Rise of the Silver Surfer
Let's get the bad
out of the way. Director Tim Story didn't exactly lie to
fans, but Galactus ended up being little more than clouds,
though hints of something larger keep peeking through. Though
Doctor Doom returns, Julian McMahon really ratchets up the
preening nancy boy side of his personality, and that just
doesn't gibe with the Von Doom we've been hearing in our
heads all these decades.
Believe it or
not, those things can be put aside, and should be. Fantastic
Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer is the superhero movie
of the summer. Appropriately enough for Marvel's First Family,
it's fun for the whole family in a way that, sorry, the
Spider-Man movies haven't been, nor the previous Fantastic
Four. In short, we're finally getting the Fantastic
Four movie we wanted.
Story finally seems comfortable handling the big action
sequences, which all grow logically out of the story instead
of just appearing. No "Sue, turn invisible and walk over
there for no reason other than we'll see your underwear"
gags this time around. (Though Jessica Alba does end up
having a PG nude scene, it's for art. Or at least, it's
a logical payoff to a previous set-up.)
Maybe the previous
film's flaws were inherent in its setting up everything.
This time around, Story and his story men Mark Frost, John
Turman and Don Payne can get right into the action and have
given into the truth of its comic book origins. Not everything
is going to have a logical explanation; just dust it with
a bit of pseudo-science if you must but keep the fun going.
When we encounter
the team, they're stuck flying coach - such a Lee/Kirby
touch - back to New York in time for Reed and Sue's fourth
attempt at a wedding. It's a nice touch that somehow escapes
other franchises, actively reminding us that these characters'
lives and adventures have gone on without us (just ripe
for some fanfic or - gasp - comic books).
a more comfortable place. Wisely, Ben Grimm (Michael Chiklis)
seems content in his rocky orange skin, happy in his relationship
with Alicia Masters (Kerry Washington). Even Reed (Ioan
Gruffuds) loosens up, gets down and gets long at his bachelor
party. The obvious jokes about his pliability never occur
because, let's face it, the audience members that would
appreciate it already muttered them to their buddies.
Of course, we
need conflict, and the resurrection of Doom isn't enough.
The film begins with a planet dying, and strange climate
events have begun occurring on Earth. When General Hager
(Andre Braugher) shows up looking for Reed's help in tracking
these disturbances, the plot gets underway in earnest, leading
to that confrontation with a strange guy covered in silver
and sort of surfing - a silver surfer, if you will.
The script bleeps
over the silliness of that, and for any groaning at home,
shut up and admit that it is a silly concept. So
when Reed dubs him the Silver Surfer, it's no worse than
Lois Lane saying "what a super man…", and actually, it makes
more sense here.
True to comics
history, though, Doom gets into the act, as the movie combines
the Surfer's first two important storylines into one. Here,
Doom comes back to life after the Surfer soars over Latveria,
and seeks his savior out in the Arctic with one goal in
mind - power. To salve McMahon's ego, perhaps, or pull in
his fans, somehow the Surfer's power cosmic reshapes Doom
into his former unscarred glory. Now it's his choice to
start looking more like the comic book character, and thanks
to a better design, he finally does.
Story works hard to really please the fans. It's not just
Dr. Doom finally looking like Dr. Doom; it's an overall
vibe and yes, oh yes, a Fantasticar. Story still has violence,
but it's done in a restrained way that keeps the movie at
a PG. I'll make my stand here and say thanks, because that's
where superhero movies should be - accessible to kids without
boring adults. Sorry, but this is supposed to reawaken our
sense of wonder, not satisfy our darker urges.
especially when dealing with the Silver Surfer, and Story
and company have done the character right. As the Surfer's
body, Doug Jones performs in a way that speaks volumes without
him ever opening his mouth. You can see the connection being
made between the Surfer and Sue without him having to spell
it out. Though later an explanation does have to be made,
it's still played beautifully, and echoed by a mightily
restrained vocal performance from Laurence Fishburne.
it's about family and heroism, a theme most sharply focused
on Chris Evans' Human Torch. The script doesn't beat us
over the heads with it, but Evans, one of the bright spots
of the first film, definitely plays the growth of the character.
As the film goes on, it takes more than calling yourself
John to be a responsible grown-up, and his pursuit of military
attaché Frankie Raye (Beau Garrett) doesn't go where we'd
expect until, perhaps, one final gag.
It's hard to categorize Rise of the Silver Surfer.
Somewhere between comedy and adventure, it's just fun. And
right now, I'll take that.