Monday Morning Quarterback Part I

Fantastic Four's Failure

By BOP Staff

August 11, 2015

Maybe if they're lucky, the Men in Black will volunteer to erase their memories.

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Kim Hollis: Fantastic Four kicked off its opening weekend with $25.7 million, well below tracking estimates *and* the 2005 film featuring the same characters. What went wrong here?

Matthew Huntley: I think a few different factors sealed this Fantastic Four reboot's fate: a) Not many people were fans of the 2005 original or its 2007 sequel. The general consensus was that both movies were too silly, light and stupid and therefore couldn't be taken as seriously as other comic book adaptations. With this in mind, few probably had much reason to give the franchise another try, even though this new version clearly has a darker, more serious tone. b) Speaking of tone, the reboot's is, in fact, darker, and my friend Eric, who's read practically all the FF comics, argued this totally goes against the source material, which may have upset many ardent readers who would have otherwise lined up to see the movie. But with such a tonal change from comic to movie, they probably felt betrayed and simply chose to ignore the movie altogether. c) Fox released it in August, which usually means two things: the studio didn't have much faith in it to begin with (something mass audiences are becoming more and more privy to); and, with few exceptions (e.g.Guardians of the Galaxy), a lot of moviegoers are simply "blockbustered" out at this point in the summer and are looking for other ways to spend their time/money.

Given the way Fantastic Four has performed, I'd be curious to see if it gets some Razzie nominations, which I wouldn't have expected just a week ago.


Ben Gruchow: The financial aspect of this isn't good, although Marvel and Fox can both afford to take a $120 million loss assuming that it bombs overseas, too. But the real significance here is the critical and audience reaction to it. None of the preceding Fantastic Four movies were good, and there have been worse Marvel projects released. Yet there was an elevated temperature around this one that you don't often see; some moviegoers had their knives drawn from the green light, but I wasn't one of them and even I felt it.

I think that it's because Fantastic Four is the absolute clearest example in a while of studio product, even more so than Amazing Spider-Man 2; I think the vitriol from the creative battles between Josh Trank and Fox bled into the parts of the movie that were his, and they clashed fiercely with the absolutely dead cinematic energy of the reshot parts. By the time the atrocious ending came around (and those godawful closing scenes) I basically felt like I'd endured 100 minutes of barely-disguised contempt crossed with anonymous [Comic Book Movie Action Here] cinematic vocabulary. It totally sapped whatever goodwill I'd had toward it.

That's why I think it got the audience reception it did. As far as what went wrong with the movie itself? My hypothesis involves five things that happened in 2012: Avengers proved there was seemingly no end to the market for bright and colorful comic-book movies; Dark Knight Rises proved there was a market for a movie where the titular superhero didn't really show up until the final act; and Amazing Spider-Man proved there was a market for mercenary reboots of 10-year-old franchises (credit Darren Franich from EW for bringing those three factoids to my attention).

Fox, apart from the "X-Men" movies, doesn't have a sterling track record when it comes to shepherding comic-book adaptations, and the list of exec producers for this project is a who's-who of names with very spotty track records; there's Stan Lee and Avi Arad, sure, but there's also Bill Bannerman, he of the Twilight movies and the Percy Jackson sequel, Robert Kulzer of the Resident Evil movies and other Constantin efforts...and for some reason Mark Millar as creative consultant, which for this franchise is kind of like hiring Rob Zombie to direct the next Pixar movie (and given his resume, pushes the idea that Matthew Vaughn was the reshoot director even more into the "absolutely" column).

Anyway, Fox sees these three things succeed, sees that they all had to varying degrees independent, personal directors behind them; Trank's Chronicle turns a big success in 2012, he makes them a pitch for a superhero movie crossed with a Cronenbergian horror flick (which is, by interview records, what he was going for) and Fox greenlights a Fantastic Four reboot with Trank at the wheel and basically tells him to go for it. Then, in 2014, Amazing Spider-Man 2 tanks with audiences and Guardians of the Galaxy blows up on the strength of being snarky and irreverent. Trank delivers a FF story in 2014 that's downbeat, without much action, without much humor; the exec producers get cold feet, flip out, and begin a halfhearted retool of the movie by committee, with the least monetary investment possible. And all of this is broadly obvious, by the way, to just about any industry insider, and therefore the Internet, and therefore the public. I'd say this movie was more or less doomed since then, pun totally intended.

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