Saturday, June 23, 2007

Fantastic Four 2: Rise of the Silver Surfer Was GREAT!

I just got back a few hours ago from watching Fantastic Four 2: Rise of the Silver Surfer. My nine-year-old and I are still buzzing about the movie. Although purists will have problems with the presentation, I loved it as a longtime fan and my son loved it just because it was so darn cool. He laughed at all the one-liners at about the same time his dad did. Proving the boy is getting really quick-witted or I’m not as fast as I think I am. I actually think we’re meeting somewhere in the middle, probably at about age seven.

As everyone knows from the title, this movie introduces the Silver Surfer to the movie-going world for the first time. There have been previous incarnations of the character, including guest spots in cartoon series such as Spiderman and the Fantastic Four animated series. There was even a short-lived cartoon series about the Silver Surfer.

It’s going to be interesting to see if the movie crowd reacts any differently to the character than the comics fans. Stan Lee and Jack Kirby created the character back in the 1960s in pretty much the same context as he was used in the movie. When they wrote a comic book series just about the Silver Surfer, it only lasted eighteen issues the first time. Fans loved the character of tormented Norrin Radd when he was exiled by Galactus to be bound to the earth, but it was just too much of a good thing. They didn’t pick up the monthly series.

There have been a couple of comics series runs since then, but even though the character fascination is there, the longevity for the fan base isn’t. It’s almost like people love stories about people reacting to the Silver Surfer’s plight more than watching him deal with it himself.

Although the Silver Surfer’s backstory was touched on in the movie, there’s not a lot of detail. We know that he’s in servitude to Galactus to save his own world and he gave up his love to do that. That was one of the main conceits of the comic book version, that idea of noble self-sacrifice. And the fact that, despite all the power cosmic he had, he could never go home again.

It will be interesting to see, if there is a Fantastic Four 3, if the Silver Surfer is mentioned again.

As for the movie, I feel it could’ve been ripped from the pages of one of those early comics written by Stan and drawn by Jack. The feel of family was ingrained in every scene. They argued, bickered, misunderstood, hoped for, and loved each other all the way through the movie. In some ways the movie is very simple. There’s no real surprise about how things are going to turn out. There’s not supposed to be. This is the Fantastic Four. People who know the characters know what they’re gonna get in this film, and it’s delivered.

Ioan Gruffudd returns as Mr. Fantastic. Jessica Alba is the Invisible Woman. Chris Evans is the Human Torch. And Michael Chiklis is the Thing. Julian McMahon returns as Doctor Doom.

Maybe movie purists want deeper plots and characters, maybe the comics fans want an updated version of the team, but I love this version. These are the characters, more or less, that I grew up with. These are the characters, without the John Byrne dark side and without all the soap opera complications of splitting the team up and bringing in She-Hulk, etc., that I want my nine year old son to learn to love too. Comics scribe Mark Waid’s run on the comics series was one of the best to come along in years. Waid really had a handle on the characters.

The whole idea of Reed and Susan trying to get married while watched by the world, invaded by the media, and dealing with their own shifting pecking order is great. Throw in the threat of a planet-devouring entity and you’ve got all the ingredients of a successful Fantastic Four movie.

The action sequences were utterly impressive. I believed in each and every one of their superpowers. In the last movie, Johnny Storm’s Human Torch abilities blew me away. But in this movie watching Mr. Fantastic in action was a treat whether it was a serious situation or a comic one. The director (Tim Story) and the scriptwriters (Don Payne and Mark frost) took advantage of Reed’s super-stretching abilities for comic relief a lot as well. Watching Reed get loop-legged while thinking about getting married and smashed flat behind the Thing during a fight were absolutely hilarious.

The Silver Surfer, admittedly got short shrift regarding what his powers could truly do, but it was wild watching him sink through the surfboard and remain connected to it while upside down and flying at near full-speed. Movies and special effects have come a long way. Comic books used to be the only place you could go to see that kind of action, but now movies bring it all to the big screen. Of course, comic still beat them because of the monthly frequency they come out.

(Yes, it has a HEMI!)

The shifting loyalties within the story played a big part in keeping me satisfied. There was never a dull moment. Something was always happening to someone somewhere. And despite how tense everything got, there was always a laugh to be had somewhere.

One of the really cool things about the movie is the full-size lobby display that comes with it. I took a picture of my son in front of it, which he thought was totally cool. You’re not going to get that in the DVD box! But we’re anxiously awaiting the DVD release because we’re ready to see the movie again.

Definitely worth seeing on the big screen.

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