Letter From The Editor - Issue 69 - June 2019

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At The Picture Show
July 2007

It's morphin' time!

Yes, it's that bad . . . and gives a bad name to comic-book movies

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer
20th Century Fox
Director: Tim Story
Screenplay: Don Payne and Mark Frost
Starring: Ioan Gruffudd, Jessica Alba, Michael Chiklis, Chris Evans, Andre Braugher, Julian McMahon, Kerry Washington, Doug Jones and the voice of Laurence Fishburne
Rated PG / 1 hour, 32 minutes
Opened June 15, 2007
(out of four)

The worst thing to happen to a really bad movie is for it to make a ton of money. Because this virtually assures a sequel. This is the worst thing that can happen because it also virtually assures that the studio/filmmakers will insist on making the exact same type of movie - same type of humor, same type of action, same style, same audience.

I know this makes "business sense," but that doesn't mean I have to like it.

That's the hurdle that Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer faced from the very beginning. The problem with the first movie wasn't just that it had no plot. The entire approach to the film - the "vision," if that's what you want to call it - was a complete misfire. The cloying one-liners, the cheesy action, the completely one-dimensional characters, the unending screenplay cliches, the sheer earnest cartoonishness of it all . . . Fantastic Four wasn't made for lovers of movies, and it wasn't made for lovers of comic books. It seemed like it was made for very small children. They probably liked all the bright pretty colors.

It's not that I have problem with comic-book movies, or superhero movies, or action movies. It's exactly the opposite. I think that comic-book movies can be powerful, and exciting, and moving. I think they can be deep and meaningful. I think they can be beautiful and complex. I think they can be great art. I think they can be anything. Just like any other genre or subgenre.

They don't all have to do all of those things, but the should do something. Try to be something. Even if it's just an entertaining action movie. But Rise of the Silver Surfer isn't even that. The action is bland. The story is dumb. The actors are made to look dumb.

The problem is that movies like Fantastic Four and FF: Rise of the Silver Surfer treat comic-book movies like dreck. Anyone who's ever spent hours at the comic book store, or even just a read a few, should be personally offended. Everyone deserves better than this - even kids.

The Fantastic Four franchise is like a big-budget version of Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers. Or even Captain Planet.

Some people prefer this one to its predecessor, but I respectfully (and apathetically, since it's comparing crap to crap) disagree. While this one has a more clear plotline (the original was just two hours of exposition), it's also more childish and unintelligent. Most of the traits that made the first one so bad are kicked into high gear in the sequel. I won't even get into plot description. Who cares? They win at the end, alright?

Suffice it to say that this is one of those movies in which emotions change on a whim, in which the world is saved by an accidental slip of the tongue, in which everything and everyone is in danger, yet nothing ever seems to be at stake.

This is the kind of movie that has that scene where they re-iterate the plot - just to remind attention-challenged audiences - and try to pass it off as a one-liner.

In one particularly cringe-worthy sequence, one character overhears Mr. and soon-to-be Mrs. Fantastic talking about how they'd like to go away and live in solitude forever . . . you know, once they've taken care of the current crisis. And so the other two [grown men] get in a huff - they're breaking up the band and not telling us! - and the allegedly fantastic foursome proceed to get into a sissy argument on the way to save the world. Needless to say, they decide to stay in the end, and they learn a very important lesson about sticking together! With family! And friends! The movie comes across like a Boy Scout recruiting video or something, and by the end of it, the Fantastic Four have to prove to us that they're trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent.

Indeed. Indeed they are. They're about as squeaky clean as you can get. I feel sorry for the actors. Chris Evans is probably a better actor than this. I know Michael Chiklis (The Shield) and Ioan Gruffudd are better actors than this. And Jessica Alba is really hot, so that's something. But they need to not play characters whose emotions and motivations are so shallowly manipulated and controlled by convenience and cliche. And if they ever want to be in a comic-book movie again, they should read the script first.

COMING SOON: The best (and worst) comic-book movies

Read more by Chris Bellamy

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