Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer

The story of the Fantastic Four’s first encounter with the Silver Surfer, and that of Earth’s first run in with the alien entity known as Galactus, represent one of the most memorable stories in the superhero genre. Retelling this story is simply a matter of special effects. The characters are there, the compelling sci-fi action is there, and the danger is very present. The only real challenge in writing a remediation based on those events, is in instilling human drama into the story and in providing a worthy cinematic treatment for the enormous characters within.

The History of the Marvel Universe

The Earth, or rather portions of it, are regularly threatened in comic books. Most of the time, though, humanity is simply threatened by some costumed villains seeking power, money, or vengeance. This film provides one of those rare occasions in which the entire world and indeed the survival of humanity itself is seriously threatened.

The film details the destructive nature of the entity known as Galactus. In the comics, he is depicted as at right, as a monstrous humanoid with pink and purple armor. According to Marvel Universe conjecture, Galactus appears differently to everyone. He is the last survivor, presumably, from the previous universe– that which existed before the Big Bang. He is detached from our universe and is alien in it.

In order to preserve his existence, he must consume all the life energies of worlds he encounters, leaving planets as broken, shattered husks. For this reason, the Silver Surfer’s people refer to him as the “Devourer of Worlds.” He uses the Surfer, among others to go forth, find worlds, and prepare them for his arrival. In the comics, Mr. Fantastic uses a weapon known as the “Ultimate Nullifier” to threaten Galactus. The weapon is perhaps the only thing that could defeat the behemoth, and cowed, he agrees to leave Earth and never bother it again.

Product Placement

Product placement and licensing are present in nearly all movies made recently. Some period films, like Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, don’t use it all that much because of the anachronistic implications of having a can of soda in the film. This film is no exception, though, as it takes place in modern times. Numerous brands are referred to or seen in the film, like candy bars and soft drinks. The product placements in this film become excessive, as even the “Fantasti-car” bears the Dodge logo and supposedly houses a Chrysler HEMI engine. Most of these placements are used for comic relief and are poking fun at the corporate nature of the Fantastic Four, as opposed to more covert groups like the X-Men. Even so, the damage is done, and any satirical message is diluted by the fact that the actors are using the products in question or bearing their logos.

Remediation

In the film, Galactus is portrayed as a gigantic space cloud. Reminiscent of the sand worms from Frank Herbert’s Dune, Galactus is like a giant annelid, lurching through space, devouring worlds as he goes. It is quite similar to the “planet killer” from Star Trek. This is no coincidence. Galactus has always been a take on the “planet killer” archetype in science fiction. Other examples from this include the Deathstar from Star Wars and TransformersUnicron.

This depiction has been rejected by some, who would’ve preferred the traditional depiction of Galactus. Even so, one must assume that any creature from another universe, would be something completely unfamiliar to us, and something outside of our understanding. Therefore, this portrayal of the character is an interesting cinematic treatment.

There is little to say about the rest of the characters in the film. They follow suit from the previous film, and are fairly faithful to their comic book counterparts. The film lacks the kind of character depth we see in films like Spider-Man 3, but this is largely due to the ensemble nature of the film and its roots in science fiction. Never the less, the film does present a conflict within the characters which allows for some dramatic development.

Choice

The dramatic tensions in the film are tied to choices. They range from the banal choices of lifestyle among the characters, to universe-altering choices made by others. The first conflict introduced is the pressure on the impending marriage between Sue Storm (Alba) and Mr. Fantastic (Gruffudd). The wedding has become a media sensation and the fame of the situation puts a strain on their relationship and on the Fantastic Four as a team.

There are other more minor decisions within the story which have more to do with individual motivations– like Johnny Storm (Chris Evans) deciding to be more mature, or Dr. Doom (Julian McMahon) deciding to seize power and continue his life of evil.

The biggest choice in the film, though, is made by the Silver Surfer (played by Doug Jones, voiced by Laurence Fishburn).  He decides ultimately to forsake his service to Galactus and aid the Fantastic Four in defeating his master. It is a choice which would seem to cost him his life. It’s a heroic act worthy of this science fiction legend.

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