Thursday, June 21, 2007

Fantastic Four: Review of the Silver Surfer

OK, I fully admit this is pretty damn hard to write a review of. We get the inevitable "Kirby whirlwind" in this movie . Seriously. A whirlwind. When was the last time that you saw one of those since "Twister" came out?
For years we've been decrying Hollywood messing up perfectly good comic stories by having to change and add and tweak the source material, material that clearly worked perfectly well on the printed page. "Why would you mess with the Galactus Trilogy?" we ask.

And we have our answer here. And its not an easy one to assess. We have a movie that is closer to the source material that any movie has come to, barring only X-Men 2. I was actually thrown by the early scenes in New York, with the FF in the Baxter Building, because the tone was so different from the first movie, and then I realized: I was actually seeing a Lee/Kirby comic, somewhere around FF #25 or so, brought to life. Ben and Johnny fighting, Reed and Sue having their small spats, using their powers casually amidst the banter. And it makes sense that they would, when you consider that we shouldn't have to see all the drama of Johnny flaming on, and Ben using his strength, the powers simply become an extension of what the characters do and who they are.

So, does all the Lee/Kirby banter and play translate to the big screen? Not entirely, although it seems to be a noble attempt. Someone really went back and read their Marvel essentials to try and get this right, and they almost did. I have to say, I love Alicia as a black woman, and think that it would be really cool to see her father, an African-American Puppet Master at some point.

When you consider that the first FF movie was one of the very worst superhero movies that has ever come to screen, stunned was a damn good description of just how different this script is. And I can't help but think if we had spent more time with this version of the characters, as opposed to the morose "grim and gritty" versions from the first movie, that we would care more and feel more feeling for when everything goes wrong in the second act.

And what a second act it is, really. A great combination of FF #49 and #60 which should be one hell of a winning storyline when you think about it. Doom, the Surfer and a weird cloud thing called Galactus (don't get me started on this one yet). And yet... despite a great helicopter crash sequence, the tension never really rises as much as it should, and the return of Doom falls far flatter than it should with Julian McMahon's missing the mark performance. But the whole thing simply never jells. I suppose I keep thinking that this would have been a great season finale, when we'd had time to share all the earlier adventures with them.

Alas we don't have that time. We do get treated to a Surfer that looks a whole lot like Kirby's version, and we even get a whole mess o' Kirby action, although forgive me if, for some reason, I thought that the action also seem choreographed somewhat by George Perez. I wish that we had more Ben Grimm in it to tell you the truth. Perhaps the next movie will be The Thing vs. The Hulk two parter.

And, at the last, Galactus as a huge cloud. Perhaps I'm alone in this, and believe me, I inwardly cringed more than most when I read about this one on the internet, but I have to say that I'm not sure if the comic book Galactus would have worked. Really. I'm not saying that the illegitimate son of V'Ger is really working for me, but it is better than some of what they would have come up with.

I don't think that this is a great movie by any stretch of the cinematic imagination, and yet, it is so damn superior to the first that it shines far more brightly than I think it should. Props to all for trying.


The Seditionist said...

Tim Story was right a couple of weeks ago when he said something to the effect that the cloud isn't a cloud or whatever. There is someone in the cloud for a few drams, seen in silhouette -- and it's a VERY Galactus shape. Check out the DVD.....

plok said...

Me, I want to see a white Puppet Master. What better franchise to admit the existence of blended families in, than the FF? How clever would that be?