Friday, June 15, 2007

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007)

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (Tim Story, 2007)

I've had the misfortune of watching Fantastic Four (Tim Story, 2005) when it was released in theaters. I literally felt thousands of my precious brain cells threatening me of suicide unless I leave the theater for the comfort of some sort of entertainment that is less demeaning to my intellect. However, I am not one who walks out on films and I sat through the miserable mess despite my neurons' violent rebellion. The horrendous experience made me vow never to watch another Fantastic Four film, unless perhaps a more interesting director decides to take charge.

Two years after, the world is again under threat of apocalyptic destruction. Yes, another Fantastic Four film is released entitled Rise of the Silver Surfer. Like a pesky fly attracted to dung, hack Tim Story again attaches to the project. Using the same actors, same mind-numbingly dull gimmickry, and the same computer-generated spectacle of the first film, Story manages to outdo himself in selling to the world second-rate entertainment in glossy celluloid.

Of course, I can only blame myself for having self-inflicted this horror of horrors. After all, I already vowed not to take part in this widespread extortion of hard-earned cash by the evil Hollywood machine. Let me defend myself though --- the free popcorn, free healthy California Maki wrap, free coffee, and free movie tickets were all too tempting to ignore. And now let me ask forgiveness for being so weak and as penance, I offer this review of the film, at least to forewarn anybody who might be put in the same situation as I have.

Story practically uses the same recipe for the follow-up. The different personalities of the four molecularly modified superheroes jive in an annoying aria of half-baked jokes, dull remarks, and torturous moralisms. The ambiguous Silver Surfer (played by Doug Jones, who's done better work as the suspicious faun and the creepy pale monster in Guillermo del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth (2006)) joins the fun when he glides over landscapes causing oceans to freeze, rivers to dry up, and huge craters to appear out of nowhere. It is the task of the four superheroes to discover the rationale behind the surfer's widespread destruction.

It is not the film's source which drives me rabid with disappointment. I understand that these superheroes are results of Stan Lee's creative juices --- a mixture of childish gusto and imagination. These superheroes are basic units --- their powers aren't all that awe-inspiring (invisibility, stretchability, super-strength, fire; Spider-man's webslinging is far more creative than that) and their respective personalities are treated with light concern. If anything, the first film's tangential concern with the four superheroes sudden change in life (The Thing's misfortune of losing a loved one along with his human identity) made it a little bit watchable. In Rise of the Silver Surfer's case, those personal concerns are replaced by inconsequential domestic squabbles; most of it too mundane and too insignificantly belittled to arouse interest.

Story directs with negligible passion. Dialogues are thrown with discomforting abandon; the actors aren't probably concerned whether the jokes will work or not, or whether they are making any sense at all. The computer graphics are exactly that --- artificial and disposable; they may cause momentary spectacle but the bad taste of bad filmmaking lingers like a bitter pill. It's all a huge waste as most comic book films made something truly lasting and worthwhile out of their source materials, whether successful or not. Fantastic Four only wishes to be entertaining and even in that regard, it still fails.


dodo dayao said...

Hi oggs.


I get where your disappointment can come from, even if I haven't seen this.

These comic book movies can be strange beasts because a large part of where it gets its powers (if any) comes from resonances the lay viewer will never fully get, sort
of like what happens with film adaptations of hit cult musicals. The fuss , for instance, over whether Galactus works better on film as an (allegedly) cosmic cloud than his/its comicbook persona is something that non-geeks will never truly grasp - - -I would've paid to see the comicbook Galactus onscreen, though. Of course, as a longtime (twenty plus years and counting) comic geek, I could never get why everybody thought Ang Lee's Hulk was crap because it captured the spirit of the comics marvelously.

I myself loathed the first movie for not grasping the dynamics of the Jack Kirby comics - - -it was as if Tim Story was channeling the cartoon, not the comics. I'm a bit optimistic about this based on the trailers, because this time I think they get the tone of the Kirby comics right.

But Fox also makes terrific trailers so I'm wary.

I've made a mental note to watch it but I doubt if I'll have the time to get out of work mode during its run to catch it.

Bahala na.

Oggs Cruz said...

Thanks Dodo,

...but I loved the cartoons. I adored how the Fantastic Four can hold poses for seconds and have their mouths only move. Heck, I also loved Moby Dick and Shazam for the exact same reasons. Story didn't even get to channel the wonderment those toons had. His Fantastic Four is sui generis; it's a product of today's Hollywood.

dodo dayao said...

Yeah Story's always been a stupefying choice for me. After the first movie was the first time ,I think , where I uttered the words "Chris Columbus would have made a better film." Or, really, even their other choice, Peyton Reed, felt more spot-on.

Oggs Cruz said...

...or Brett Ratner. I can name a dozen more hacks who can hack a better job than Story.