What’s Up With “Fantastic Four”?

I remember back in 2012 when the sleeper hit Chronicle was released. It was made on a budget of $12 million and made a very impressive $126 million back. Quite the payday and it was all under the helm of director Josh Trank. Chronicle centers on three high school teens who get superpowers (telekinesis) and Trank brought impressive and surprising emotional depth to the story making it one of the best films of that year. I am not joking in the slightest when I say that the final scene will tear your heart to shreds. It was a grounded look at “superheroes” and what the power can do to a damaged person’s psyche. I walked out of the theater ecstatic, seeing Trank as a truly singular vision and anticipating his future as a director. Who knew it would come to this?

You may be just as overwhelmed when it comes to the whole Fantastic Four fiasco as I am. There is so much going on, too much even, that I am struggling to keep up. What I know for sure is that Fantastic Four is a disappointment. It is a disappointment on both critical as well as commercial accounts. On a budget of $120 million, it has gained approximately $64 million since its release, only gaining about $25 million and opening at #2 on its opening weekend a week ago. On the movie review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, it currently holds a 9% approval rating based on 158 reviews making it one of the worst reviewed studio superhero movies of all time. It also holds a C- Cinemascore which is the worst a studio superhero movie has ever achieved. When I saw the first teaser last year I saw so much promise in this movie. It looked like a gritty, grounded take on the longest running Marvel franchise and I guess they achieved that in a way, but the execution was some of the worst filmmaking I’ve witnessed. We can all point fingers but most of us were not on the set during filming, I know I wasn’t, but there are some theories as to who is to blame and some of the people behind the production are sure pointing fingers.

The tweet above is from director Josh Trank who stated that he had a “fantastic version” of the film that we will “probably never see.” He quickly deleted the tweet after he understood that it is never a good idea to bash your own movie, but screenshots of the tweet were taken and it is now all over the internet. The internet is not written in pencil, but in ink, that’s for sure. Days before this tweet surfaced, Trank sent an email to his actors and crew claiming that he thought the finished film was “better than 99 percent of the comic-book movies ever made.” If Trank had only left it there then all of this controversy may not have surfaced at all. Fantastic Four would have been an unmemorable bomb that would be forgotten and then rebooted in another attempt to do justice to the franchise, but he couldn’t help himself and now he is under fire with many people pointing their fingers at him for the catastrophe.

Trank claims the studio did not respect his creative vision and I wouldn’t be surprised if this were the case. Trank is a creative filmmaker who should have crafted a good if not great adaptation of the Fantastic Four and it wouldn’t be the first a studio has butted into the creative process, but not every superhero film can be The Dark Knight and Trank still may be the reason for this. It has been stated from multiple sources that Trank was “difficult” to work with and didn’t not respond well to assistance during his writing process. I’ve even heard that he would hold himself up in a tent on the set, not talking or interacting with anybody, keeping extremely withdrawn. I have also heard that he aggressively pushed a gloomy tone on the actors, attempting to get them to make their performances as flat as possible. He would even tell them when to blink and when to breath. I don’t remember anything to this magnitude occurring on the Chronicle set and actor Michael B. Jordan, who starred in Chronicle, returned to work with Trank so that must mean something, right?

Why not just fire Trank, you ask? Well, it is very possible that this notion was discussed throughout production and maybe even before. Based on the article in the Hollywood Reporter by Kim Masters, Fox decided not to fire the director due to the success of Chronicle and the idea that they had found an “in-house” director. Once the issues became extremely prevalent, filming was already long underway and at that point you can’t just hire a new director for half of a movie so they were stuck.

Whoever’s fault it was barely matters because it doesn’t detract from the fact that Fantastic Four is a mess and a monumental misfire. After this bomb and the allegations against him including some personal issues during filming that I won’t get into, I’m not entirely sure if Trank will be directing for a large studio again. It’s a shame too because he truly is a talented filmmaker, this one just got away from him. Well, on the bright side, this disaster may lead to the rights for Fantastic Four going back to Marvel. Maybe they can do it justice.

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