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Fantastic Floundering: The Rise of the Silver Slack-off

Movie title: Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2009)
Grade: D+ (1 ½ star)
Rated: PG
Summation: The Fantastic Four learn that they aren't the only super-powered beings in the universe when they square off against the powerful Silver Surfer and the planet-eating Galactus.
Spoilers ahead: No

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Somebody slacked off. This wasn’t done right. I’m not going to hide the fact that this movie pretty much sucked. Though not a total loss, it was mostly an embarrassment. The kiddish dialogue aimed primarily at ten-year-olds was insulting (as though only the immature enjoy and look forward to well made comic book movies). The meandering melodrama could be mistaken for Pine-Sol on a floor and mopped up. The only thing they got marginally right was the Surfer himself.

Created by Jack Kirby in 1966 as a mock character, the Silver Surfer was soon transformed into a megapower in the world of Marvel Comics. Before he was the Surfer, he was a promising young astronomer named Norrin Radd on the planet Zenn-La. Zenn-La was overtaken by Galactus, a fiendish cosmic entity. Galactus’ insatiable desire to consume planets as easily as we do a Beltbuster combo meal from Dairy Queen drove him to Zenn-La where Radd promised Galactus that if he would spare his world, he would serve him as his herald forever. Galactus took him, limited his recall of his home world and any abilities to feel remorse or regret, and endowed him with a portion of Galactus’ own power, “The Power Cosmic.” His board was the primary source of that power.

In time, the Surfer managed to resurrect a portion of his old nobility and began to feed his wicked master dead and lifeless planets in place of thriving ones. Then the Surfer came upon planet Earth. His confrontation on Earth with the Fantastic Four is where the movie takes off. The movie covers only a small part and parcel of the comic book series, and it is not near faithful in keeping with it. It does have some things going for it that some Silver Surfer fans may like (and no, not just Jessica Alba!)

One is obviously the special effects. It was nominated in the category of “Best Science Fiction Film” by the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Films. The movie brings a bold-faced-ness that the old comics and cartoons couldn’t match. The second thing is a serious (and I do mean “serious”) attitude adjustment. The Surfer of the film (impressively voiced by Lawrence Fishburne) was not the confused extrovert Surfer who arrived on Earth in the earlier cartoons. They did a good job with the Surfer in the movie. His distant, somber attitude befits the emotional distance you’d expect an empowered alien humanoid coming to earth to have.

Then there’s the power level of the Surfer. They might still have come up short, but they got close to portraying the power of a character that is not too far from omnipotent. Since he possesses the Power Cosmic, that puts him above Superman and on level with other cosmically endowed beings, some of them his bitter enemies, like Thanos and Morg. If those names don’t ring a bell, then nevermind. It just means you aren’t a comic book buff. Nobody’s perfect!

The abilities of Superman are amazing, the abilities of Silver Surfer more so. Superman can lift hundreds of millions of tons, use X-ray and heat vision, and fly above the speed of light. His only weakness is kryptonite. Surfer has about the same or greater strength, but can move at any possible speed and is immune to energy attacks of all kinds. He can manipulate space-time and matter, escape from a black hole or swim inside the heart of a star, survive a blast of 100,000,000 nuclear bombs, and has an ability to know all weaknesses of any enemy he faces at any given time. The only way to beat him is to get him off his board. He capably trumps Superman. The movie incorporates these powers fairly well, but that’s all it does. And as poor a job as was done on the rest of the movie, that’s not enough.

As if the cursed dialogue wasn’t bad enough, we have cheesy predicaments and a sappy, preachy plot about choices and love. One of these comes as a very minute allusion to Guantanamo Bay with condemnation of the alleged torture of inmates. Spare me! And then there’s the shot towards the end of an officer being frozen and crumbling while looking at one stub of an arm. Where have we seen that one before? Try here. Aside from the fact that Silver Surfer is a constant reminder of T2’s T1000, we get this silly tribute. What the hell were they thinking?

(JH)

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Director: Tim Story
Starring: Ioan Gruffudd “Mr. Fantastic / Reed Richards,” Jessica Alba “Invisible Woman / Susan Storm,” Chris Evans “Human Torch / Johnny Storm,” Michael Chiklis “The Thing / Ben Grimm,” Julian McMahon “Dr. Doom / Victor Von Doom,” Kerry Washington “Alicia Masters,” Andre Braugher “General Hager,” Laurence Fishburne “The Silver Surfer (voice),” Doug Jones “The Silver Surfer,” Beau Garrett “Captain Frankie Raye”
Genre: Action / Adventure / Fantasy / Sci-Fi

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