The Silver Surfer Is Coming

My guess is that the Surfer will primarily — and sadly — be an excuse to justify a stupidly large CGI/special effects budget.
The Silver Surfer by Ron Lim

Some of you might have seen the news — a second Fantastic Four film is in the works. I confess that I never saw the first one, partly because I was never a huge fan of the comic books, and partly because the movie looked like, well, shite. I guess I’m just not in the drooling fanboy, ​“Jessica Alba is hott” demographic that the studio was hoping would come out in droves and make the movie a box office success.

However, I am slightly curious about the inevitable sequel for one reason, and one reason only. If the sequel’s title is any indication — Fantastic Four and the Silver Surfer — the Silver Surfer will have a fairly prominent role in the film.

The Silver Surfer has been rumored to come to the silver screen (npi) for many years now, with various directors — including Brett Ratner (boo!) and David O. Russell (yay!) — attached courtesy of the rumor mill. But it looks like Mr. Norrin Radd will finally be appearing in theatres in some capacity. And while part of me is jumping for joy, the other part of me is preparing to gnash my teeth.

As I’ve mentioned before, the Silver Surfer is one of my fave comic book characters. Granted, the character’s concept is a little hokey — he’s a semi-naked, muscle-bound, silver-skinned alien who flies through space… on a surfboard — but the Surfer is nobler than noble, a lonely, introspective soul plagued with guilt over the terrible things he’s been a party to while serving as Galactus’ sentinel, and constantly seeking to atone for his sins while getting involved in various cosmic adventures, saving the universe, etc.

Unfortunately, I somehow doubt that any of that will make it onto the screen. Rather, my guess is that the Surfer will primarily be an excuse to justify a stupidly large CGI/​special effects budget.

But let’s assume the best for a moment. Let’s assume the movie won’t suck, and that the character will actually be written fairly well, and won’t be so much computer animation wankery. In order for the character to have any depth or soul — which I argue is absolutely necessary for the Surfer — you’ve got have a solid human performance at the center of it all. Something you can use as a foundation upon which to pile all of the digital effects. But who?

I did start compiling a list of actors that might be at least interesting in the role, but the more I thought about it, the more all of those choices seemed wrong. Perhaps the best way to do the Silver Surfer is to not use a real actor at all. Rather, go the route of King Kong and Gollum, and use motion capture and digital actors. That gives you the best of both worlds — the eye-popping digital effects (which, let’s face it, will be absolutely necessary for all things related to the Power Cosmic) and the acting chops necessary for giving the character the right depth.

Of course, expecting the sequel to follow in the steps of some of the most expensive and highest grossing films of all time is a bit much. But maybe WETA will feel up to doing some pro bono work. Who knows?

Actually, let’s just scrap the whole notion of the Surfer ever appearing in live action once and for all, and do things right. Hire a topnotch animation studio — someone like Gonzo or Production I.G — and do a full-length animated Silver Surfer movie with a non-kiddie mentality. And get a complete unknown to do the voice. I doubt Hollywood, or Marvel for that matter, will ever go for something like that. But if you really think about it, it practically goes without saying that an animated film would be many times better than any live action interpretation.

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