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Variety: 'Silver Surfer' crap that sells

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Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer
If I had to summarize this film review by trade mag Daily Variety, it would be that Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer is a virtual clone of the first film (which I have not seen.) I don't think it takes a genius to guess just from the trailers though that Tim Story must be a big fan of Michael Bay, meaning cardboard characters, thin plots, and 90% special effects to make up for a hugely non-special film.

The problem I have with movies adapted from comic books are how comics are such a poor source for movie material - this is the opposite of what I believe when it comes to novels which are actually the complete opposite, an embarrassment of riches in source material - and you end up with one of maybe three scenarios.

Either the creative force sticks to the source material and you get a very dry script, the creative force makes it up as he goes using the comic as inspiration - and screws it up because they suck at writing, or someone with real talent takes the comic as inspiration and creates lightening in a bottle.

I say creative force instead of writer because as often is the case, directors improperly insert themselves into the equation and try to do it themselves. No professional likes having an amateur walk into their world to muck around, and directors do it constantly. Certainly, there are times when the fourth scenario comes into play: the director tries to do more than direct.

I think that Bryan Singer, while not exactly a James Cameron type, is extremely talented. What he did with X-Men was fantastic, even though what he did with Superman was very generic, I doubt he had anywhere near as much freedom on that project as he did with X-Men.

Again, not being familiar with comics of any kind, I can't judge how faithful he was to the source material, but I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that he wasn't really all that faithful when it came to building the story. The characters had depth and probably were true to the comic, but the story was unique to the film which is how it has to be. Films are not comics, you have two hours to fill and you can't take a comic and stretch it out that far.

So that's an example of the best scenario where a good director leaves it up to a good writer to be inspired by the comics theme, while crafting a solid original feature idea. Silver Surfer it seems is an example of a combination of the two negative scenarios, where the director tried to be somewhat faithful to the comic, but sucked at his job anyway.

To some extent, the noncommital perfs, lazy dialogue and retro-cheesy visual effects could be chalked up to the pic's refusal to take itself too seriously; one would be hard-pressed to recall the last time the apocalypse was treated this breezily onscreen. But at a certain point, even the most popcorn-hungry moviegoers may find themselves craving something in the way of real dramatic stakes. To defend "Fantastic Four" on the grounds that it is unpretentious is to make too generous an excuse.

Back in the director's chair, Tim Story ensures the pic's stylistic consistency with its predecessor, though the finale -- with its images of the Earth beset by cataclysmic forces -- suffers from visual bloat. F/x work overall is a mixed bag, lacking the polish and seamless integration most auds have come to expect from superhero extravaganzas.

Not being a comic fan, I need a feature-valid story to drop my defenses and just enjoy the film, and Fantastic Four never gave that to me. Didn't even try. A lot of the things in the first two X-Men films (I try to ignore the third, when at all possible) made that hard, but the compelling story and wonderful acting and spectacular directing made up for it. But a 100% CGI silver guy, on a surf board? That kind of liquid metal effect stopped being cool in 1995, now it just looks stupid, and makes it all the more harder to accept it as a person, as a character with depth, with motivations and flaws and goals.

All I see is the CGI, and four other actors who want to be actors without playing hard parts, and it's going to suffer the second time around - at least at the box office. Especially with so many tentpole films this summer, there just isn't room for sympathy viewing.

Read the rest of the short review at the Daily Variety.

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The text of this article is Copyright © 2006,2007 Paul William Tenny. All rights reserved. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License. Attribution by: full name and original URL. Comments are copyrighted by their authors and are not subject to the Creative Commons license of the article itself.