Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, is the kind of movie that reminds me why I’ve decided at some point, to establish standards in my choice of movies. Not that it’s earth – shattering mind you. Far from it. Rather, Fantastic Four II is the kind of movie that’ll make you answer, when someone asks if you like it, that ‘it’s ok..‘, or ‘it’s entertaining..‘, with your voice trailing off, or some response to that effect.
And since you can’t really pinpoint why you don’t like it, but find it a stretch to call it a bad movie either, you just smile, shake your head or shrug your shoulders, and forget about it. Proof of it? The day after you’ve forgotten you’ve watched it, and by next week any memory of it is completely erased altogether.
Which is, you see, the exact opposite of two of the best most entertaining movies I’ve ever watched, which happen to both be based on superheroes. And that is Superman, the first one with Christopher Reeve and Margot Kidder, and Batman Returns, with Michael Keaton and Michelle Pfeiffer.
And here’s the part where you sit back for a moment, if you’ve happened to be around at the time they were released (1978 and 1992 respectively), where, you will likely nod your head in agreement, and appreciate along with me, the sheer entertainment these two provided.
And then you realize as well, how Fantastic Four II completely pales in comparison to those two. So much so, one might argue, that it shouldn’t even be mentioned in the same movie review as the other two.
And I am getting closer to the point I am trying to make.
See, I realized at some point, that after having experienced both the terrific Superman and Batman Returns were, that any other superhero movie effort, no matter how grand or expensive or star studded, will have to be compared to those two.
And so no matter how amazing the effects, no matter how many millions was spent on design and artists salaries, no matter who starred in it, and least of all how many servers were used rendering each frame, if I left the theatre with any less of an impression as that I had gotten with those two, then it qualifies as a disappointment. And any more resources spent on it is only more of a waste than whatever would have been enough to make it comparable to the two.
Overly simplistic? Maybe. Too optimistic to ask that it be as entertaining as those I mentioned? No. No, I don’t think so at all.
Those two movies were made decades ago, in a time of blue screens and effects that only just hid plastic string that kept things ‘flying’ on the screen, so it’s obviously not a matter of CGI.
Yet Superman and Batman Returns are absolute classics. Christopher Reeve is a man born to play Superman. One look at him and you are sold to pursuing ‘Truth, justice and the American Way‘. The flying scene with Lois Lane with the music of ‘Can You Read My Mind’ is one for the ages – a scene I can’t even think of a comparison to, superhero movie or otherwise.
Then there is the absolutely sizzling chemistry between Michael Keaton and Michelle Pfeiffer – the figure of which, cutting into her cat suit, is to me, what Hollywood cinema is all about. She absolutely purrs and claws her way into your imagination, oozing with appeal and dripping with sexual energy without so much as showing off an inch of inappropriate flesh, along with it bringing to life the conflicted character of Catwoman, in such a way that made future attempts, namely those of Halle Berry, desperately pedestrian.
Which is a pity, of course, since so much effort and money has been invested in it, and so much history is behind it – especially to comic book junkies like myself.
The woeful life of the Silver Surfer, trapped forever on Earth, was a childhood influence. This character was likely the first ever time I had ever encountered drama and frustration in literature. The Fantastic Four are distant heroes to me, along with the various characters that occasionally popped up in those series, such as Prince Namor aka the Submariner, the terrible Doctor Doom, (whom occasionally batlled everyone in Marvel, including Spiderman). Daredevil, trained by ‘the Stick’, aka ‘The Man Without Fear’, and across town, who can discount The Ultimate Avengers, with Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, and everyone else.
I can still feel the excitement of peeling off the plastic from a new comic book, and the smell of never before read ink.
Which is all the more reason to discount these current superhero movies – only very few of which, save for a few Spiderman movies of late, have managed to bring to life the magic I felt way back then. The Fantasticar as a Dodge?! Unthinkable! My heroes were beyond anything of the Earth. Especially that of a brand of a car. My heroes leapt up from the pages of a cheap, sometimes badly printed comic book, taking me to a world filled with adventure, and characters larger than life.
Fantastic Four II doesn’t bring me to that world. And until that time comes when superhero movies knocks me off my feet as Superman and Batman Returns does, or even, at the very least, excite the 11 year old still lurking in me, it’s just another product of a – to date – consistently disappointing Hollywood genre.