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Sunday, April 13, 2008

Movie Review: Fantastic Four and the Rise of the Silver Surfer

I'm not a fan of Fantastic Four and never was. I saw the first movie on TV many years after it had already gone through theaters and made its run on DVD. The first film was, in a lot of ways, a poor excuse for a superhero movie and when I found out they were making a second, and saw the pictures of the Silver Surfer, I was prepared for ultimate suckage.
Having said that, I can now say I was at least partially proven wrong on this film. Fantastic Four 2 is loads better than the first film. Where the first film failed,
this one got it right. There is actually a progressive plot. The characters actually go from not doing a whole lot, to doing a little bit, to a bit more, and finally to the climax. The first film failed entirely on this point with the confrontation with Dr. Doom happening all the way at the end and the only other confrontations being personal ones between the characters. The writers for part two changed that so the confrontations between the characters happen alongside the big plot: the Silver Surfer is destroying Earth. This gives you a more even approach to the concept. While certainly not a perfect film, I at least enjoyed this one and found myself mostly thinking it was a decent film, if not a tad bit flawed. Certainly worth renting, watching on TV, or, if you're a FF nut, buying.

Direction 3/5
I can't say there isn't anything really surprising or amazing about the directing. The good news is that it doesn't seem to get in the way almost all of the time. There are some moments where I think some direction could have helped even out some things, but nothing that annoys too much. Since I can't really say much else about the directing, other than it gets the job done, it doesn't really deserve anything more than 3. If there were moments of pure brilliance I would go with a higher number.

Cast 3/5
I'm not a fan of Jessica Alba, and I'm still not. The biggest let down for me is probably Chris Evans. I like Chris Evans. He was awesome in Sunshine, but I think the problem with him here is that he tends to push that arrogance a little too much. This might have something to do with the directing, but I can't say for certain. I like Chris Evans, and his banter with Chiklis' character--the Thing--is almost always rather good (I particularly liked the character development in this one). I think if he had just pulled back just a little it would have worked even better.
Other than that, I think the choice of actors works well. Nobody here is going to knock your socks off, but nobody is going to really make you want to break the TV either.

Adaptation N/A
I didn't read the comics, so I can't say anything about this.

Writing 4/5
In comparison to the first film, the writing here is really rather good. The story progresses at a reasonable pace, rather than the sudden jolt in the first film. This is all good because it means you get to know the characters, you see many different conflicts being introduced and/or resolved, and the general feel of the movie is more intense. Kudos to the writers for getting it right. Plus, the Silver Surfer is pretty darn cool.
My only complaint is the final confrontation between the Silver Surfer and Galactus. It was just a little too quick for me. I know in the comic book that Galactus doesn't die, but he does seem to die in this movie, which poses a problem since the Fantastic Four really don't confront Galactus, just the Silver Surfer, who miraculously can destroy Galactus and has been able to all along. Why didn't he do it before? I don't really understand that.

Visuals 4/5
The visuals are good, but with flaws. The Silver Surfer is obviously CG when he's on his board, but he looks a lot more real when he's not. I'm not sure if they used a real person for the non-board scenes or if they are just really good at dealing with non-shiny silver colors, but for some reason he just looks more real. That is probably the only sad part: the lack of realism in some of the CGed scenes.
The other problem was Galactus. I felt a little let down by him. In the comics he is supposed to be a humanoid giant/God who devours planets, and there is a scene in the movie where we see the shape of his helmet as a shadow moving over Jupiter (I think, or Saturn). But when it comes down to it, he's just a molecular cloud of some sort. It was sort of a let down. I wanted him to be a giant thing, or at least have a more human quality to him than being a giant cloud without much form. What happened to his shape? It's important!

Overall 3.5/5
Certainly worth watching and enjoyable. It deserves what it gets since it isn't an award winning film at all. If you like super hero movies, you should watch this one. There is certainly a lot going on here that beats out the mediocre first film. It's more enjoyable and, dare I say, fantastic. That's important, I think. The return of Dr. Doom is at least somewhat intelligent here because we know he's up to no good, and yet the conflict of his arrival digs deep into the characters and, gasp, actually does something important. Before? He was just there...and the fight in the end was lame. Here, it's better! There's a conflict that progresses. Not to mention you have the deal with the Silver Surfer there too. This film simply does it right. It gives you action and other bits to keep you interested in what is going on. In the first film? When it ended I felt like I had wasted part of my life.
My final word? Worth watching, maybe worth buying. It all depends. If you really like FF, buy it. It's good. If you just want a good nighttime fun flick, then this is worth spending a couple bucks on to rent or queuing in your Netflix.

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