Producer: Bernd Eichinger
| 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007)
Reed Richards and Sue Storm’s celebrity wedding OF THE CENTURY is rudely interrupted by a cosmic traveller who is a harbinger of the end of the world. Rather inconvenient, it has to be said.
Remarkably, this would turn out to be the first blockbuster of the 2007 season to not be significantly disappointing. This is not because this is a great film. This is a solid, entertaining and not ridiculously violent superhero movie. Thanks to the return of the director, cast and tone of the first movie, expectations were low. With this turning out to be not bad in any way, there was no sense of disappointment.
This movie contains adult dialogue and innuendo, single mild swear word from nowhere and extreme fantasy violence, unpleasant scenes.
Classified PG by BBFC. Parental Guidance.
A fantastic trailer?
I was tempted to the cinema thanks to an intriguing trailer (where Johnny Stone gets taken out by the Silver Surfer). Interestingly, I went to see Spider-Man 3 and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End despite their bland and uncompelling trailers. Trailer production is much more of an art than it appears but almost every trailer these days feels and sounds the same, only the logo seems to get changed at the end.
The Fantastic Four teaser was refreshingly different as it seemed to just be a scene from the movie which encompassed a bit of banter and a bit of action. It successfully gave a flavour of the movie and left you wanting more. Trailers at this time do not tend to leave you wanting more. In fact, you watch most trailers and presume or think you’ve seen the entire movie. And you usually have.
The Fantastic Four trailer worked really well because it got me to go to the cinema when I wouldn’t have gone otherwise. The only other film I am looking forward to based on the trailers this summer is Michael Bay and Steven Spielberg’s “Transformers” which looks, frankly, amazing. Because expectation is higher with that movie, however, I will be intrigued to see how satisfied I will be with the complete article.
As mentioned in the summary, the director, cast, and tone of the movie are much the same as the first one.
The director Tim Story produces another flat movie. It’ pretty well paced but any compliments he receives for this movie will be due to standing on the shoulders of the director of photography and visual effects guys responsible for the Silver Surfer.
The cast continues to be largely wrong. In the good news department, Ioan Gruffudd is much better as Mr. Fantastic in this movie. In the bad news department, this only moves his performance up to ‘okay’. Ish.
Jessica Alba, currently one of the world’s most celebrated dark-haired, dark-eyed beauties, remains freaky as blonde-haired, distractingly blue-eyed Sue Storm. It is also unfortunate that she has a rubbish power for action scenes meaning she will stand around with her hands up in front of her (she’s producing a shield but she looks rubbish doing it). She also draws the short straw and gets lumbered with the movie’s only (mild) bad language with is both uncharacteristic and entirely unexpected.
Michael Chiklis does quite well as Thing with his agreeably snarky dialogue but, again, seems to spend more time as, well, Michael Chiklis, that is, not a walking rock. Still, he’s fine unlike Mr. Fantastic and the Invisible Woman.
Best of the principle cast, as in the first film, is Chris Evans as the Human Torch. He even gets the movie’s only interesting character arc as well as being the most dynamic in action scenes. The movie is fun and interesting when he is around and rather more half-hearted when he is not. His character arc sees him becoming something of a hindrance to the Fantastic Four thanks to his run-in with the Silver Surfer and it is well-handled, well-enough written and well-performed.
The interaction between the four characters is generally fun and more convincingly a family dynamic than the first film. Tonally, it’s also refreshing to see a super-hero movie that isn’t massively violent.
As a side note, the entirely capable Kerry Washington does one of the worst blind people on the big screen ever. Seems somewhat ironic this as she was the lead opposite Jamie Foxx for his perfect performance as the very blind Ray Charles in Taylor Hackford’s 2004 biopic Ray. He was absolutely convincing as a blind person. Poor old Kerry is not. In fact, you would sooner guess that she had some kind of serious personal issue by refusing to look at anyone who is talking to her during the entire movie. Fortunately, they do tell you she is blind at some point otherwise you’d never guess.
Looking at the baddies we, sadly, have the very deepest recesses of awfulness. The scraping of the blackboard comes with Julian McMahon who is truly awful as Victor Von Doom. He has a uselessly scripted part and McMahon does not demonstrate any kind of talent or motivation to be able to circumvent it. The potentially more capable Andre Braugher plays an offensive military knuckle-head. He has done this type of character many times before and I hate him every time he does it. You do wonder about the thought process of actors when accepting parts. Perhaps they have little variety to choose from.
Here we arrive at the movie’s strongest and most critical point: the Silver Surfer. He is acted by Doug Jones as the physical presence and Laurence Fishburne as his voice. He is then enhanced and further brought to life by the visual effects guys. There are no complaints about the Surfer. He looks fantastic, he moves fantastic, he sounds, er, well, like a large six-foot-tall black man doing his best voice-of-God. His story is rather clichéd but it is well-performed and successfully sold to the audience. The climax of the movie does beg the question: why didn’t he do what he does several planets ago?
Outside of the Silver Surfer, the movie is technically quite competent. Mr. Fantastic’s stretching isn’t terribly convincing, the Human Torch still doesn’t look like fire, Thing still looks somewhat rubbery and you can always see the Invisible Woman.
While the movie’s budget is about half that of the summer’s other super-hero blockbusters it is still reported as $130 million (source: Box Office Mojo). Despite this large amount of money a significant number of effects look a little dated. Nothing bad enough to snap you out of the movie but noticeable nonetheless.
As a seeming company policy, 20th Century-Fox are currently not making any kind of attempt to make good, artistic or ambitious films. Nevertheless, this superhero sequel is reasonable entertainment and should turn a profit. Which is something that might not be said about Spider-Man 3 and ,Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End.