I grew up in the age of Marvel and D.C. comics; at a time when the thin colored wonders were a mainstay of the drugstore and convenience store checkout aisles. The tall circular displays were stuffed full of booklets of imagination and escapism all for about $.50 a copy.
But times have changed and not for the better. Comic books have all but disappeared from magazine racks of most if not all drug stores; indeed the only place youre liable to find them sold openly is in gaming shops and the occasion big-box book store. You can of course subscribe, but its not the same as leafing through the glossy magazines at the store, lost in a world not altogether real, but was always worth the wait.
Today the first exposure a child has to the world of Marvel and D.C. comics is most likely through a feature length movie. But quite often these movies do not come close to doing justice to the rich and varied nature of the comic they are depicting, and this especially true of the latest from the world of Marvel Comics, The Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer.
Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer is the second movie based on the comic book to be released; the first movie was released in 2005. This time around the story revolves around the Silver Surfer (Norrin Radd), who first made an appearance in Fantastic Four # 48 as the herald of Galactus an entity that feeds on planets. The Silver Surfer stuck around for a three book arc called the The Galactus Trilogy.
Norrin Radd is from the planet Zenn-La and in order to save his planet from Galactus, Radd strikes a bargain to serve as the planet eaters scot and is so doing acquires a small portion of the Galactus Power Cosmic (in Marvel speak, this is immeasurable power which was described as "the most powerful [force] in the universe). This power which is channel through the surfboard like platform Zenn-La ride on, allows him to manipulate particles at the sub-atomic level, travel beyond the speed of light, and also imbibes him with a silvery appearance.
Directed again by Tim Story (Barber Shop) Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer begins with Dr. Reed Richards portrayed again by Ioan Gruffudd (Blackhawk Down, The Girls Life, King Arthur), and Susan Storm (a.k.a. Invisible Girl) portrayed by the every delectable Jessica Alba (Flipper, Dark Angel, Sin City) set to get married. But of course the Silver Surfer (embodied by Doug Jones, with voice by Laurence Fishburne) has come to Earth in advance of Galactus and is busy drilling large holes in the planets surface to prepare it for his masters coming.
Dr. Reed (a.k.a. Mr. Fantastic) is asked by one General Hager portrayed by Andre Braugher (Homicide: Life on the Street, Gideons Crossing, Hack) to build a device to track the illusive Surfer. But the Surfer knows he is being tracked and sets out to destroy the tracker and ruins the wedding in the process. Susans brother, Johnny Strom (a.k.a. Human Torch), portrayed again by Chris Evans (Cellular), is sent after the Surfer and in the process has his molecules scrambled so now when he touches one of his follow teammates their power transfer one to the other.
As a happy circumstance the teams old nemesis and Dr. Reeds old MTI classmate Victor Von Doom (Dr. Doom) portrayed once again by Julian McMahon (Charmed, Nip/Tuck) is released from his metal prison by the Surfer. And oh yes Ben Grimm (a.k.a. The Thing) portrayed by Michael Chiklis (The Commish, The Shield) is back as well.
Unfortunately there isnt much to Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer; if the original movie spent too much time on back-story, this movie did not spend enough; there is such thing as balance. It would have been nice to see the Silver Surfers originals, a bit of his life before he became the Surfer and what his motivations. A scene or two about the origins of Galactus would have been nice as well. Those not familiar with the Marvel Universe will no doubt be terribly lost without it.
As far as acting, well it is okay, but this movie, like the first movie is miscast. As much as I love Jessica Alba, I did not buy her as a genetic scientist; I didnt but it the first go around, and time has not changed my mind. And in this movie she is given less than nothing to do. And I do not buy Ioan Gruffudd as the elder wise leader of the clan, despite the graying streak. And Jessica Alba and Ioan Gruffudd have zero chemistry, zero; it was almost painful to watch them trying to make a connection; it was true in the first movie and it continues in Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. And what did they do to the poor womans skin? It took on a strange orange hue through most of the film, and she looked far too skinny for my taste.
Unlike other adaptations of Marvel comics, most notably The Xmen and Spiderman, the Fantastic Four movies seem to lack a heart. There is no emotional connection, no underlying social or political theme or crisis to give it interest of relate it to contemporary life. This leaves Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer rather bland and dare I say boring and lazy. The Fantastic Four, who spend far too much time bickering are not so fantastic after all.
Sure the special effects were of course cutting edge; you have to love the modern action movie, but in the final analysis they were too few and far between to carry the movie. While Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer is not something I would run to the theater to see, it is okay fair for rainy Friday night packed with reruns.
Viewing Format: DVD
Video Occasion: Good for a Rainy Day
Suitability For Children: Suitable for Children Age 13 and Older
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With its initial installment, Fantastic Four established itself as the superhero franchise that didn't take itself too seriously, and that continues here. There are numerous moments of laugh-out-loud humor, and the most angst they suffer is whether Sue and Reed will ever be able to live a normal family life. (That, and whether they'll ever really get married, of course.) If Fantastic Four were a normal superhero franchise, the ending would be a...