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What Went Wrong?: Vol. 54 – Fantastic Flop Edition
September 7, 2015Posted by on
After years of languishing in development hell, last August Fox finally released their Fantastic Four reboot. Directed by would-be wunderkind Josh Trank and starring Michael B. Jordan, Miles Teller, Toby Kebbell, Kate Mara, and Jamie Bell, the film was meant to re-launch the Fantastic Four into a brand-new film franchise for 20th Century Fox, joining their successful X-Men film relaunch. The mega-budgeted production flopped at the box office, however, drawing in only 26.2 million dollars on opening weekend, or roughly half of what the previous Fantastic Four origin film, from 2005, did on its opening weekend. Thus far the film has grossed around 160 million dollars worldwide against a budget of 120 million, making it a huge money loser for Fox, who could take a write-off of up to 100 million dollars or more on the project. So, what exactly went wrong?
In 2012, director Josh Trank’s found-footage sci-fi film Chronicle debuted to healthy box office and positive critical acclaim, establishing Trank, along with the likes of Jurassic World director Colin Trevorrow, as one of the up-and-coming and in-demand young Hollywood directors. By July 2012, Trank would be tapped to direct the Fantastic Four reboot and his name would eventually be in contention for directing a Star Wars spin-off film as well. However, seemingly years of bad press and negative buzz surrounded his Fantastic Four project, so much so that Disney preemptively dropped Trank from their short-list of Star Wars directors and Fox allegedly pulled the reigns of control away from him in the Fantastic Four editing room. Producers Simon Kinberg and Hutch Parker allegedly re-wrote much of the film’s script, including a change to the ending.
Negative buzz also surrounded the casting of the film, primarily in the casting of Michael B. Jordan, an African-American actor, in the role of Johnny Storm, a Caucasian character in the comic book. I am one of those so-called progressives who does not give a shit about the skin color of an actor playing a comic book character, but the casting was met with disdain across the internet nonetheless. Michael B. Jordan is a talented and charismatic actor with quite the filmography, but apparently this wasn’t good enough for internet neckbeard xenophobes, so a huge deal was made out of it. The supporting cast, made up of eccentric actors like Miles Teller (best known for indie productions) and Toby Kebbell (best known for providing the motion-capture for the villain in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) wasn’t met with much acclaim either.
Additionally, a story eventually broke out regarding director Josh Trank’s rental house in Louisiana during filming. Apparently, Trank’s dogs caused around $100,000 in damages to the house, and Fox was not happy about Trank’s bizarre behavior during filming in general. It was this rumor that led directly to Trank’s removal from the Star Wars spin-off. A lack of communication between Trank and the producers led to continued upheaval. Producers on the film eventually ordered expensive and extensive re-shoots, and the film was re-edited significantly without Trank’s approval or involvement. One day before Fantastic Four’s theatrical release, Trank released a controversial message regarding the film to his Twitter account, where he claimed he had a vision for a much better film and implied producer interference meant no one would ever be able to see it.
As we know, Fantastic Four flopped on release. The film scored an atrocious 9% on aggregate review site Rotten Tomatoes, and a dreadful 27 on Metacritic. Online reaction was universally toxic, with many enjoying significant schadenfreude over the failure of the production on message boards and social media across the internet. And now, just about six weeks after the film debuted in theaters, it seems it has already been forgotten, wiped from our memories and erased permanently from moviegoers’ minds forever. Where Trank’s career goes from here is anyone’s guess, but it’s likely he’ll never be handed the keys to a mega-budget franchise film ever again. Funny how Trevorrow ended up with one of the biggest films of all time and his contemporary Trank ended up with the year’s most notorious flop.