Thursday, July 05, 2007

Fantastic Four: The Rise of the Silver Surfer

FF was a landmark comic book in its time. It got much of its energy from its real-world scenarios (New York, bills to pay, image to uphold) and fantastically other-worldly plots. The first Fantastic Four movie - trying to mine the comedy in the original - came across as Super Hero Academy Lite. The second installment, The Rise of the Silver Surfer, is anchored around the tragic story line of the titular chrome-tinged cosmic entity. And it instantly lends gravitas to the project.

Its hard to go wrong with this kind of a story - a devourer of worlds threatens the Earth, a mysterious herald is paving the way for its demise and four humans endowed with extraordinary powers are rediscovering themselves and each other. Yet for the first third of the movie, FFII seems to try hard to lose its way.

There are several reasons for this.

The actors in FF are all shiny, beautiful people. Ioan Gruffudd effaces a quiet intensity, Chris Evans plays his chiselled looks and twinkling eyes to embody the superhero-as-playboy and Jessica Alba - despite being stuck in horrific wigs and a highly misguided blue eyeliner - delivers the looks that have put her on numerous mobile wallpapers. Even the support cast (especially Kerry Washington) looks gorgeous!

Unfortunately, in the early minutes of the film which calls for light banter and comedy, this beautiful cast reveals a startling lack of comic timing. The worst offender is Gruffudd - but then perhaps he can't help it. A guy with the rubbery power to stretch does look ridiculous on screen (it really makes you appreciate Jack Kirby's seminal rendition of Mr. Fantastic).

Two events occur in the second act that give the movie a chance to redeem itself in the later third - a chance well-squandered in the end.

First, Julian McMahon shows up as Victor Von Doom and instantly brings an edge to the movie. Its ironic because his subplot is the most unnecessary of all in the movie. But such is his underplayed turn as a thinking, organized, ambitious egomaniac that you're glad he's around.

Second, the animated Surfer himself (voiced in a smooth baritone by Laurence Fishburne) turns out to be an arresting character. Belying my early groans while viewing the trailers, he tickles our sense of mystery and pulls off his scenes creditably. Here the animators need to be congratulated - they've given the Surfer such wonderfully ambiguous body language that you immediately sense something is amiss with him - a key secret handshake with the audience.

Galactus, a fearsome colossus of a villain - is depicted as a roiling, relentless uh, cloud system that billows through space. This might cause much disappointment to fanboys like me but it works really well in the movie. Unfortunately the highly throwaway Von Doom subplot limits Galactus' screen time.

Oh well, there is a always a threequel.


Anonymous said...

Why the Fuck do you post your personal commentary in the Sepia NEWS Tab?

Unknown said...

Anon, are you a coward who is new to the Internet or a coward who is just a dumb fuck?

Anonymous said...

You didn't answer the previous commenter. Why do you post your commentary on SM's news tab? Is this news? You don't even have SM on you ' places to park ' list. How shameless could one be?

Anonymous said...

If it's not clear yet here's what SM has to say to you -

SM Intern posted on July 4, 2007, 3:51 pm EDT
You have flamed us in the past, one of you copied our name shamelessly and most of you don't even think we are worthy of your blogroll, but we're supposed to provide exposure for your blog posts, which are also poorly written and not interesting? This is a NEWS tab. Stop spamming us shamelessly. Follow directions. And learn to take a hint.

SM Intern posted on July 5, 2007, 11:38 am EDT
This is a NEWS tab, for all things BROWN, not your random blog posts. Directions on how to post are clear: "Link to the original, not your blog. If you're pimping your own thing, disclose it. If it's a new angle on an old story, explain why, so it isn't deleted as a duplicate." You've been warned thrice-- next time, you're banned.

Unknown said...

Wow, you guys are so brave, intelligent and polite. The blogosphere is richer with characters like you around, I say.

Its your web site and your own (ambigious) rules. So will do.

Anonymous said...

Hey Aspi - Julian McMahon is about the only one who could actually act in the first movie so I'm not surprised you liked him. The first movie annoyed me on a level unseen since the first Harry Potter movie so I'm waiting for this to come out on DVD. I'm vengeful that way.

Unknown said...

I have to agree with you there Amrita. The first one was eye-rollingly bad. And I think they got some of the casting wrong, for which they are still paying the piper.

But there is something about watching a movie with kids that takes changes expectations :). And that definitely happened with FFII - and I had a good time.