Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The Fantastic Four, The Rise Of The Silver Surfer

I have to admit, I am a huge Fantastic Four fan, one who was hoping the new film The Rise of the Silver Surfer would be much better than the last Fantastic Four movie. The advance trailers certainly had it looking like it was a better film. My daughter took me on Father’s Day to see the film; she isn’t a fan of The Fantastic Four series and had only heard bad things about the first movie, and not much positive about this one. It was Father’s Day though, and it was my movie to pick, my wish was to see The Rise of the Silver Surfer and I wasn’t let down in the least.

I have to admit, one of the things I was hoping would be much better than the first Fantastic Four movie was the technical aspects. I was honestly let down in what looked like a made for television movie in the first film and was hoping I wouldn’t be in for the same let down here. On this point, while far from a Spiderman or Superman movie this film stepped up its game for the second installment. Virtually everything for this movie was superior to the first film. The special effects were adequate and the story itself was much better, with better character development, and actors who seemed to be more at home with their roles. It is difficult to play an iconic character such as a comic book hero; it is one of the things that normally let down fans. It was obvious each of the actors developed a since of comfort in their roles from the first film, and their comfort made the characters more believable, well at least as believable as a comic book hero can be.

The Rise of the Silver Surfer is a story that deals with relationships, decisions and consequences among other things. We see this from the outset when the characters of Reed Richards and Sue Storm are making an attempt on their wedding for the 4th time. In the process there are devastating events taking place that has the potential to destroy life on the planet. This seems to follow the appearance of one who later comes to be known as The Silver Surfer. The Fantastic Four are once again, called into duty to protect the earth, but along the way, they have to deal with relational conflict and commitment and dedication to each other. In order to save the planet, they will have to rely upon not only their own strength and ability, but the collective strength and ability of each other. What happens is a wonderful telling of the importance of team work, giftedness, and then some, including salvation from certain destruction from one who appears as evil because they are not understood, but who has obvious savior tendencies.

One of the things I appreciated about this particular film was the development of the story. We see each character dwelling on themselves, and what they want as opposed to what is good for those around them. Through a series of events that threatens the lives of those on the planet, and each character, we see them begin to develop a love and understanding of each other. At times, based more on individual needs, but quickly coming back to a point of recognizing the value of each other. Ultimately they pay a high price, a price higher than we the viewer would expect, but one that brings each character back to the point where they can effectively use their gifts and talents for each other but also for the planet that needs salvation. Just as in real life, we see a struggle take place within the lives of each of the characters, a struggle where change is required, and where serious consequences will occur unless there is a substantial sacrifice made for the benefit of others.

Obviously there is a great deal of spiritual overtones in this move. We see a Christ figure provide ultimate salvation by making a great sacrifice. We also see resurrection and salvation, not just the planet but for individuals in a loving and caring way. There are numerous spiritual themes that we see illustrated, none though more than the concept of laying down one’s life for another. We see this not only from the perspective of characters willing to lay down one’s life for a friend, but for one that many may consider an enemy. There are two passages illustrated here, the first is the obvious one John 15: 11- 15. That passage stated:

"I've told you these things for a purpose: that my joy might be your joy, and your joy wholly mature. This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you. This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends. You are my friends when you do the things I command you. I'm no longer calling you servants because servants don't understand what their master is thinking and planning. No, I've named you friends because I've let you in on everything I've heard from the Father.

There is another concept we can see though, the one requiring us to love even our enemies, there are numerous passages that illustrate this, Matthew 4: 43-47 is one of those:

"You're familiar with the old written law, 'Love your friend,' and its unwritten companion, 'Hate your enemy.' I'm challenging that. I'm telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that.

Movies like The Fantastic Four, the Rise of the Silver Surfer can teach us valuable lessons, lessons we can apply and use in our lives but also lessons we can draw spiritual truths from. In this regard this film exceeded my own expectations and was a fun ride. While far from perfect, I did have a good time, and I valued the lessons illustrated. The themes made it worth while. I still wish there were more effort and quality put into the special effects. They are better than the first film, but not nearly as good as they could be. I would have also liked to seen more interaction with The Silver Surfer. The focus on four heroes, plus the inclusion of the Silver Surfer makes it difficult for a film like this to have strong story lines and strong characters. It was a major weakness with the first film and is one that continues here. There are too many characters and not enough time or story to develop those characters to a place where we as an audience can really care. While that is the case, there are enough positive attributes to make it an enjoyable experience and a fun time at the theater if you don’t expect too much. For that reason, even though the rating itself won’t be high, it is a movie I would say to go watch, have a good time, just don’t expect a great film. It is a popcorn flick, and sometimes popcorn flicks can be an enjoyable experience.

On a scale of 1 – 10, I enjoyed this as a popcorn flick, but since I have to watch my popcorn intake and am on a diet, I will give it 6 out of 10 for the 6 pounds I lost on my diet last week.

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