It's clobberin' time for "Fantastic Four," but the Josh Trank-directed film isn't the one doing the clobberin'.
Unimpressed movie critics say this latest reboot of Marvel's first superteam — played by Miles Teller, Michael B. Jordan, Kate Mara and Jamie Bell — begins promisingly enough but never catches fire, and ultimately devolves into a generic CGI showdown.
The Times' Kenneth Turan writes, "Unlike most other movies from the Marvel Comics universe, 'Fantastic Four,' in its first half at least, is determined to tell its origins story of brainy kids working on the science project of a lifetime, with an emphasis on the reality and believability of the characters and their relationships with one another. In this, it's helped by young actors … strong enough to make that happen."
Alas, Turan says, "This good work gets ignored in the film's second half, when generic science fiction peril takes over and Hollywood's umpteenth black hole gets press-ganged into service to once again threaten life on Earth as we know it." Once that happens, "We've seen it all before, and it's safe to say we'll be seeing it all again as well."
The New York Times' A.O. Scott says the new "F4" movie "feels less like a tale of superhero beginnings than like a very long precredit opening sequence."
More damningly, Scott writes, "'Fantastic Four,' despite the dogged efforts of its talented young cast, has nothing. The special effects are at about the level of the early 'Harry Potter' movies — lots of glowing green clouds and ice-blue bolts and force fields. The human drama is meager. … The only real pathos belongs to Mr. Bell's Ben, who finds himself trapped in a stony new body and weaponized by a ruthless government. Mr. Teller stretches, not as an actor but as a digitally enhanced body. Mr. Jordan burns in the same way, and Ms. Mara disappears. Her character also has the power to make other things vanish. I would say she should have exercised it on this movie, but in a week or two that should take care of itself."
The AV Club's A.A. Dowd gives the latest "Fantastic" film a C-minus grade and says it "isn't as chintzy as the not-intended-for-release '90s version, nor is it as throwaway dopey as the two widely mocked Jessica Alba vehicles of last decade. But those adaptations at least had the good sense to embrace the pulpy, light-hearted spirit of their Stan Lee source material. This 'Fantastic Four,' as misshapen as The Thing himself, takes a full hour to even grant its superheroes their superpowers. It's shockingly humorless and glacially slow for a film featuring a bendy boy genius, an invisible woman, a human torch, and a talking pile of stones."
The Hollywood Reporter's Tom McCarthy calls "Fantastic Four" "maddeningly lame and unimaginative," agreeing with Scott that it "feels like a 100-minute trailer for a movie that never happens."
McCarthy adds, "A sense of heaviness, gloom and complete disappointment settles in during the second half, as the mundane setup pays 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. The fact that the writers couldn't think of anything interesting to do with these characters in this first series reboot does not bode well for any potential excitement in a sequel."
New York magazine's Bilge Ebiri writes, "Given the level of talent involved both in front of and behind the camera, nobody should feel much joy — no anti-tentpole schadenfreude or blockbuster-busting righteousness — to discover that the latest 'Fantastic Four' film is a catastrophe."
Ebiri adds, "Trank is unable to put together any convincing action scenes; it's like somebody turned the lights on and revealed all the smoke and mirrors involved in the making of such films. One doesn't want to lay the blame entirely on the director, however, especially if the reports of extended reshoots and last-minute recutting are to be believed. Who knows how much of the film is actually 'his' at this point? But it's hard to see how anything effective might have emerged out of this disaster at any point. The rot runs deep, and nobody is immune."
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