Wednesday, February 8, 2012

movie reviews: Fantastic Four (2005)Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer(2007)


(reviews may contain spoilers for those that have never seen the films or are unfamiliar with the characters.)

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After a long awaited period, Marvel comics finally brought the Fantastic Four to the big screen. The Fantastic Four comic book debuted 1961, and was the first project worked on by legendary comic book writer Stan Lee.

Fantastic Four stars Ioan Gruffudd (Reed Richards), Jessica Alba (Sue Storm), Chris Evans (Johnny Storm) and Michael Chiklis (Ben Grimm) as four astronauts transformed by a space storm, modifying their DNA, and giving them all sorts of beyond human abilities.

The other main member of the cast is Julian McMahon, as Victor Von Doom, who, as you can imagine with a name like that, turns out to be the villain in all this.

We're first introduced to them as normal people aboard a space station studying a strange storm coming towards Earth. It's assumed they have several hours to do their work, and return to safety. However, just as Richards gets outside it's realized they have mere minutes, and Richards rushes to get inside the station. Von Doom, fearing the loss of his ship moves to close the shields while Richards is rushing to get inside. The storm catches up to him just as the shield closes in front of him. However, the shield is no match to the cosmic storm, blasting through the shield and engulfing the four.

After returning to Earth, the astronauts are booked into the base hospital for observation. The next morning, as Richards and the Storms go to visit Grimm, they hear a terrible noise coming from his room. This is where the film kicks into full gear, around their new found abilities.

As someone who never read the comic book series when I was young, this was my introduction to the characters. The first few minutes of the film explained what happened and what the results were. There is just enough back story revealed  to set up conflict between the good guys and the villain. We really feel sorry for Ben Grimm as more and more events take place that show him just how far he's been taken from his normal life.

Special effects were absolutely fantastic. Nothing was crazy overblown as in other comic book characters brought to life. They did not look cartoony, and textures could easily make you feel as if you were standing in front of them.

As would be expected, there's an epic battle for good and evil at the end which wraps the film up into a good ending.

Acting was sufficient since the character's abilities were the main thing people were watching the film for.

Despite being a person who was unfamiliar with the comic book franchise I went away happy, not wondering what I missed, as the movie stood on its own.

RATED: 8 out of 10 STARS

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After the overwhelming popular response of the first film, Marvel decided to produce a sequel, releasing it a couple years later.

The film starts with the Fantastic Four preparing for the wedding between Reed Richards and Sue Storm (reprised by Gruffudd and Alba). As with many super hero comic book storylines, things are going smoothly until the government comes calling, needing their help.

Now we're introduced to the main villain through most of the film, The Silver Surfer, as a strange silvery character crashes the the wedding, and Johnny Storm (Chris Evans) "flames out" and flies after him. Unfortunately, for Johnny, he catches up to the character, who doesn't seem to be effected by fire, and he incapacitates him by snuffing out the oxygen around him.  Johnny recovers just before he is about the plummet to his death. Back at headquarters the other Fantastic Four members aren't sure what to think of his stories.

Meanwhile the Silver Surfer (played by Doug Jones, voice over by Lawrence Fishburne) hooks up with a mysterious hooded character somewhere in the Artic. Just as he's ready to surf off, the hooded villain gives him an intriguing proposition, which stops him dead in his tracks.

The government quickly looses faith in the Fantastic Four, and decides their best hope is to rely on another person that had magical abilities cast upon him, Dr. Victor Von Doom (Julian McMahon). He had returned from the original condition we was left in at the end of the film, and is promising to help. But, the Fantastic Four are just not sure on trusting him.

As opposed to the first film,which really didn't threaten the Earth till the end, this film pretty much introduces that a third of the way into the film. I guess they could do that since the Fantastic Four, and their abilities, would be known to anyone already who had seen the first film.

Things are moving along at a relatively good pace, and we finally are given the motivation on why the Silver Surfer wants to destroy the Earth. This plot is intertwined with Von Doom's evil intentions. While this could have made for a richer (read longer) running time, it seems like the end was thrust upon us all of a sudden, and things are wrapped up in a matter of minutes. I would have preferred another half hour, or so, to resolve the World's crisis.

This film is dotted with one-liners and scenes that have nothing to do with advancing the plot. Some are cute. Some are just dumb.

While most the special effects are of the same quality as the first film, the work on the Silver Surfer bugged me. Sure, he's supposed to be like liquid silver, but there's no texture to give it a three dimensional quality on the screen. It's particularly bad in the flying scenes. Had this film been produced in the last few years, with the advances in 3D, this might have been different.

The returning actors give another solid performance with what they're given, and I don't have any particular complaints about Doug Jones' acting as he's pretty much replaced with a 100% computer based character by the time it gets to the screen. Only a few scenes look like it's a person in a silver suit. On the other hand, the deep voice of Lawrence Fishburne felt odd for such a svelte figure.


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After reviewing the films I looked online to see if there's any further news on the franchise. Apparently, there are plans to reboot the movie franchise after only two films. I don't understand that. They had a good cast. They have plenty of source material to draw on from the comic book series. 3D is now pretty robust. Why totally recast, and take it in a different direction?  Of course, those plans have been in the works for several years now, so they may not come to fruition.

Reviews are based upon viewing of both movies on the FX Network earlier today. As they both films were edited for time and content, it is quite possible some scenes were missed which would have varied the ratings. - rjm

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