UPDATE: I've now seen the movie for myself and graded it a C+ (average with some bright spots). You can read the full review here.
Keeping up The Fantastic Four has probably been more entertaining than the actual movie will turn out. But if first reactors are to be believed, the film may end up being a hit after all.
Since its inception, fans have been lashing out at Fox over their choice to revitalize the Fantastic Four outside the realm of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Longtime F4 fans are even boycotting the film, hoping it proves unsuccessful enough for the character rights to end up back in the hands of Marvel Studios and Disney.
It's been controversy after controversy, from the overall look of the film and casting to new creative choices. The trailers have received ire for cliche dialogue and a vague handling of the prime villain of the potential franchise, Dr. Doom.
Fantastic Four will open in theaters this weekend, but another possible red flag has caught the attention of moviegoers and critics. The film's embargo won't be lifted until the day it releases, and for now, there will be no screenings for the press. That means critics won't get a chance to review the film until a sizable chunk of people go to see it this weekend.
In many cases, keeping critics away from screenings is a sign that the studio doesn't have much faith in the movie to earn recommendations and early buzz. This trend is so obvious at this point, however, that some studios screen their bad movies anyway to avoid the expectation that it will be bad.
And vice versa. It's a delicate strategy, and there's no surefire way to tell if the lack of screenings is a good or bad thing. In the case of Fantastic Four, I'm reminded of the first GI: Joe film that released in 2009. Like F4, many people expected it to be pretty terrible, and it also kept critics away from screenings.
Strangely, GI: Joe Rise of Cobra ended up being a decent movie with some pretty good reviews. It would appear that the strategy there was to prevent people who knew they would hate it from controlling the first round of word of mouth. So it's possible that Fox is relying on fans to give F4 the lift it needs to strike a chord with casual moviegoers who might actually like the film.
A good sign, then, is that early screeners are so far praising the film. Bleeding Cool has reported that fans in the UK, Canada, and United States have enjoyed the movie, and almost nothing negative has come from the screenings.
One fan said, "This movie is a must-see." Another simply called it (in all caps and with several exclamation marks), "Awesome!" Here are a few of the Tweets that went out:
Of course, it's possible that they liked the film out of appreciation for being invited to the screening. This happened with Green Lantern in 2011 (fans invited to early screenings shouted praises for the movie). And in both cases, people who disliked the film may be less vocal about their opinion.
It's too early to draw any conclusions at this point, but you can't deny that this is at least a good sign. Fox has upped their marketing to tie in Deadpool, reminding moviegoers that they're the studio behind popular franchises that aren't getting boycotted.
Hopefully, this weekend, we'll get some answers. They'll be something besides "doom."