What a mess “Fantastic Four” is turning out to be for 20th Century Fox. The movie failed to even surpass $30 million at the box office in its opening weekend — that’s the lowest grossing superhero film since 2011’s “Green Hornet,” which is already only loosely defined by those tropes anyhow. You’ve surely read the pitiful “Fantastic Four” reviews (here’s ours, audiences gave it a C- Cinemascore), and you’ve likely heard the rumors earlier this year that director Josh Trank was allegedly fired from his “Star Wars” film because of his erratic behavior on the set of “Fantastic Four” (which Trank vehemently denied; he says he quit because of all the pressure and negative press he received this year and wanted to do something more under the radar).
There’s obviously more going on. Trank blew the doors off everything late last week in a tweet that he quickly deleted. But obviously, nothing is ever truly deleted on the internet, and Trank implied (though not outright stated) that 20th Century Fox was responsible for the failure of his “Fantastic Four.” Well, as you might have guessed, more details have surfaced, and there appears to be blame going in all directions.
To start with, one doesn’t really need it spelled out know that the superhero film was marked by studio interference. “Fantastic Four” is obviously riddled with problems and even a layman can see, that third act was tacked on and part of the movie’s lengthy reshoots (and aside from The Weinstein Company, Fox has the worst reputation for this type of meddling). “Fantastic Four” is a rather schizophrenic film, a movie that opens with a teenage science fiction tale that fast forwards to shoehorn in traditional superhero beats and themes of teamwork (if you want to spot the reshoots, just keep an eye on poor Kate Mara’s hair going from wig to wig and back to her real hair again often in the same scene). Or take a look at the trailers for “Fantastic Four,” which feature numerous scenes that didn’t make the version that hit theaters.
Nevertheless, Entertainment Weekly has details and they really shouldn’t be much of a surprise for anyone who has seen the mess of a final film. Clearly the magazine has people on both sides giving them information.
EW says 20th Century Fox “delayed casting and script approvals, slashed the budget by tens of millions from what was originally promised, and tried to force last-minute changes to the film just as principal photography was beginning.” This sentiment is echoed by a Collider podcast (which you can listen to below in full), where John Campea says “three really big action set pieces” were cut from the movie very last minute.
“They had agreed upon this vision for a film. And days before production began, Fox came in and made him pull 3 main action sequences out of the film. I was also told, the ending of the film was not even Josh Trank’s. At some point they hijacked the editing bay from him. To the point that the editing of the film was done without him,” Campea said.
EW also adds that Fox wanted a bigger-named cast, but Trank won that battle by hiring Miles Teller, Michael B. Jordan, Kate Mara, and Jamie Bell. But because of this, it led Fox to delay script approval, which in turn prevented crew workers, set builders, costumer designers, and more from working on the movie, creating an atmosphere of confusion and stress.
While there had been months of rumors of destructive behavior on the part of Trank, one source who spoke to EW says, “Trank broke, for sure, but was driven to the breaking point by the studio, and that his clash was not with [producer Simon] Kinberg but Fox production president Emma Watts.” The entire thing is a big fiasco and the EW piece is worth reading in its entirety.
By the way, the latest rumors (take these with a grain of salt) suggest that 20th Century Fox may sidestep a “Fantastic Four” sequel by placing a “Deadpool” followup in its place. While that sounds well and good and potentially feasible, it remains to be seen if “Deadpool” will be a huge hit, so we should really take a wait and see approach.
What’s likely clear is no matter how badly “Fantastic Four” bombed at the U.S. box office this weekend, the studio desperately needed this franchise back and running otherwise the rights will revert back to Marvel (something they’ll never want to do). So, even if this film does flop, I’d be deeply surprised if Fox reboots once again, probably preferring to keep the cast they have now and see how they can softly restart things with a new movie while still keeping some kind of continuity. “Fantastic Four 2” is currently set for a June 9, 2017, which underlines the problem with cart-before-the-horse approaches to release dates.