Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer

Synopsis: The long-awaited wedding of Sue Storm and Dr. Reed Richards is crashed by a mysterious alien – the Silver Surfer -who races around the globe, wreaking havoc as he heralds Earth’s impending destruction. With time running out, the Fantastic Four reluctantly teams up with the nefarious Dr. Doom in a thrilling effort to save our planet!
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Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer 6.75

Let’s face it: my expectations weren’t high for this film. When you start a series with mediocrity, it’s hard to imagine following up with grandeur – they’ll usually amplify the first film, for good or bad. And yet, I figured, if it features another villain than their ill-conceived version of Dr. Doom, then it can’t be all bad.

So what do they do? They bring Dr. Doom back!!!

That’s right! Despite his being solidified into a steel statue or whatever in the last film (and surviving the process no less!), somehow Dr. Doom is back. Not only did this provide me with an angry “WTF?!!!” moment, but also a soul-sucking “Oh God, please, no!” reaction. Sigh… sometimes you just can’t win.

Thankfully, now we have a new enemy in The Silver Surfer (and, by extension, Galactus).

Normally, I would write this off as a symptom of the traditional Hollywood “if you can’t make one villain worth watching, give ’em two” disease: Wee! Dr. Doom + Silver Surfer equals box office dollar!. But the reality is that this is an essential part of the Fantastic Four canon, and it’s only natural that they follow up Dr. Doom with The Silver Surfer and Galactus.

The sad thing is that they felt the need to incorporate two different storylines in one.

You see, originally, the main story is about The Silver Surfer coming to earth as a scout for Galactus, who is a devourer of worlds. Galactus needs energy and he sends out the Surfer to find planets suitable for his energy needs. The Silver Surfer, appalled by the horrors of the human race, feels that there was nothing to salvage. But then he does, in his meetings with The Fantastic Four.

This was a perfect vehicle for Stan Lee, who, through the eyes of the Surfer, commented on the sad state of affairs in our world. He found a place for social commentary in Marvel comics, something that isn’t always possible in a visual medium such as this – let’s face it, people don’t buy “funnies” for the exposition and character development.

The problem is that this film removes the social commentary and, instead of giving us ‘The Day The Earth Stood Still (1951)’, gives us ‘The War of the Worlds (1953)’. Now, I’m not criticising the latter (I’m a fan!), but they are very different beasts indeed. And This Silver Surfer also is; he’s an alien being of awesome power and his arrival is meant to be ominous. Nothing more, nothing less.

Where they also fail the original story is by blending a later story into this one: one in which Dr. Doom contrives to get his hands on The Silver Surfer’s board, in turn taking over his powers. While it is rooted in an original story, it felt tacky and tacked on just for the sake of having Dr. Doom in the darned film (which, as you may have surmised, is a weak part in his current incarnation).

Well, I could have done without him and this storyline! I think we would have been better served with a metaphysical contemplation with action pieces thrown in along the way – as it was originally intended. If one wants mindless eye-candy, there are plenty of options for that. But at least give us more “human” tales in our science-fiction – that’s what makes GREAT sci-fi!

But with such poor writers, who would be surprised?

The script is clichéd; it’s all déjà vu and it has a unmistakenly stale flavour. As well, this time around, they tried to inject more humour. This means that the audience is treated to corny lines and the humour tends to be cheesy and feels forced. we also get to spend a lot time in the characters’ personal lives – which would be a great plus if they were made to be interesting instead of a bunch of caricatures!

Speaking of the writing, I love the Hollywood conceit that you can cause as much damage as you’d like and it doesn’t affect anyone. As with the dumbest action films, the combat scenes take us in the heart of downtown and its infrastucture sustains considerable damage. And yet, as per usual, there were no casualties whatsoever (looks like puny humans are intangible in these films!).

Frankly, there should have been TONS of casualties throughout the film (and especially at the end). I guess that would have been a drag though, huh? But that’s Hollywood for you: have your audience turn off their brains, even if it means disconnecting their humanity at the same time. Who wants to feel when their eyes are filled with glitter?

I also wonder about the opening scene. It simply didn’t feel like it had ANY purpose: it wasn’t amusing, insightful, didn’t move the characters along, nothing. It felt completely tacked on, as though it were an afterthought. Even the actors’ make-up wasn’t right and they didn’t look at all like in the rest of the film. In fact, my first reaction was: “Holy crap! What happened to them?”

I’m not sure what happened there (I suspect that it wasn’t originally in the script and that they felt the need to bookend the film – see my next comment). Frankly, they should have removed that bit. The film would have been fine with the appearance of The Silver Surfer – even if it meant a softer start.

Of course, I’m not surprised to find out (via the special features), that the end was tacked on because they felt there wasn’t enough punch in the ending. So they had The Silver Surfer confront Galactus. Of course. Now… how can The Silver Surfer beat Galactus, exactly? He gets his powers FROM Galactus, which thereby means Galactus is MORE powerful. Ergo, Galactus should be able to crush The Silver Surfer like a gnat.

But it’s so underdeveloped – he just wins and we don’t know how or why.

Also unexplained… why is Galactus a big blob? I mean, I fully understand why having a giant purple and blue dude appear and plug a machine into the planet to suck its life away would look hokey, but… a big blob? It looked like a reject from ‘The Swarm’ for goodness’ sake! It was seriously anti-climactic. Surely there had to be a better way…

In conclusion, is ‘Fantastic Four 2’ worth seeing? Like its predecessor, it has its moments. But it ain’t no ‘Captain America (2011)’ that’s for sure. Thankfully, it’s also not ‘Ghost Rider’ or ‘The Punisher (1989)’. God forbid.

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