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Fantastic Folly

20th Century Fox’s doomed blockbuster upshot

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The box office results are in and the people have spoken—nobody likes the newest film incarnation of Marvel Comics’ primary irradiated domestic unit, the Fantastic Four.  A superhero blockbuster opening in second place and well-under the estimated box office to scathing, unremarkable, and often hilarious reviews screams flop in the most fantastic fashion. The third motion picture in 21 years with the title Fantastic Four had far more momentum going for it than had the previous two, until it way didn’t.  

After the monumental success in 2014 with X-Men: Days of Future Past, 20th Century Fox realized that there was no time like the present if they wanted to build a cinematic universe with super heroes. That; and the major film studio understood how little time they had left to manufacture another movie featuring the Fantastic Four until the film property rights reverted back to Marvel—where the gifted group would undoubtedly join their ever-expanding MCU and make that much more money for another studio.  There can be no doubt that this film had spiteful intentions from the beginning because the finished product certainly couldn’t even please general audiences (let alone fans) to prove that only the studio benefitted from producing the latest disappointing movie called Fantastic Four.

Dr. Doomish

Despite the vindictive intentions that began production, Fantastic Four had a second problem facing it before shooting began.  After hiring a cast and director, the studio optimistically announced intentions to include the Fantastic Four in a movie with their other Marvel Comics film property, the X-Men, for a shared universe.  The largest issue here is that the X-Men franchise is now in the 1980s, unlike the present-based Fantastic Four. These characters aren’t even in the same century. Surely, producer/ writer/ godfather Simon Kinberg wouldn’t dare recycle the time-travel motif to join forces in what surely would have turned into a remake of Days of Future Past.  However, Fantastic Four performed so poorly this weekend that we may thankfully never see this issue come to a head. What 1980s problems would force the X-Men to team up with present-day Fantastic Four? That’s contrivance even for comic books. Many fans saw this coming a mile away. Too bad the studio didn’t, because it’d be far worse to know 20th Century Fox is willing to dump over $100,000,000.00 into a project without regard to narrative. Oh, wait…

Fresh off the success of the low-budget, super-power-themed Chronicle, 20th Century Fox hired the director Josh Trank to helm a super hero origin on a grander scale. It made sense on paper: Trank presented a concise, dynamite superhero origin story in Chronicle and made stars of his cast despite a low budget.  However, malicious rumors about his behavior on- and off-set during the production brushed through the tabloids to upset fans. Did the studio submit a preemptive strike against him through a press leak? After production, more fuel fell in the fire when Trank “left” production in the early stages of the Star Wars anthology spin-off for which he was set to direct (now rumored specifically as the Han Solo origin).  

Trank

When the studio ordered reshoots in January of this year, further doubt surfaced among those following the earlier production woes. Trank had long left the project, so somebody had to direct these scenes/ shots. Of course, 20th Century Fox spun every concern as “rumor” and assured ticket-buyers that a well-deserved, quality Fantastic Four movie was on its way to theaters until the director tweeted a lamentable statement (which he later removed) on the evening of Thursday, August 6th, after a flurry of negative reviews and poor advance-screening sales: “A year ago I had a fantastic version of this. And it would’ve recieved (sic) great reviews. You’ll probably never see it. That’s reality though.”  

This again confirmed industry concerns that Fox booted Trank from their circle of trust over creative differences regarding Fantastic Four because he certainly doesn’t own that final cut or director’s credit.  I imagine he feels like a man who was hired to shoot some cool scenes only to turn it over to six-year-old editor on a sugar high. Whatever cut Trank had in mind, anybody who saw Fantastic Four will attest it was probably better than the madness they paid to watch. Either way, the finished product looks like a conspiracy against the filmmaker. Only one action sequence takes place in the entire film, as opposed to an original three action sequences in the director’s first script. 

Deadpool

The most crushing blow to emerge from this backfired exercise in animus now comes from new rumors about cancelling the already-green lit sequel.  Fox had such high hopes for Fantastic Four that a second adventure was planned early in production of the current film for a June 2017 release. What’s more ironic is that the budget for this untitled sequel will probably go toward a different hero’s sequel. Following strong critical and fan reactions to the recent Deadpool trailer, a sequel looks likely if Fox’s history of trigger-happy green-lighting is any indication. Should the R-rated mercenary with powers show a strong financial return, he may get a blockbuster budget for a sequel as the studio desperately needs franchise properties to compete with Warner Bros., Universal Studios, Marvel Studios, etc.  However, this idea makes too much sense for the studio to follow through with it.  

So where do these familial superheroes go from here? Or do they go anywhere? 20th Century Fox reset the clock for the Fantastic Four film property another decade before the movie rights go back to Marvel.  However, it’s possible that Marvel may make a bid now or in the weeks to come while they can still buy it for a relatively affordable amount or draw up an agreement akin to their Sony/ Spider-Man deal.  One thing is for sure, the studio’s stance is that they are “committed” to these characters.  I can’t say I believe them after sitting through Fantastic Four now and ten years ago.  At least the 1994 film made no mistake about what kind of film it was—a chance to keep the film rights another decade. And so the vicious cycle continues. Can’t say I’d want to make a movie with 20th Century Fox after this recent debacle.

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Keywords: fantastic four 2015, box office flop, 20th century fox, josh trank, fantastic four, marvel, super heroes
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