17 June 2007 | tostinati
This film has been called a 90 minute thrill ride by some of the cast members. Fair enough. I think that's the best thing to be said about the film. But, unfortunately, it's also the films most damning liability. Sure-fire, wowing 'em story conference vortices spin up every 90 seconds and nothing ever really slows down enough for the audience to savor pieces of time. Tons of good stuff is tossed off as a waste. (Example: The medieval tapestries in Doctor Doom's castle are glimpsed for about two seconds, briefly picked out of Stygian dark by a restless camera. Works for a music video. Not so sure about here. I thought of what a genius producer like Val Lewton could have done to get that kind of detail on the screen, further probing a conspicuous and memorable prop as a metaphorical or sub-textual comment on a character. Here, it's just "hey, look, we had a big budget". But we can't dawdle. They want to get straight on to the blowout special effects.)
The approach might be called Ginzu Bar & Grill film making. You are impressed by the flash. Undeniably a lot of dazzle is on show here. But it works up an appetite for a main course that ultimately proves to be more steam and sizzle than steak. As a film-goer, I was left wanting to take the proverbial cruise by White Castle for a sack of the real stuff on the way home from this polite but inadequate repast.
Some things I miss: Galactus -- who very well might have seemed silly as a mile-tall guy with purple tights and a pronged hat -- is shown here as a fractal cloud of dust. I wish they could have found a way to handle "him" without turning Galactus into an "it". When we glimpse him, he bears a striking resemblance to a front on a Doppler weather map. Maybe the Kirby Galactus wouldn't play today. But these guys are the big shot imagineers. Why couldn't they come up with anything better than this?
More than this, however, I miss the full story of Silver Surfer, and I think the absence of that story does untold damage to this movie. As portrayed in the second FF, the Surfer is not exactly enigmatic, although that may have been the intention. Instead, he's underdeveloped, a nodding, gazing statue who -- because we don't know enough of his story, or feel enough of what he has at stake -- does not stir sufficient fear or curiosity or passion, as he should. One looks at where the story time went that could have been spent on this critical material. And one is left assuming it all went to watching Johnny Storm be cute. Or Reed and Sue's wedding take cute turns south. Or Ben Grimm being crude and gruff... and cute.
It's a movie with cute to spare. There is no big concept comedy here. It's pretty much all "character-based" comedy, which for these writers means sit-com comedy, sarcastic digs at each others foibles every other line. And the really dark places FF 2 could have gone -- Galactus' emotional blackmail of the Surfer -- are replaced by wise-acre comedy and depressingly convincing replications of red carpet tabloid TV. Did we really need to see all that?
I can't help but feel FF 2 is an opportunity missed.