The summer of 2011 is liable to go down as the one where comic book movie makers had to second-guess themselves. DC Comics and parent company Warner Bros. shot relative blanks with the Green Lantern, just as they had a year before with Jonah Hex. Marvel did marginally well with Captain America and Thor, neither of which are serious contenders for individual franchises but both being crucial parts of next year’s The Avengers. That was, after all, the primary point of those movies existing: to lead the movie-going geek into this next big thing without having them explode into unmitigated nerdgasm. As pieces of a puzzle, Cap and Thor worked okay. On their own, both movies were less than awesome.
It’s something I have seen more than once from both comic book companies and, as of late, their cinematic counterparts. Some of these characters just don’t work too well on screen, and others work only in comics because their premise is absurd, and often borderline idiotic. Example time: I love the Silver Surfer. I think he’s a cool character in comics. Put him in the movies and you have to make logic leap after logic leap to just get to the threshold, never mind the doorway of suspension of disbelief.
To start with, he’s an alien, specifically from Zenn-La. Everyone on Zenn-La surfs because they’re on the West Coast of the Universe and that’s what you do when you’re in a Zenn-La state of mind. How these spacemen adopted the sport of surfing we may never know. Carl Sagan died before he could explain that one apparently. We focus on Norrin Radd (he’s so rad, brah) and his hot chick “Whatta Gal” Shalla-Bal. Do you love him? Do you, Surfer Alien Girl?
Before we really get into the ocean depths of their love, we are made privy to the existence of the planet-eating Galactus who, coincidentally, looks like a Roman centurion crashing an acid rave. He has come to eat Zenn-La and everyone on it, so to save his world and his girl from this gnarly super-sized space cadet, Norrin Radd allows himself to be enslaved by Galactus, to serve his days as his interstellar escort, letting planets know he is coming to eat them, as if just showing up and eating them was far too gauche.
Norrin Radd, clad in a silver skin, surfs space. Absorb that one a while: he surfs space. Yeah.
Obviously, this character was built from whole-cloth on the notion that Marvel Comics could trendjack the suddenly hot sport of the sixties and initiate enthusiasts into market share. However, after multiple attempts over the many decades, the Silver Surfer never bounced from that third-string team of characters. His fate in the equally hapless Fantastic Four 2 movie compounded the flaws inherent in the character’s construction; that he was created to latch onto a gimmick and that gimmick didn’t have the stickiness it needed to survive credibly. This is why Hula-hoop Master and Princess Jarts never became anything.
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