Thursday, June 14, 2007

I Don't Really Know How To Review The New Fantastic Four Film

What can I say about Fantasic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer? It wasn't too hot, I can tell you that. You can probably guess the entire plotline from the trailers. And all of the jokes and major character beats. So, was anything unexpected?

Yes - here's the list of surprises I encountered while watching the film on Tuesday night.

I attended a 'regional premiere', starting just ahead of the big deal in London. We had live link up via satellite to the red carpet in London where Edith Bowman struggled to hold it all together. The cinema we were in - the Vue in Oxford - did an embarrassingly bad job with the digital projection of these segments, however. The images were in black and white, there was ghosting, all in all, it looked rather dreadful. Which is a crying shame because, while the Vue's projectionists clearly have no idea how to use the digital projector and were too proud to ask for help and get it right before hand, it is typically the one cinema in Oxford that offers the best presentation of the lot.

After over an hour of red carpet interviews that never quite happened the link up announced that we were now about to see the film. The manager of the cinema disagreed, however - there was to be an intermission of fifteen minutes for us to pop to the loo. This was a very good idea, but a better solution would have been to limit the outside broadcast to ten minutes or so in the first place. There wasn't ten minutes worth of actual content, but I think we could have just about stomached it stretching that far. Over an hour? I'm a little surprised that none of the thirty or so people in the audience snapped and killed the rest of us.

And then, the film and the next surprise: according to the BBFC title card, this film is simply called 4 - Rise of the Silver Surfer. No Fantastic. How prophetic.

The plot is pretty straightforward - Reed and Sue are to get married but Reed is distracted with a Surfer-monitoring project. The Surfer is coming to herald Galactus' destruction of us all. Doom starts knocking about again (his first few scenes were the most empty, boring scenes in an empty, boring film - simply there to remind us he existed and grasp at some kind of suspense). The Surfer is incarcerated by the military, Doom gets his board and powers, Sue bonds with the Surfer, they set him free and then there's a chase about for a bit, he gets his board back, tells Galactus to shove off, the end. Basically.

There's plenty of attempts at comedy but I didn't hear a single laugh from the little audience. Not even the kids. Maybe it 'works better' in a full auditorium. Which reminds me: the effects, particularly in an early 'funny' nightclub dance sequence with a CG Reed, were often sub-Ally McBeal. The rubber Surfer suit - seldom seen as it was, and stiff-faced too - looked fairly good, though.

I was surprised by the sequence in which the Surfer is incarcerated. It seemed like political subtext was bubbling up and that wasn't expected - even such ham-brained dumb-fisted attempts at subtextual relevance as this. It adds nothing and will convince no-one, which makes it seem rather sincere. I'm sorry, but this was probably a genuine attempt by Tim Story and writers to 'say something' - and that's the most damning thing I can say about this film, if you think about it.

There are a few action set-pieces and they're just mediocre, really. Like a late 70s Bond film or an 80s Arnold film that had nought to do with Cameron. The trailer that showed the Johnny/Surfer chase looked to be a bit choppy, and I was surprised to see that, actually, many of the cuts in the film were the same as in the trailer, that it hadn't been hacked down for the promo. Skillfully wrought stuff this was not.

Ultimately, this was an exercise in lowest common-denominator dreck, speckled with the odd attempt to convince the audience that they were watching something slightly
more worthwhile than they actually were (only slightly - they don't even set this fake bar very high).

One final surprise: after the screening, my girlfriend claimed to have enjoyed it more than Spider-Man 3 because Spider-Man 3 'took itself too seriously'. There were countless things wrong with that (surprising) statement, not least that actually, she spent the entire Fantastic Four 2 rolling her eyes, tutting and mocking it with the odd funny comment. During Spidey, she laughed and didn't offer any snarky put downs at all. She must have just been trying to make a point.


Mark said...

Yeah, yeah, yeah - but what about Galactus? Did he show up? Was he a cloud?

Brendon said...

Yes and yes. I saw some shadows that sort of looked like his helmet - but maybe because I was looking for it. My girlfriend didn't see any such thing.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I went to the London gig - sorry to trump your regional claim to fame Brandon! ;) - and you can see some sort of pointy shaped thing in there ... but you know what, it didn't matter either way really.

I came out feeling that actually, as a pure popcorn flick, it asn't that bad. It was blissfully short, didn't take anything seriously and I'd just seen Jessica Alba in the flesh ... so maybe my eyes were still in shock! :)

Brendon said...

Blissfully short? Faint praise indeed!

Not sure I'd even go that far.