The new Fantastic Four hits theaters this weekend, but reviews have already appeared today, and they do not bode well for the franchise reboot.
Critics across the board are blasting Fox's latest superhero offering, leaving it sitting at a dismal 20% on the Rotten Tomato meter. The issues with the film are wide-ranging, with some slamming the direction, others the plot, the characters and even the effects. It seems that if these reviews are to be believed, there is almost nothing to enjoy in the movie.
Brian Lowry at Variety describes the film as "another also-ran - not an embarrassment, but an experiment that didn't gel", and takes issue with the pacing of the film that stems from the fact that this is yet another superhero origin story.
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.
Todd McCarthy at The Hollywood Reporter has a similar issue with the film, calling out the slow build up to a final battle that just doesn't succeed as a climactic finish.
Fantastic Four feels like a 100-minute trailer for a movie that never happens.
All of this takes at least an hour and it’s build-up to…nothing at all. 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.
Emma Dibden at Digital Spy also comments on the disappointing climax, and suggests that the film's major issue is that it's not sure what tone it's going for. Is this a DC-style gritty movie, or more of a Marvel-style comedy?
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 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.
Alonso Duralde at The Wrap has a different issue, and talks about the bland and uninspired scenery and the poorly-done effects - a huge disappointment for such a big budget production.
Not helping matters is the sheer ugliness of the final battlefield; the digital fakery is so very obvious that it’s difficult to engage with their surroundings as an actual place. To its credit, the movie does a fine job of portraying Reed’s stretching, Ben’s craggy body and Sue’s force field. (Johnny, alas, suffers from having a very cartoony face when his flames are on.)
Even the villain came under fire, with Craig Hunter of Screenrelish claiming that "as with most Marvel properties, the signature villain is the biggest let down".
The most positive responses of all seem to suggest that the film gave them some hope that a sequel could be better, but the issue here is that a studio may well be reticent to create a sequel should the original film turn out to be a flop. And, of course, even if they did, who is to say that disappointed viewers would even be willing to see a sequel in theaters?
These terrible reviews are just the last in a long line of issues to plague the movie, which has already suffered from director issues and negative fan reactions to everything from casting to news and rumors about changes to the characters. Add this to the forgettable original films, and anyone would be forgiven for thinking that this new Fantastic Four franchise may be dead in the water before it even hits theaters.
While some argue that movie-goers, especially comic book fans, will still go see the film in theaters, there is no doubt that many do look at reviews before choosing to spend their hard-earned money. With many fans already less-than-excited about it, this could be the last nail in the coffin, predicting a box office flop and the end of the franchise.
However, there is some hope for the film yet, as the first audience reactions roll in...and are largely positive.
Those lucky fans to attend pre-screenings took to twitter with their comments, and unlike the critics, they seemed to think it was... well, fantastic! Fans claimed it was "amazing" and would "surprise all the haters", which should certainly surprise the critics!
Perhaps cast member Miles Teller (Reed Richards) was right when he told BBC Newsbeat that he didn't expect the film to be well-received by critics, but that audiences should still enjoy it.
"Rarely are films of this size critically well received," he said. "This is not a movie we're going to go on (review website) Rotten Tomatoes and it's going to be at 80 or 90 per cent. We tried to make something coming from a more dramatic standpoint so we're hoping that people enjoy it and recognize that we're trying to do something original.
From reactions so far, it seems that he's right; critics hate it, but audiences love it. However, it remains to be seen who the casual movie-goer will listen to - will they put more stock in the man on the street, or the professional critic? And if the critics are right, and the movie tanks, will Fox keep pushing forward with the franchise, or is this the last chance for the Fantastic Four to join the big names in comic book movies?
Fantastic Four hits theaters August 7th.