Rise of the Silver Surfer’ not so fantastic

Reeling It In

Posted: Thursday, June 21, 2007

“Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer”

20th Century Fox

1 hour, 29 minutes

As I settled into my seat in the plush, stadium-style seating auditorium, I thought to myself that I was in the perfect mood for a big, splashy summer movie. Too bad it had to be this one.

In fact, it almost wasn’t. This weekend found me in Austin, Texas, home of live music, barbecue and one of the hottest new film and music festivals on the planet, South by Southwest.

I was a few months too late for the festival, but still, Austin has a reputation for hip indie films. Not exactly the kind of movies that star a stretchy scientist and his pal, a pile of rocks.

Unfortunately, however, due to the pressure of time and the fact that my wife rolls her eyes every time I mention going to a movie while on vacation, I ended up going for the film with the most number of showings, in order to fit it into the rest of the schedule.

I guess I can always say I witnessed the “Rise of the Silver Surfer” deep in the heart of the Lone Star State.

Generally I do love comic book movies. The difference here is I actually love comic book movies that take the genre seriously. That is not “Fantastic Four,” a franchise that values emotion and character development only slightly more than “Charlie’s Angels.”

Our story begins deep in outer space where an alien world has just met its fiery demise, being completely devoured by a scary space cloud. Suddenly, a streak of silver rushes, comet-like, away from the devastation and off to more familiar territory: Earth.

The strange anomaly’s arrival, besides screwing up the celebrity wedding of Reed Richards (Mr. “Stretch” Fantastic himself) and Susan Storm (The Invisible Woman) also has set off bizarre weather patterns and strange phenomena around the globe.

Naturally the super-quartet subdue the bizarre streak, ultimately revealing it to be a silver man on a silver surfboard; one with apparently limitless power.

They fight, the army gets involved, Dr. Doom gets involved, and eventually it is revealed that the Surfer, though an odd duck, is a nice guy who just happens to be the herald of a far less nice being, Galactus, Devourer of Worlds.

Will the Surfer agree to help save planet Earth from certain destruction? Will Dr. Doom gain dominance over the power of the universe? Will Johnny succeed in wooing the hot blonde Army officer? And will Reed and Susan be able to avoid the paparazzi long enough to tie the knot? The answers to these questions and much more on next week’s “Fantastic Four!”

You know you’ve got trouble when the writers put little more thought into a plot than they might for a typical after-school cartoon.

The dialogue is cringe-worthy and the story has huge leaps of logic, but the main problem is the mood. It’s just kinda silly, as if the creators think, in the back of their minds, that the whole concept is ridiculous and to spend too much time on it is just a waste.

Well, the concept is ridiculous, but the reason these movies have become popular is that filmmakers like Bryan Singer and Sam Raimi do take them seriously. “Fantastic Four” plays it all for laughs. It’s too bad, because the Silver Surfer is a cool character. I loved his comic books and his origins are like a Shakespearean tragedy.

I like the “Four” as well, in theory, but as played they reminded me of whiny celebrities. Galactus, on the other hand, is not a space cloud and never was.

What was that? Maybe I’m too hard on these movies.

The trailers that preceded the movie, nearly all of them in the “big-animated-summer-fun-for-kids” vein, got me thinking. Maybe “Fantastic Four” isn’t a normal comic-book movie at all.

Maybe it is literally a children’s movie. This would explain why the display of a man who can dance himself into a corkscrew at a trendy nightclub is supposed to be so funny.

This also would justify the fact that there seems to be nary an attempt to explain any of the “sciency stuff” in the film at all.

If it’s true that these are kiddie films, comparing them to the Spider-Man or X-Men series wouldn’t be fair. Apples and oranges.

Then again, there is the scene where a hottie tells a crowd of reporters that, in order to date the Human Torch, she needs fireproof lingerie and a whole lot of aloe. Hmmmm. Little racy. So perhaps the filmmakers invite the comparison after all.

Let me clear it up for you: there is none. Grade: C-

“Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer” is rated PG for cartoon violence and mild adult humor.

Chris Jenness is a freelance graphic designer, artist and movie buff who lives in Nikiski.

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