Taken from my former online home. My affection for the Fantastic Four exceeds that for any other comic book superheroes, and yet I don’t believe for a second that they’re well-suited for live action adaption. If the reviews for the new feature that opened this weekend at to be believed — and I’ve little doubt the scathing assessments are spot on — that theory has been proved anew. 

I’m just a sucker, that’s all.

When the first Fantastic Four film was released, I steered well clear of it, convinced by the wrong-headed casting, the strange diversions from what make the characters initially effective and the dialogue stinkbombs highlighted in the trailers (“Susan, let’s not fight.” “No…let’s!”) that there was little chance anything of value emerging under the distracted eye of director Tim Story. Eventually, I did see if and my suspicions were proven correct, leading to 100 minutes of personal dismay and an online write-up that found me wallowing in the heartbreak of comic geek betrayed.

So the sequel comes with most of the key personnel still in place, and despite the confirmation of all my misgivings with the first film, there I was for the opening weekend of Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, just because the titular wave-rider looked cool in the ads and, through it all, I still have an embarrassing soft spot for Marvel’s first family.

As before, it’s hard to apply any recognizable analytical criteria to the film since what’s been created is so far from anything that could be called art, seemingly intentionally so. Even by modern mundane Hollywood standards, the whole endeavor has the nasty whiff of pure commodity. It’s been constructed to be as simple and agreeable to consume as possible, from its plainly spelled out conflicts to a runtime atypically short for a summer blockbuster (the recent Spider-man 3 runs nearly an hour longer than this film). It’s not soda pop, but a glass full of sugary, airy foam.

I will credit Tim Story for improving enough as a director that he no longer seems woefully ill-suited to the material. In fact, he demonstrates a smooth command of the action sequences, keeping them clean and vibrant. When the Surfer is slicing through the sky, it’s the sort of zingy wonder that movies can now accomplish with such effortless assurance that it’s easy to take it for granted. Then again, if you’ve seen at least two different commercials for the film then you’ve already seen the bulk of the Surfer footage worth seeing. So, instead you get discover all the ways in which the script strips all characters of any hint of intelligence including the stretchy fellow who’s supposed to be a genius, or suffer through scenes of utterly disinterested actors blandly reciting lines, probably certain that there will be some computer-added bit of business stealing the scene from them anyway. Only Chris Evans, playing brash Johnny Storm (alias The Human Torch), invests his role with any feeling or energy.

Of course, by caring about giving a performance, Evans is the one who’s out of place in the film. Everyone else knows they’re just placeholders, causing the least amount of disruptions as the mechanics of opening weekend box office appeal are put into place. Naturally it worked, proving that quality is overrated in the business of filmmaking. And who am I to chastise? After all, I gave them my eight bucks.

2 thoughts on “From the Archive: Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer

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