By John Hamann
August 9, 2015
The question now was whether Fantastic Four would continue to implode over the rest of the weekend, or if there were enough souls who either didn’t care that this was a nightmare or were unplugged enough not to know better. Batman & Robin imploded throughout its opening frame, and in a time prior to Thursday previews, had an internal multiplier of 2.6, which was low for a superhero film. The 2005 version of Fantastic Four had a similar multiplier – it was an indication of a bad movie that had no word-of-mouth internal to the weekend. Ten years later, very little has changed. Fantastic Four followed its $11.3 million opening day with a $8.5 million Saturday (off 25% from opening day), and finished with a weekend take of only $26.2 million. Fox had a giant turd in its hands compared to the $122 million budget.
The result cut in half the tracking estimate that was at $45-50 million only a few days before release, and I don’t believe that in this case tracking was off. Yes, we have had some notorious tracking misses this summer, but the drama around the badness created this, not a research company. Reviews at the time of this writing show 13 positive out of a possible 147, and those notices were compounded by the C- Cinemascore. To compare, Batman and Robin earned a C+, and both of the earlier Fantastic Four films earned a B. Green Lantern earned a B, as did both Daredevil and Elektra. To translate, Fantastic Four wasn’t close to some of the worst superhero movies in recent history. This film has become epically bad. I can’t begin to imagine the fallout of this disaster. I had hoped the haters were wrong for an entire year, but the proof is in the pudding.
So, what happened? What could have been done here to avoid the out and out devastation we are seeing this weekend? Once we peel back all the layers, we have a cast who best known actor is Tim Blake Nelson and a director whose only credit comes from a $12 million-budgeted sci-fi found footage flick. When newbie Chris Hemsworth did Thor, they surrounded him with actors like Natalie Portman and Anthony Hopkins. When Chris Evans became Captain America, he had already been in two Fantastic Four movies, so they surrounded him with Tommy Lee Jones, Hugo Weaving, and Sam Jackson. Thor was directed by Kenneth Branagh, a helmer with a couple of strong credits, and with Captain America, they hired Joe Johnston, again a veteran.
Making a movie is like having a big team, and the 2015 edition of Fantastic Four had no leader. This group was delivering a $122 million product, so there was a lot at stake. When this went weird early, someone needed to step in. That never happened, so Fox and Marvel are at fault here as well. This release damages the Marvel brand, but they will overcome. I would imagine that they will pay closer attention to upcoming films, like Gambit, and will hopefully learn some lessons when they reboot the Spiderman franchise.