being there for each other, when they’re both in the doghouse or left out of the Smart guy stuff. Dr Doom is in Latveria for about a half minute. The FF are dealing with a world-ending scenario, and yes, they even let family dynamics get in the way of saving the world. It’s a globe-trotting story of epic proportions.
And Galactus isn’t in the movie, he’s just off camera the whole time. But I’ll get back to that later.
I had every reason to want to dislike the film, but deep down… I love the FANTASTIC FOUR. I’m a Marvel geek that prefers the FANTASTIC FOUR to the X-MEN. To me, the Fantastic Four were a front and center moderately dysfunction family of adventurers that lived in the middle of the greatest city on the planet… in an incredibly distinctive building and while the whole world watched, they performed miracles. They saved lives. They invented gadgets that helped propel the world into the future in which we should all be living. The were strong, flexible, discreet and flashy. The perfect celebrities, ones you could look up to, tear down, bitch about and praise. Even as I read every original issue in their original printing… I loved them.
They weren’t being hunted or persecuted. When other heroes needed help, they’d come to Reed and the Baxter Building and lay out the problems. Sometimes their brilliance attracted the very menaces that they fought. But at all times – they had the same problems that people have that live and work together. But underneath it all, they loved one another.
I saw FANTASTIC FOUR: RISE OF THE SILVER SURFER at the Alamo Drafthouse South tonight with a hardcore crowd of folks. How hardcore? There was a guy, in a Silver Surfer costume with a Silver… well it wasn’t a surf board, it looked more like a giant Nestle Crunch Bar wrapped in Aluminum. This guy was a serious fucking Silver Surfer fan. God Bless him. Seeing that guy put me in the right mindset.
Before the film, they were showing special features from the recently released DVD of the first film. Watching it, then clips from the Fantastic Four animated series with Herbie the Robot… It put me in the mind that sometimes people change things. That cartoon show, when I was a kid was awesome, and I never thought of Herbie as replacing Johnny, but as standing in for Johnny when he was trapped with Crystal with the Inhumans. I was a crazy kid, well, still am.
This time out – without the clumsy, shitty, horrible blending of the FF’s origin and Dr Doom’s origin… and in not having Dr Doom appear till much later in the story – and not having a lousy love triangle that was just dreadful… the film just got going. It starts with a planet’s destruction… those are the stakes.
By the end of the credits, the Surfer is on Earth – beginning to set it up for Galactus. There’s no Watcher. Instead what we have are scenes of the Fantastic Four being… well the Fantastic Four. Entertaining crowds, Reed and Sue are trying to get married, but something is always complicating that process. (I know the feeling) - Johnny wants to throw Reed a bachelor party. It’s appropriately goofy, but dammit… it’s the exact sort of hammy thing that Stan Lee would have done.
As in all Marvel films there has to be a dance number this summer… and yes it’s funky and stupid… but it made me laugh. It was Reed Richards trying to get loose – and it worked for me.
The whole power switch thing with Johnny works. It’s funny and exactly the sort of silly fun that would happen to Johnny – Johnny doesn’t want anybody’s powers but his own – and this bugs him.
The Silver Surfer… is absolutely fantastic. He makes me so happy to see. Is he going around wondering aloud about all the philosophical wonderings of this planet he’s visiting? No. But then, he didn’t really do that till Stan spun him off to his own series. Here, he’s the herald of Galactus, and he’s busy getting things done for his master, readying the planet for consumption. Which isn’t building a giant machine on top of the Baxter Building, it’s creating these enormous holes into the Earth, from which Galactus will draw the planet’s energy from.
What’s so great about the Surfer? Doug Jones. That man moves like something, not of this Earth. There’s a grace and a calm to him – he doesn’t ride the board like a surfer, he rides it as though it was simply an extension of his self. There’s a reason why he interacts with Doom and the FF… there’s something of the powers cosmic about them. They stand out from the other mortals, there’s a spark of the infinite in them, now… that’s never said, but you see it in the curiosity with which he holds them.
Now – when he’s covered in the silver look – He does in fact look unreal, but there’s a point where he’s separated from his board – and he takes on a tarnished look. Here is where Doug Jones shines so brightly. Spectral Motion’s make up on the Surfer is fantastic. Yes, they did do a lot of what you’ll see of the Surfer in this movie – no matter what Fox officially says – And the results are spectacular. When he’s strapped to that table and being questioned by Sue… I was just so incredibly happy. Just so happy.
That said. What SUCKS?
#1. Julian McMahon. He is… COMPLETELY and UTTERLY fucking HORRENDOUS. Hate, doesn’t cover my utter loathing of his performance of this fantastic villain. He sucks the life out of every last second of screen time. With a few “power cosmic moments” – but that’s not his performance, but the visual effects talking. Only good thing I can say about his character is this… he’s in it so little, that it didn’t ruin the film for me. He plays Dr. Doom like a swarmy Donald Trump version of Shredder. I hate him.
#2. Kerry Washington’s Alicia Masters. It isn’t that she doesn’t look like Alicia Masters. It’s that she’s the worst blind actress I’ve ever seen. She’s so so so very very bad. She plays blind, by talking 17 degrees wrong from who she is speaking to. It’s so utterly annoying. Her lines are delivered terribly. She was ok in THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND, so I can’t say I want her banned from film, but I can say she needs someone to direct her a whole helluvalot better than Tim Story.
#3. Brian Posehn as the Wedding Minister. He’s a huge geek of the Fantastic Four, but he is no minister – it was just bad casting.
Now… Why am I not raging furious about the “giant cosmic tornado”?
Well, because nobody ever refers to it as Galactus. When the Surfer is soaring up into it – when he stops… you can see something subtly mechanical… there’s something behind the power. He’s speaking to something…. Something we can not see.
We never see the whole – of whatever is beginning to attach itself to Earth. I like to think, that had Tim Story panned on that enormous establishing space shot… you would have seen an enormous Jack Kirby machine being powered and/or operated by the version of Galactus that I like to imagine. Is that satisfying? Not particularly, but it doesn’t mean it couldn’t be what I want it to be.
The fact is… I had a lot of fun. I would love to see someone, a helluvalot more talented than Tim Story direct the next FANTASTIC FOUR movie. I’d love to see writers that are better suited for the material. I’d love to see an even larger budget given – and better actors to the villain parts. But ya know what. This one worked for me. I’d buy this film. I look forward to taking my nephew to it, who sadly had to spend the night with his girlfriend, rather than see a Comic Book movie at midnight. Can’t fault the kid’s priorities.
And Doug Jones?
GOD BLESS YOU FOR EXISTING! Amongst all the cg, all the silliness – you lent the Silver Surfer the poise and the grace that only one who had soared the space ways of the infinite could have. And… if JMS does the job that I hope he will on the SILVER SURFER movie… and if they get a brilliant director. And they get Doug Jones back. That will be a movie, that I can’t even fathom the coolness of.
That said, I really did have a good time with this film. For once, Mark Millar was right, thank God! Heh.