Surf's up

The best laid plans... SuperWife and I had plotted out an inexpensive movie date for this afternoon, heading over to the cheapie second run multiplex for an afternoon matinee of Hot Fuzz. Three minutes out the door, she asked if I'd prefer to see Rise of the Silver Surfer instead, to which I responded in my best Cartman voice "Yes, I want the cheesy poofs!" So screeching homeward we went to change into our Fantastic Four t-shirts, after which, we set off once more, this time in an entirely different direction.

While I liked the first Fantastic Four movie better than I expected to, there were still as many elements of it that irked me as pleased me. This was nonetheless a wonderment to me, since I'd anticipated there being very little in the film that I'd like at all, and was pleasantly surprised to find so much of the Silver Age Fantastic Four core concept surviving onto the screen -- for all that the scriptwriters monumentally fucked up Dr. Doom's origin and the Invisible Woman's essential personality, nonetheless, the interrelationships between the characters and the essential 'feel' of the team came through much more intact than I'd ever thought they would.

So I was pleased by all that, and while the first movie wasn't quite consistently good enough for me to want to own a copy (Sue as an astrophysicist, and Victor Von Doom as a ruthless American corporate predator, were simply too much for me to swallow without choking), nonetheless, I enjoyed it a lot more than I'd ever thought I would.

Rise of the Silver Surfer is, at least for me, a better film on every level, easily as good as the first Spider-Man film, and orders of magnitude better than the second, as it avoids the lethal trap of most sequels to successful first movies -- it is in no way, shape, or form imitative of its predecessors. This particularly installment in the FF video franchise is completely different from the unfortunately almost humdrum origin-sequence-leading-to-a-big-climactic-battle that we saw in the first FF movie.

Audiences that know nothing about the Silver Age Fantastic Four will still be able to dig heavily on this film, simply on the basis of all the eye candy -- hot looking women in very little clothing, fabulous special effects, some reasonably funny comedy bits tossed in here and there, and a couple of super cool fight scenes. Those of us who are avid fans of the Silver Age FF have a lot to love in this movie, too, as the story arcs from Reed and Sue's wedding through the first, classic appearance of Galactus and the Surfer up through a later, equally classic story in which Dr. Doom and the Surfer meet for the first time... while, along the way, we get to see a pretty decent cinematic rendition of the Fantasticar and even a fabulous visual tribute to the Super Skrull.

Andre Braugher chews the scenery satisfactorily as a gruff, geek hating Army general reluctantly working with the FF to stop the Surfer, and among his staff we find a character diehard FF fans will easily recognize, whose presence may promise something for future storylines, or, on the other hand, could simply have been a red herring to lead the more knowledgeable in the audience astray as to the eventual conclusion of this film.

For me, the best thing about this film was that all the bullshit I'd disliked the most in its predecessor hardly mattered any more. There were no flashbacks to badly distorted and stupidly altered origin sequences for anyone, and Sue Storm's aggravatingly modern ultracompetent bitch personality was mostly missing entirely. Jessica Alba is still spectacularly miscast in the role (no slam to her acting talents, she's simply wrong for the part on every level), but the character itself is much closer to what it should be, and every other character in the film is pretty much spot on. Victor Von Doom is rather more glib and flippant than he'd ever really be in this movie, but his relationship with the good guys comes through pretty well, and all that aggravating detritus about him being, you know, Michael Milken in powered battle armor is pretty much immaterial at this point.

And, honestly, the Silver Surfer is just fabulous every second he's on screen. This really IS the Silver Surfer; while Reed, Ben, and Johnny have always worked well in their on screen incarnations, this franchise's greatest success story to date in terms of accuracy to the original source material is this film's rendition of Norrin Radd.

I've heard some disappointment expressed at how the movie portrays Galactus, but it didn't trouble me at all. The comic book Galactus simply wouldn't work in a live action film, and I thought the much more cosmic visualization we saw in this movie worked beautifully.

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