“Fantastic Four” has been making the wrong kinds of headlines for months, ranging from reports that director Josh Trank was pulled from shooting a “Star Wars” spinoff after word of his behavior on the set leaked out, to the cast’s admission that even they weren’t being shown the movie before it opened. Evidently things aren’t likely to get any better, as the first reviews jumping out ahead of the embargo originally set for tomorrow call it a 100-minute trailer (or, in Variety’s case, a “teaser”) for a movie that never seems to actually start. The cast, which includes Miles Teller, Kate Mara, Michael B. Jordan, and Jamie Bell, gets decent marks, with critics finding their non-superheroic rapport reasonably engaging. But the film squanders more than half its length on (re-)telling the group’s origin story, leaving precious little time to devote to the inevitable showdown with Doctor Doom. Although the “X-Men” movies keep humming along, it seems Sony made the right move in hitching future “Spider-Man” movies to Marvel Studios’ star rather than developing along their own, isolated lines. If comic-book fans react to “Fantastic Four” anything like critics have, the Human Torch may flicker out once again.
Reviews of “Fantastic Four”
Todd McCarthy, Hollywood Reporter
“Fantastic Four” feels like a 100-minute trailer for a movie that never happens. At this point in the ever-expanding cinematic superhero game, it behooves any filmmakers who gets involved to have at least a mildly fresh take on their characters and material, but this third attempt to create a worthy cinematic franchise from the first of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s iconic comic book creations, which can genuinely claim to have launched the Age of Marvel, proves maddeningly lame and unimaginative. A sense of heaviness, gloom and complete disappointment settles in during the second half, as the mundane set-up results in no dramatic or sensory dividends whatsoever. Even if lip-service is paid to some great threat to life on Earth as we know it, the filmmakers bring nothing new to the formula, resulting in a film that’s all wind-up and no delivery. If the writers couldn’t think of anything interesting to do with these characters in this first series reboot, they do nothing to inspire the viewer to expect they could do something exciting with a sequel.
Brian Lowry, Variety
Where many recent superhero movies have risked overstaying their welcome, “Fantastic Four,” at 100 minutes, actually feels a tad rushed at the end, with a hasty climax that nevertheless produces some solid moments — at least a few of which, given the slow pace initially, probably should have come at least a half-hour sooner. Alas, it takes a long time before anyone gets around to clobbering much of anything. And because it’s hardly a mystery that the heroes will end up united and facing off with Doom, there’s a sense of killing time in the early going that’s not adequately compensated for by the fate-of-the-world-in-the-balance action sequence that finally ensues.
Tim Grierson, Screen International
“Fantastic Four’s” failure is even more dispiriting considering that Trank’s “Chronicle” was, in essence, a superhero origin film, cleverly revitalizing the found-footage genre to tell the story of some young men who stumble upon incredible powers that ultimately destroy them because they lack the necessary discipline. That scenario recalls “Fantastic Four,” but with a much bigger budget and grander, more self-important themes, Trank can’t summon up the inventiveness, pathos or edge that made “Chronicle” so stirring. Even the new film’s action scenes feel choppy and unimpressive. As for the cast, they’re mostly lending a sense of authority to a movie utterly lacking in confidence or vision.
Alonso Duralde, the Wrap
It’s one thing for a movie to leave you wanting a sequel and quite another to make you wish you were watching that sequel instead. “Fantastic Four” — the second attempt by Fox and the third by Hollywood in general to bring Marvel Comics’ popular superteam to the big screen — offers glimmers of good things to come in its final moments, but only after the audience has slogged through yet another dispiriting origin story and yet another Earth-rescuing battle in a bland, CG-created nowhere land. Once we get to the inevitable showdown — rubber-limbed Reed, disappearing Sue, pyrotechnic Johnny and rock-covered Ben versus metal-encased, energy-manipulating Victor — it’s too little, too late. The big finale, for all its inevitability, at least offers some hope of excitement, but by that time, it’s all too easy to have checked out of “Fantastic Four.”
Henry Barnes, Guardian
You can feel this giant film straining for indie cred. Mara’s character listens to Portishead to unwind. Teller and Jordan share a nice moment where dorky Reed Richards responds to Johnny’s fist bump with a gentle open-palmed pat. Yet none of these details fit into the whole. They’re just weird kinks, mumblecore-y elements in another shiny franchise picture whipped out for a quick buck.
Tom Huddleston, Time Out
For the first 45 minutes or so, “Fantastic Four” is actually a lot of fun. We’re squarely in Joe Dante country, as pre-teen science whiz Reed Richards and his bulky best-pal-cum-bodyguard Ben Grimm set to work on the world’s first inter-dimensional teleportation device. The second half is nothing more than a sub-“Avengers” roundelay of superhero tics: naff catchphrases, brain-grinding exposition and lifeless punch-ups, the talented cast totally overwhelmed by the duff CG special effects. It’s a shame, because there are points early on where this promises to transcend its silly source material and become a worthwhile addition to an increasingly overstuffed and predictable genre.
David Jenkins, Little White Lies
In stripping back this origin story adventure to its base elements, producing a work that one might describe Fleischer-esque, Trank and co-conspirators actually allow ample room for deeper reading. Sure, there are times where characters state quite clearly what the thematic intentions are, but there’s always a sense that this is a sleight of hand in the writing, and that the invites to see this as something as more than it is are numerous.
This is a non-judgmental film about the vast creative power of millennials, how that power is being forcibly co-opted and skewed by older generations (aka, capitalists and militarists, mainly male), and the idealistic efforts said millennials then undertake to preserve their intellectual wares. Fantastic Four is a modern film which looks at and understands how younger generations are becoming a more dominant power base in the world, that a timeworn political hierarchy is changing as elders either scoff at the wild creations of their errant offspring, as in one scene, where they are too busy gawping at their mobile phones to spot that they are being socially usurped.
Emma Diblin, Digital Spy
In the face of such bad buzz, it’s hard not to feel a little sorry for the finished product, which is a harmless and endearingly cartoonish throwback to more simple comic book movie times.
But whatever strengths “Fantastic Four” has, it does not feel like a movie directed by Trank (who made such a striking debut with 2012’s bold anti-superhero fable “Chronicle”) or for that matter by anyone. It’s a muddled and underdeveloped origin story which segues jarringly from light-hearted adventure to heavy-handed grit, grasping for a gravitas that it hasn’t earned.
The scenes that work best are those that require no effects and minimal action, when the film’s appealing young cast are given free reign to play off one another – Teller and Jordan being, unsurprisingly, the charismatic standouts. Even with relationships as surface-deep as the ones here, there’s something endearing about their interactions and the film’s emphasis on friendship.
Unfortunately those moments get fewer and further between as the story unfolds, with the third act losing itself entirely in cliched dramatic beats and a would-be climactic final battle that feels utterly weightless and lacking in any stakes.