Saturday, June 16, 2007

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer


Not so Fantastic--But Who Cares?

Okay, I’ll admit it. I’ve got kind of a soft spot for the Fantastic Four movies. Everyone else in the world seems to think they are just awful, but I kind of like them. They are not great cinema, but they radiate a vibe of goofy charm and B-movie sensibility that is infectious. Compared to superhero movies that want to be super-serious, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer is silly fun.

An unidentified flying object is streaking across earth’s atmosphere leaving giant holes wherever it stops. Unmasked as a big silver guy on a what appears to be a shiny surfboard, the Fantastic Four are called in by the government to help take him out. Timing couldn’t be worse. Stretchy Reed Richards (Ioan Gruffudd) is trying to marry his transparent sweetie, Invisible Woman Susan Storm (Jessica Alba), after many postponements. The Thing Ben Grimm (Michael Chiklis) and Human Torch Johnny Storm (Chris Evans) are still a menace to each other, and those around them. Can the team unite to save the world from the T-1000’s twin brother?

I know here is quite a bit to pick on here. The acting is hammy (witness the “death scene” at the end). Jessica Alba has the worst set of brown-to-blue contact lenses this side of Maria Bello in World Trade Center. Villain Doctor Doom (Julian McMahon) returns in what feels like an afterthought. The Fantasti-car that Reed builds has a Dodge logo! The Silver Surfer looks less impressive than Terminator 2’s liquid metal killer from sixteen years ago. The Thing belches on a guy with an afro. Stan Lee makes his token cameo claiming to be Stan Lee, and on the list goes.

What I did like is that the movie doesn’t seem to know that it’s a B-movie and forges ahead anyway. Gruffudd says lines like “I’m one of the fifteen greatest minds on the planet” and doesn’t even smirk. Alba looks amazing yet has the composure to worry about her wedding as an out-of-control helicopter chews up the guest seating like a food processor. All the cast runs down an underground passage looking incredibly weird in their matching underwear, er uniforms (I fully expected them to yell “Let’s go, team!”), looking past the camera with all seriousness. I loved it.

I realize you have to be in the right frame of mind to appreciate a movie such as this. You have to lower expectations, and enter with a dumb grin on your face. You have to like the silly and the absurd. You have to think that what you are seeing is a thinly-veiled comedy and not high drama or art. I know the filmmakers aren’t thinking this, but it doesn’t matter. Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer works on that level, and that’s good enough for me.

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