I want to start off by saying that my heart goes out to the millions of people that spent their hard-earned money to go see the new Fantastic Four movie. We’re not talking Monopoly money, people. Well-meaning people spent millions of dollars for the right to see this film in theaters. May that money rest in peace.
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In a day and age where superhero movies are box office gold and destined to succeed, when one fails, it’s a tad bit surprising. Not every one can be on the same level as The Dark Knight or The Avengers, but most are well-received and profitable. Every few years a “Green Lantern” rolls around and reminds us that these superhero movies are just as susceptible to failure as other films. This year’s “Green Lantern” is the reboot of Marvel’s First Family, Fantastic Four, a movie that has been so negatively panned by critics and audiences alike that it has been nicknamed “Craptastic Four.”
For those unaware, 20th Century Fox owns the right to make movies based on two of Marvel’s most famous teams, the Fantastic Four and the X-Men. There have been three Fantastic Four films and seven X-Men films released since 2000. Of those ten superhero movies from Fox, only five have been universally praised: X-Men, X2, X-Men: First Class, The Wolverine, and last year’s X-Men: Days of Future Past. The other X-Men films have been horrible (X-Men: The Last Stand, X-Men Origins: Wolverine) and Fox’s Fantastic Four films have been subpar.
In a nutshell, when Fox decides to make a superhero film, there’s two outcomes — complete and utter crap or greatness. So far, the studio has hit the latter only 50 percent of the time. With a Deadpool film and more X-Men films on the horizon, one has to wonder just what can be expected of these movies after Fox has floundered with Fant4stic.
The Fantastic Four reboot failed due to many reasons (script, cast, relatedness to source material, etc.) but the biggest reason has to be the director. Josh Trank was cinema’s golden child after he directed Chronicle, released in 2012 to great reviews. It made back ten times its modest budget of only $12 million. People were rightfully impressed by his work, so much so that he was attached to direct a Star Wars Anthology film for a short time. Then Craptastic Four happened.
In the months leading up to and in the aftermath of F4’s release, plenty of gossip has been published about Josh Trank and his behavior on set. “Withdrawn,” “abusive,” and “cold” are all words that have been used to describe Trank during production. He clashed with cast members, including star Miles Teller; the two of them almost got into a fistfight at one point. Trank was especially cold toward Kate Mara, whom he didn’t want in the role of Susan Storm in the first place.
My favorite tidbit from the Craptastic Four saga was when, before the film released, Trank went to Twitter to say that his original version of Fantastic Four was fantastic and would have received great reviews. Trank quickly deleted this tweet but not before it was screenshotted by many and read by many more.
On the eve of his film’s release, Trank wanted to (understandably) distance himself from Craptastic Four and in doing so he implied that the studio somehow messed with his film. As a huge fan of superhero movies, this is a little disheartening. I wonder how much better Trank’s original vision for the film would have been than the steamy pile of dogshit that audiences instead were subjected to. Most of all, I’m concerned that Fox stepped in so much that they alienated the film’s director and possibly ruined the movie.
This isn’t the first time Fox has ruined a potentially great film. The studio had disagreements with the screenwriters during production of X-Men: The Last Stand. The original writers wanted the film’s focus to be more on Phoenix and her storyline. They had to fight Fox to retain this storyline as Fox only wanted the cure storyline so that Magneto and the X-Men fought. Eventually, the movie became a mishmash of both plotlines, making it so that Phoenix was nowhere near as fearsome as her comics counterpart and that the cure storyline didn’t have as much emotional weight as it could have had. Fox also made the decision to kill off Cyclops, originally wanting to do it off-screen through a reference in dialogue. It was also Fox’s idea to kill Professor Xavier.
Really, the majority of Fox’s successful superhero films have had Bryan Singer involved in some way. He directed X-Men, X2, and X-Men: Days of Future Past and also produced X-Men: First Class after writing an early story treatment (although First Class’s success was due to its fantastic director Matthew Vaughn, great cast, and strong script). 2013’s The Wolverine was a surprising success despite Singer not being involved in any capacity.
I’m not saying that Bryan Singer is some savior or the Kevin Feige of Fox, just that without him, the chances of a Fox superhero film being good aren’t in the studio’s favor. I have no doubt that next year’s Singer-directed X-Men: Apocalypse will be successful (despite the appearance of the titular villain), and I am looking forward to Deadpool more than almost any other movie next year.
However, Fox only went forward with Deadpool after the positive reception to the 2012 computer-generated test footage received after it was released in the summer of 2014. This makes me question if Fox really has faith in this movie. Also, the film is being helmed by a first time director in Tim Miller. He is only known for creating the opening CGI sequence in Thor: The Dark World and the title sequence in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I expect the film to do well and I don’t really think who the director is will matter. Does anybody know who directed some of this summer’s biggest hits, Jurassic World, Furious 7, or Ant-Man? Nope, because the directors had little to do with the success of those films.
Even though Fantastic Four was by all accounts a terrible piece of cinema, I don’t think that fans should be worried about 20th Century Fox’s future superhero movies. Deadpool looks like an A+ so far and Bryan Singer has a resume of X-Men success stories. However, if the studio executives decide to get too hands-on in the creation of these movies or if they decide to move forward with any more superhero movies with no clear direction for the future, then fans might have reason to worry. Until then, avoid Crapt4stic and patiently wait until Deadpool and X-Men: Apocalypse release in 2016.