16 January 2010 | brando647
The Silver Surfer's First Film Appearance Deserved Better Treatment
I don't know what it is about this movie that keeps me watching it every few months. It almost as if I need to watch it on occasion to remind myself how mediocre it is. It was hard to believe that a Marvel film utilizing one of the most interesting characters from the comic universe, Galactus, could be so bland. I suppose one of the reasons I keep returning to this film is that I want so badly to see the Fantastic Four franchise survive. I know it has potential; I love the characters, it has an interesting collection of villains to select from, and the comic series provides some great stories as starting material. It just isn't happening, thanks to poor writing and a little too much creative license at the hands of director Tim Story and writers Don Payne and Mark Frost.
The second installment in the F4 franchise suffers from the some of the same problems as the first film, while adding some new issues on top. The story potential is high: Reed Richards and Susan Storm's wedding is postponed (again) when the Earth receives a visit from the Silver Surfer, herald of Galactus. Further complications arise when Victor von Doom returns with plans of his own. Just writing that synopsis made me want to watch the film again; it sounds like the foundation for a great F4 film. My issues began with the fact that we wasted the first 30 minutes of the film preparing for Reed and Sue's wedding instead of getting to the meat of the Silver Surfer plot. Then, once the plot kicks into gear, we're rushed through the next hour to a deus ex machina ending that fails to satisfy (and may even aggravate some of the comic series' fans). When the film was over, I felt as if the Surfer was never given the opportunity to reach his full on-screen potential and I've been left hoping he's given another shot.
Just as in the first film, this movie is plagued with some cringe-worthy one-liners (once again, Doom is given some of the worst). I know the F4 was a bit goofier than some of the other Marvel properties but the filmmakers need to tone it down a bit. Though, I can deal with corny dialogue; what I can't abide is blatant slap-in-the-face product placement. I loved that the filmmakers were able to work the Fantasticar into the script (especially since I'd considered it a bit too cartoonish to work in a film) but the shout-out for Dodge when Johnny first sees it and excitedly exclaims "A hemi!" went a bit too far.
All of the original cast from the first film return, which is both good and bad. Just as before, Ioan Gruffudd, Chris Evans, and Michael Chiklis are perfect choices for their characters and do a (no pun intended) fantastic job bringing their characters to life. Also, just as in the first film, I was unimpressed with the performances of Jessica Alba and Julian McMahon. Alba is a beautiful woman and fits the image of Susan Storm, but I've never felt her to be too talented an actress and she remains the weak point of the series. McMahon, again, does not feel right in the role of Dr. Doom; he has a hard time doing insidiously evil without coming across as a hammed performance and I just can't take him seriously. These are not traits I want in the man given the role as one of the best Marvel villains.
For what time we're given with him, the Surfer is the most impressive aspect of this film. The visual effects team did a great job with creating the iconic character and Laurence Fishburne was an inspired casting choice for his voice. Galactus, unfortunately, does not receive the same treatment and we are never given a real glimpse at the demigod through his surrounding cloud. In my opinion, it was a waste but the director Tim Story clarified in the film's supplemental material that he chose to keep Galactus vague so that future filmmakers could do him justice. After two average films, now we need to hope someone is even given the chance.
Honestly, this film will only appeal to fans of the series and, even then, don't expect to be wow'd. The second F4 film isn't a bad movie, but it never rises above mediocre. The impressive special effects and production design fall victim to plot holes, poor writing, and under-use of the film's assets. It's a quick, mildly entertaining means of spending 90 minutes but, if you're anything like me, you'll walk away from this film wondering what could have been if the epic introduction of the Silver Surfer and Galactus had been put in better hands.