Cultural Junkdrawer – ‘Fantastic Four’ – What Went Wrong Part 2: Deals with the Devil, Disney, and Deadpool

GameStop, Inc.

Well, it’s come and gone; the Fantastic Four reboot hit theaters this weekend and ended up with about a $26 million opening. Falling far short of the studio’s projected take; even losing out to Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation in its second week. In an age where Superhero movies are the dominant species of the blockbuster movie landscape, not having a tremendous opening is perceived as a failure (even Ant Man’s $58 million dollar opening had some grumblings from the more cynical corners). The opening Fantastic Four had requires a visit to the thesaurus for descriptive words related to “Flop”.

While not Catwoman or Batman and Robin level of bad, the general consensus is that the movie is, at best, dull. Dull; the ONE thing a movie about super powered beings fighting evil where the world hangs in the balance shouldn’t be. But let’s be honest here; there has been a dark cloud hanging over this production from the get-go. I believe the proper term is “Bad Buzz” and the new FF has had it like a swarm of angry mutant killer bees since day one. Some bad buzz has been deserved, some has been due to bad decisions, some is the result of a dog-pile mentality that permeates our culture in general and what passes for entertainment journalism in specific. Maybe this project was doomed from the start. Maybe, if the circumstances and choices were different we’d have a great movie on our hands. Only the Watcher knows for sure (yes, I know Uatu is gone, it was a good line, shut up). Instead I’ll just have to go over the events leading up to this weekend and try to form an evenhanded and clear-eyed picture. Here’s part 2. For Part 1: Giant Mutant Killer Bees! (the early years) click HERE.

January 26th 2015 – Trank and Kinburg talk to Collider (the place to go to muddy the waters further!) with damage control attempts. With very little to show and talk about not marketing films in the way EVERY film is now marketed (production blogs, twitter sneaks, a little fan service here and there), and the general silence in the face of all the bad things being said comes across as too little, too late, and desperate spin. Most modern media savvy folk aren’t buying it.

January 27th 2015 – The first teaser trailer arrives.

One (self-proclaimed) clever columnist, who had been making a conscious decision to not dog pile a problematic project said this on Fanboy Nation: “Not to hate on the new Fantastic Four movie, which has an uphill climb for obvious reasons, but this trailer makes me think it’s a commercial for a vaguely sinister tech company. I expect the trailer to end with a corporate logo for “OMNI-CORP” and the ad line “You don’t know who we are but we’re EVERYWHERE!”

Ok, I’m hating a little.”

No, the trailer didn’t really turn thing around.

See the rest of this column put in hy-larious game form HERE.

February 9th 2015 – Marvel and Sony announce that Spiderman is swinging back into the MCU. Fans are ecstatic… somehow many turn this around on Fox seeing it as a gauntlet being thrown down. Hard not to, really. At least Sony admitted that they could use help.

Sometime around April 10th 2015 – In the halls of Lucasfilm productions two junior executives chat over coffee:

“How did your date with that Fox executive go last night?”

“We had drinks at this cool, hole in the wall place in Hermosa, ridiculed some hippie with a guitar on the street, and then kicked some old dogs. He popped a kid’s balloon and made her cry, it was fun. It even got intimate!”

“Oooh, do tell, did you hook up?”

“No, we compared our personal contracts with Satan.”

“Wow, you must really like this guy!”

“Yeah. Things were going good but he seemed distracted.”

“How so?”

“Well, he’s part of the team dealing with the Fantastic Four reboot and he says that the director screwed everything, has been acting like an ass-hat, and is a RCH from self-destructing and taking the whole movie with him. Trank pulled a rock star and trashed his house doing over a hundred large in damage. My guy even had to go down to Louisiana to apologize to crew members. Imagine having to talk to the labor and apologize even!”

“Sooooo, all the scuttlebutt about Trank is true?”

“Pretty much. In fact it’s worse than the rumors, like the dead hooker and High Lord Xenu gave about thirty pages of notes for re-shoots but things have been hushed up. You want to meet for lunch?”

“Love to but I just remembered a meeting I have with Kathleen Kennedy I need to go to.”

“The big wig, huh? You’re such a name dropper.”

(This bit is, of course, pure fiction; no person in LA ever uses the term “Scuttlebutt”)

SOMETIME DURING THIS PERIOD – Fox moves Hitman: Agent 47 (itself a reboot of a fizzled movie from 2007) from August 28th to the 21st possibly anticipating that FF will have run out of steam inside two weeks (also possibly to poach the 2nd week audience from Warner’s Man from U.N.C.L.E. which, if you squint, kinda share the same demographic.)

April 16th – 19th – Trank is conspicuously absent from the Star Wars celebration in the Disney stronghold of Anaheim despite being slated to direct a Star Wars spin-off movie. Oh, HELL does the rumor mill on-line go bat-shit crazy with this tidbit!

May 1st 2015 – Josh Trank drops out of the Star Wars spin-off movie citing personal reasons.

May 4th 2015 – LA Times Hero Complex prints Trank’s explanation of dropping out of STAR WARS: ASS-LOADS OF MONEY!

He denies the erratic rumors, says he and Kinburg (a producer on the Star Wars film as it were) are fine, and says nice things about his dogs and landlord. Despite the Paddy Chayefsky script comment you can’t help but feel a little bad for the guy.

July 11th 2015 – SDCC, Hall H – Fox brings out the cast and (above the line) crew of Fantastic Four. Everyone puts on a brave face. Miles Teller reveals that he was considered for Spider-Man at one point. Kate Mara talked about the family aspects of the script. Jordan calls it “A dream come true”. Trank is moderately disarming but with a hint of the tribulation he’s gone through with him saying “I have not been to Comic-Con since I was 15. I stopped coming because it got too Hollywood. So this is ironic.” I guess Fox might’ve popped for a workshop after all.

Everybody loses their shit over Deadpool trailer. Which banked more goodwill in a few minutes than FF has accumulated in MONTHS! Except… why no official internet release?

July 24th – Bryan Singer floats (or is that leaks) the idea of an X-Men/FF crossover. This generates the most positive excitement for FF that the film has experienced. “There are those ideas in play,” Singer said. “That would be a natural match-up because they’re both ensemble films and there is a mechanism by which to do it.”

He added, “We have to see how the films turn out — how this film turns out, how Fantastic Four plays, to really understand what kind of desire and how that would really work. I think to just say you’re gonna do it is a mistake. You have to see how the films evolve before you make the decision to completely commit to that.”

Singer would not give further details about the how the franchises would be combined other than saying: “It deals with time. That’s all I’m going to say.”

Essentially “Go see Fantastic Four or no cross-over for you guys.” Well played, Singer… well played.

As a side note X-Men: Apocalypse gets some backlash over a pic of Apocalypse from EW:

sadapocalypse

Odds are X-Men will weather this storm fine, though.

July 27th 2015 – Fox puts an embargo on releasing reviews for FF till the afternoon of the day before release. This does happen to films. It’s not as bad as not screening the film for critics before it opens but at this stage it is seen as large bloody writing on the wall.

August 2nd 2015 – Ummmm, we get the embargo but remember when you said last paragraph that it is really bad when a film is not screened for critics? Even the cast hasn’t seen the final cut. Miles Teller is the first to get out ahead of the on-coming shit storm by diplomatically saying “Rarely are films of this size critically well-received. This is not a movie we’re going to go on RottenTomatoes and it’s going to be at 80 or 90 percent.”

For the record, Rottentomatoes scores- Avengers – 92%, X-Men: Days of Future Past – 91%, Guardians of the Galaxy – 91%, Captain America: Winter Soldier – 89%, Avengers: Age of Ultron – 74%, Antman – 79%…

August 3rd – Kinberg tells EW “I am proud of this film. It is not a disaster.” (SEE “Damning with faint praise” in Pt1) He says Trank got the worst of it and it never stopped: “I think there was something about Josh’s identity that made him a good target … People were either rooting against [him], or his personality troubled the press. So it just got viewed differently than any other movie.”

August 3rd – Deadpool announces that his trailer will be seen before Fantastic Four this weekend. So that’s why they were saving it! The first trailer for Star Wars Episode One: We’re Not Showing Our Kids That One sure helped the Wing Commander opening weekend back in the 90’s.

August 4th – Fox says “Fuck it”, just like the Merc with the Wouth would, and releases the trailer on-line here it is cause it’s awesome! (Red band NSFW)

August 7th – Trank officially cashes out with a tweet “A year ago I had a fantastic version of this, and it would’ve received great reviews. You’ll probably never see it. That’s reality though.” This tweet is quickly removed but it had already spread like wildfire. Trank’s notebook from the “Handling media” workshop is found and reveals nothing but doodles of The Millennium Falcon and Nine inch nails lyrics in it.

THE MOVIE HITS SCREENS (and the doo doo hits the fan)!

(More) August 7th – Fantastic Four has a 9% on Rottentomatoes with review headlines like “Just give the license back to Marvel already!” and “Not wholesale terrible just depressingly mediocre.” All signs point to a fatally compromised end product devoid of personality, joy, excitement and charm.

August 9th – As of Sunday evening FF opening weekend looks to be a shade over $26 million. The foreign market looks pretty soft too with just over $34 million from forty three markets (Hollywood Reporter figures.) A cinema score of C- (lower than the universally reviled “Pixels”, which at 18% on Rottentomatoes doubles FF’s rating) makes it a safe bet the movie won’t have any legs. Final figures don’t roll in till the 10th but it’s unlikely the gap with Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation will close.

Rumors are already floating that the summer 2017 date for FF 2 is being re-slotted by a Deadpool sequel instead. Talk of the X-Men/FF cross-over changed dramatically from Friday to Sunday. Denny’s is stuck holding thousands of gallons of “Thing Sauce”.

Yes, it really is a real "thing". Pun wholeheartedly intended.

“I guess we could do a cross-promotion with ‘The Martian’… call it ‘Mars sauce’… or Matt Damon juice… just brainstorming here…” Yes, it really is a real “thing”. Pun wholeheartedly intended.

Monday August 10th – A “B” roll of deleted scenes pops up on the internet. This will keep geeks arguing for a while. Most likely using the heading “What if…”

As predicted social media and geek websites are flooded with rumors and armchair quarterbacking.
Fox domestic distribution Chief Chris Aronson makes this statement “…we remain committed to these characters and we have a lot to look forward to in OUR Marvel universe.” (My emphasis). In truth Fox can sit on Fantastic Four till 2022 for a 2023 release and they might just do that out of spite.

Achieving what Doctor Doom never could… defeat the Fantastic Four!

What’s next?

Fox probably has a write-off come tax time. Consoles itself with all the money X-Men and Deadpool will keep making for them.

Simon Kinberg is already hip-deep in his Star Wars movie and probably considering a “Gritty” and “Realistic” take on Witchblade or Archie vs Sharknado (a real… blindingly awesome thing, BTW).

ArchievsShark1

HOLY CRAP BURGERS! THIS IS SO FREGGIN METAL!

He dodged bullets like NEO on a matrix rooftop.

The cast, whom escaped from the deluge pretty much unscathed, will just move on to other projects, check off “Giant failed summer tent-pole superhero movie” from their bucket list. Though wouldn’t it be cool if somewhere down the line Michael B Jordan finds himself playing Captain America…

Fred Hill announced plans to be upset and offended by an Invisible Woman toy sometime next week.

Nobody gives a rat’s-ass.

Marvel hands down won a huge battle in the war against Fox, at least that’s how it’ll be perceived.

I’m sure we’re hours away from speculation of the property going back to Marvel (as of Sunday, August 9th). At this point Marvel doesn’t even have room for Fantastic Four till phase 4 at least.

But think about it… Avengers Vs Galactus…

Josh Trank took the most lumps and might not have much of a career after this. More because of his behavior and the 11th hour twitter dis and not because FF flopped. Maybe, somewhere down the line, he’ll do that small, personal project he talked about and, older and wiser, have a second act. I get the feeling he was in way over his head, had zero support, and couldn’t tune out the unceasing barrage of hate aimed directly at him. Which was mostly undeserved and excessively cruel.

If any real good is to be drawn out from all this, it is possibly a roadmap of how NOT to handle a property (from development to marketing) beloved by many or just a highly anticipated film in this day and age. Hint: watch what Deadpool is doing.

Also worth a note; those fans can make or break your film. They are, after all, the ones who plan on seeing it in the first place.

(Thanks to Nate Jones and Eric King of Vulture.com for helping fill some gaps)

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