Monday, June 25, 2007

Fantastic Four II

I finally had a chance to see Fantastic Four II, the Rise of the Silver Surfer. I was a bit disappointed. After thinking about it, I realized that the premise of the movie was problematic.

In the comic, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby wanted to do something special for the 50th issue. They came up with the idea of someone who eats planets (Galactus). The way that they did the comic was to have a story conference where they came up with a general plot. Jack would come up with the detail plot and do the art. Stan would then add the dialog.

When Jack turned in the first of the three-part story it had an extra character. "Who's this?" Stan asked. "I figured that someone this powerful needed a herald," Jack answered. Stan named him the Silver Surfer.

The story started with the FF returning from the Inhuman's city. The sky suddenly filled with fire, causing mass panic. The fire disappeared and Reed locked himself in his lab. Next, the sky was filled with boulders. Sue burst in on Reed and found that he was with the Watcher, an advanced being whose purpose was to watch and record the development of the human race. The Watcher had caused the phenomena in order to hide the Earth from the Silver Surfer.

It didn't work. The Surfer threaded his way through the rocks, landed on the Baxter Building, and signaled Galactus. A moment later the Thing knocked him across town.

Galactus landed at the source of the signal and began setting up his planet-eating apparatus. The FF tried to stop him but they were like insects to him - he used cosmic ant spray on them.

In the meantime, the Surfer fell through Alicia's skylight. In a brief conversation, she awakened the Surfer's humanity and he left to challenge Galactus.

While this was going on, the Watcher sent the Torch to Galactus's home to retrieve the Ultimate Nullifier.

The Surfer lost but before Galactus could kill him, Reed threatened Galactus with the Nullifier. Appalled at the thought of such a weapon in the hands of a human, Galactus agreed to spare the Earth in exchange for the Nullifier. As he left, he imprisoned the Surfer on Earth.

When they adapted the movie, they decided to shift the focus. Galactus is more of a cameo than a major character. The movie is about the Surfer.

That meant that they had to pad the plot. What took around four pages in the comic had to be stretched out.

Spoilers ahead - you've been warned.

The Surfer caused a number of sink holes. This was never really explained. It was suggested that Galactus used them but they were really there as a plot device. They gave the Surfer something to do between his arrival and Galactus's.

The wedding didn't really add much, either. Again, it filled time.

Doom stealing the Surfer's powers was an ok plot point. It gave the FF a chance to bond with the Surfer and it was one of the few things in the movie that came from the comic.

I wanted to see an actual fight between the FF and the Surfer. The closest we got was the Torch chasing the Surfer. I thought that we would see a fight in London but instead we got a lame rescue.

I can see why they had the Torch fight Doom using all of their powers. It got around the problem of non-flying characters trying to keep up.

Things I didn't like:
  • Doom - his whole characterization.
  • Sue acting like an airhead over the wedding. In the first movie they tried to convince us that she has multiple degrees. Ha!
  • In the comics, Johny could be hot-headed but he was never a greedy jerk. I realize that they were setting up for him to redeem himself at the end but it didn't really work out.
  • I don't understand the General's treatment of Reed. They came to him then pushed him out. Doom did little except show a home-movie but he got access to the board.
  • Galactus as a god-like being is a lot more impressive than as a really big, hungry cloud.

Regardless, it was still better than the first movie. It is too bad that this series has been hampered by bad writing. In the 1960s, this was the premier comic book and one of the biggest influences on the industry since Superman. Now, my daughter's reaction is "It was kind of cheesy but I thought that's how the comic book is."

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