The Fantastic Four hasn’t fared too well in terms of movie adaptations. The first movie in 1994 was so problematic, it was never even released to theaters. The first Fantastic Four movie released in theaters was in 2005 and it was panned by critics, but earned enough to get Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer in 2007. The sequel didn’t earn as much as the first, so 20th Century Fox canceled the sequel. In 2015, Fox released Fantastic Four (or Fant4stic), intended to reboot the franchise. It was an even bigger disaster and became one of the most hated superhero movies of all time.
The critics complained about the dark tone, bland story and weak special effects while audiences thought it didn’t capture the fun and excitement they came to expect from a comic book movie. Since its release, the future of the Fantastic Four on the silver screen has been in doubt. Marvel Studios didn’t produce Fantastic Four, but its name is still on it, so they probably wouldn’t want all the details behind its production talked about. That said, let’s dive into 15 things that Marvel (and 20th Century Fox) don’t want you to know about 2015’s Fantastic Four.
16. THE MOVIE RIGHTS
One of the biggest questions Marvel faces often is “when do they get the rights to their characters back?” In the 1990s, Marvel sold off the movie rights to the Fantastic Four to Fox while trying to get out of debt. It seemed like a safe bet when superhero movies were rare and expensive, but now that Marvel has been producing successful movies for almost a decade, they’d sure like to get those rights back. The problem is that Fox wants them too.
From various reports, it seems like Fox has a contract that would give the rights to the Fantastic Four back to Marvel if they don’t start production on a movie within a certain amount of time. That was the main reason Fox rushed into a Fantastic Four reboot in 2014, not a devotion to the characters. That’s where the trouble began.
When it came to the Fantastic Four movie, some people (including the studio) put many of the problems on the co-writer and director, Josh Trank. Whether that’s justified or not, let’s find out who he was, how he got the job, and how that may have contributed to the problem. Fantastic Four was only his second movie after his first motion picture Chronicle hit big in 2011. Chronicle was a bold new look at the superhero genre, a found-footage piece about a group of teenagers who get telekinesis and try to deal with the power they’ve been given.
By all accounts, it was the fresh take that Chronicle gave that led Fox to hire Trank to direct Fantastic Four. Ironically, however, the similarities in Fantastic Four to Chronicle ultimately led the studio to demand changes to the movie, but we’ll get to that later on.
14. THE ORIGINAL SCRIPT
According to interviews, Josh Trank signed on to not only direct but also co-write Fantastic Four with Jeremy Slater. Those who’ve seen the script said the original story would have brought three villains onto the screen, not just Doctor Doom.
The movie would have started much the same as what we saw in the final version, with the four heroes traveling to an alternate dimension, but they would have found the world-eater Galactus instead of an empty planet. Galactus blasted them with Dark Matter, which gave the four their powers, and Doom was forced to become Galactus’ herald and return to Earth to feed it to his master. Along the way, the Fantastic Four also ran into Mole Man and a giant Moloid. For budget reasons, the first act was expanded into two-thirds of the final movie.
13. THE X-MEN CROSSOVER
One of the reasons it’s taken so long to make a new Fantastic Four movie is that Fox is busy working on the other Marvel property it owns, the X-Men. X-Men was one of the first recent successes in superhero movies and produced a string of hit films including X2, X-Men: Days of Future Past and the Wolverine spin-off trilogy that ended with Logan. Fox wants more hit movies, though, and at one point planned to combine the two properties.
Early in 2013, Fox’s comic consultant Mark Millar said that Fantastic Four would take place in the same universe as the X-Men series. X-Men director Bryan Singer also said there were talks to crossover the two films, but that was apparently nixed. That may be because Trank wanted to make a different look and feel for his film.
12. THE PLANNED SEQUEL
How confident was Fox of the success of Fantastic Four? The studio set a release date for the sequel before the first movie was even released. It’s become fashionable for movie studios to announce sequels and even trilogies before the first movie had even hit theaters. Marvel blew everyone away in 2014 by announcing the release dates of a slate of movies for the next five years, and other studios rushed to give the same vote of confidence.
Before Fantastic Four began filming, 20th Century Fox announced plans for a sequel with a scheduled release date of July 14, 2017. Of course, that left Fox with egg on its face when Fantastic Four bombed in 2015. They probably would like everyone to forget that, as the sequel was quietly canceled.
11. MR. FANTASTIC AUDITION
Danish-born Mads Mikkelsen is best known for his role in 2006’s Casino Royale and 2013’s drama Hannibal, but he was on many fans’ wish list to play Doctor Doom in a future Fantastic Four movie. Apparently, he came closer than we thought because Mikkelsen auditioned for a part in the movie, but walked out, calling the audition “mad” and “wrong.”
Mikkelsen didn’t reveal what role he auditioned for, but we can guess because he complained the audition was “all about arms.” Since stretching arms was the main power of Trank’s Mr. Fantastic, it’s a good bet that’s what Mikkelsen went for. To have a fine actor such as Mikkelsen flailing his arms around in front of producers was probably too much to ask from him. They should have fitted him for a metal mask instead.
10. THE REWRITE
When Trank turned in his version of the Fantastic Four script with its huge battle sequences and monsters, Fox apparently thought it was too expensive. They were hoping to make a cheaper version after the underperforming Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. To make a new version, they turned to Simon Kinberg in 2013. Not only did he co-write the screenplay, he also produced it.
Kinberg was a producer on 2011’s X-Men: First Class and co-wrote and produced 2014’s X-Men: Days of Future Past. He wrote a drastically different version of the script, building off the opening of Trank’s original script to set it mostly in the Baxter Building. Trank wasn’t consulted and wasn’t happy about the rewrite, which probably didn’t help with the tension during filming.
9. THE DIRECTION
During shooting, Trank didn’t win any fans with his direction. He apparently wanted to make a movie that was different from the happy, fun superhero movies of the past, inspired partly by the body horror films of David Cronenberg like The Fly. That extended to the sets and even how the actors behaved.
According to the cast, Trank told actors not to show too much emotion. He even gave orders on when they were supposed to blink and even breathe on camera to make their performances as emotionless as possible. Kate Mara (Sue Storm) also claimed she was told not to read the comic books because the movie wasn’t going to be based on anything from them, which outraged fans. The actors weren’t happy with the direction, and neither were many people who saw the movie and complained about how dreary and flat it was.
8. THE DIRECTOR
There are many rumors about Josh Trank’s behavior on-set, most of which are just that: rumors. We can’t say which are true and which are false, but there are a few things we do know. One is that Fox, the producers, and members of the cast and crew weren’t happy with Trank. There was even a civil suit over damage Trank caused to the rented house he used during shooting.
Now let’s talk about the rumors. Many sources claimed Trank behaved erratically. There are claims that Trank arrived on set late and often so high on drugs that he could hardly speak. There are stories of Miles Teller and Trank almost getting into a fistfight. There are whispers that the producers were forced to direct parts of the movie without Trank, though all of these are largely unsubstantiated. However, if even half of that is true, it’s bad.
7. THE FOX EDITION
After filming was completed, Trank edited and turned in a version of Fantastic Four that he was very proud of, and some who’ve seen the original edit thought it was great. Unfortunately, 20th Century Fox was less enthusiastic about it. Apparently, the studio didn’t like the dark tone of the movie and the third act. We’re not sure what the original ending was, but the studio set out to change it.
The studio basically took over the movie and created a new version with a committee of artists including Damon Lindelof, Drew Goddard, and producers Hutch Parker and Simon Kinberg. They wrote an entirely different third act, cut and changed plot lines, and had to bring back the cast and crew to shoot new footage. They also cut expensive sequences like the Thing dropping from a plane. Unfortunately, the reshoots became their own problem.
6. TERRIBLE RESHOOTS
Lots of movies have undergone major reshoots and turned out just fine. A finished film can look very different than when it’s in the planning stages, and movies like Jaws, The Bourne Identity and World War Z all had reshoots and went on to great success. The reshoots for Fantastic Four were pretty huge, though, and the end result wasn’t well-received.
At the time of the reshoots, some of the sets had to be rebuilt because they’d already been destroyed. In some cases, the scenes were shot against green screens in Los Angeles. Some of the cast like Toby Kebbell (Doctor Doom) had moved on to other projects, making it hard to bring them in, so some of the new footage was shot with stand-ins. We also have to mention the bad wig Kate Mara had to wear because she’d changed her hair.
5. NAME CHANGES
If there’s one sign of how chaotic the final edit was, it’s the fact that major changes were made to the characters, even in post-production. Before the movie, it was established that Toby Kebbell would be playing the main villain Doctor Doom, but his character’s original name was Victor Domashev who only used the screen name “Doom.” In the reshoots, the character’s name was changed to Victor Von Doom to match the comics, and the dialogue had to be dubbed over.
Likewise, the government scientist Dr. Harvey Allen (Tim Blake Nelson) was originally Harvey Elder, who would later become Mole Man. That’s a callback to the original script and might have led to a later movie with the villain appearing. Elder’s name was also changed in post-production, maybe to avoid the connection to the comic villain.
4. 3D TO 3-DON’T
A lot of movies are being released in 3D, partly because 3D can enhance the viewing experience, but mainly because the theaters can charge more for the effect. Fantastic Four was one of those movies that was supposed to be released in 3D, but that decision was aborted early on.
True 3D effects (as seen in Avatar) require the movie to be filmed with special cameras to get the best results, but most movies add 3D in post-production. Rather than do either one, Trank and the studio apparently decided not to do a 3-D conversion because they thought it would reduce the quality of the film. There are also rumors that the 3-D conversion was canceled because it would have added to the cost of the budget, but we don’t know if that’s true.
3. THE MOVIE LOST MONEY
Marvel and Fox had high hopes for Fantastic Four, expecting it to earn between $40 and $50 million in the US and Canada on its opening weekend, but those hopes were dashed. Critics’ reviews for the movie were savage, and that probably helped keep the audiences away. On opening weekend, Fantastic Four earned just $25.6 million, the lowest opening of any of the Fantastic Four movies before it and the worst opening for any big-budget superhero movie in the US.
On the second weekend, the movie had a 69% drop in attendance and ended up earning just $165 million worldwide. Since the movie cost an estimated $120 million (not including marketing costs), it’s considered a total bomb with estimates it cost 20th Century Fox between $80 to 100 million. It would have been cheaper for Fox not to make the movie at all.
2. THE REVIEWS SUCKED
Rotten Tomatoes is a website that’s changed the movie industry, for better or worse. Instead of viewers having to read many different reviews and figure out what the consensus is, Rotten Tomatoes takes all the reviews it can find to give an average, which becomes a combined total for the movie as an aggregate score.
Marvel’s movies have done pretty well for the most part, with 2008’s Iron Man as the highest at 94%. In contrast, Fantastic Four has the unpleasant distinction of being the lowest rated film based on a Marvel Comics property with the movie currently at a 9% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with reviews calling it “dull” and “downbeat.” Something tells us Fox won’t be bragging about those critics’ reviews on the box cover.
1. THE GOLDEN RASPBERRIES
The Golden Raspberry Awards is an annual show that works as an opposite to the Academy Awards; instead of honoring the best movies, the Golden Raspberries honor the worst. Winning a Golden Raspberry is something that no movie actually wants, and Fantastic Four has the dubious honor of winning quite a few of them the year it was released.
At the 36th Golden Raspberry Awards, Fantastic Four won in three categories; Worst Director; Worst Prequel, Remake, Rip-Off, or Sequel; and Worst Picture. At least Fantastic Four can say it wasn’t the worst that year; it tied with 2015’s Fifty Shades of Grey for worst picture. Fantastic Four was also nominated for Worst Screen Combo (Jamie Bell, Michael B. Jordan, Kate Mara and Miles Teller) and Worst Screenplay.
What did you think of Fantastic Four? Let us know in the comments!
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