To preface this, I should admit I've never been a big fan of the Fantastic Four. As a child growing up, I would peruse the Fantastic family's comics, but was never drawn into them. Sure, like every kid, I thought The Thing was cool and the Human Torch seemed like a fun guy to hang out with, but the comic just never hooked me. And so it is that in the ever growing superhero cinematic universe that the Fantastic Four are facing similar struggles with viewers. But why is that?
The most recent effort to relaunch the Fantastic Four into movies has proven disastrous at the box office. Opening weekend numbers have it bringing in $26 million. To compare, Marvel's Ant Man recently opened with $57 million and had some talking about it as a financial misstep. These numbers have basically killed all plans for sequels for the FF team. Unfortunately, it seemed to have too many things going against it to succeed.
Firstly, there's the reboot issue. Movie goers have been forced to adapt to franchises continually rebooting things after any misstep. And the reboots have been coming quicker and quicker on the heels of their predecessors, leading to a malaise for some over whether they can even connect to characters anymore lest they get scrapped and their story retold with someone else in the role. The most obvious example is the Spiderman franchise, but it has been sprinkling the landscape lately and Fantastic Four had an uphill climb to convince people that it was worth it.
There's also the issue of public perception. The last we saw of the Fantastic family was in 2007's Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, which was no great success. The film barely broke even, leading to this reboot. That last film was met with very mixed reviews and didn't inspire many to want more of what we were getting. The plot was a bit confusing for many, despite some interesting visuals. So when a reboot was announced so soon afterwards, it was met with a tepid response.
Also not helping matters was the controversy coming out of the studio during the filming. Word came out that director Josh Trank was having trouble on set and was battling with the studio and acting erratically. It was leaked that he was not involved in the post production process, with producer Matthew Vaughn brought in to finish the project, which Trank vehemently denied. The ensuing craziness and allegations led to Trank losing upcoming projects within the Star Wars universe as well. This unstable element was the exact opposite of what the studio needed coming out into the daily trades and online. For an audience that already wasn't fully on board, this was a big flashing red light. Trank went further to sabotage the film only hours before it's opening, by tweeting out the following, "A year ago, I had a fantastic version of this. And it would have received great reviews. You’ll probably never see. That’s reality though". That tweet was since deleted, but media analysts have pegged the damage done by it at $10 million.
Besides the director himself alerting potential ticket buyers to stay away, early reviews and word of mouth were fairly brutal. The film was subject to some of the harshest reviews I can remember, and movie goers tagged it with the one word that is a death knell for superhero films...Boring. Rotten Tomato scores have it currently sitting well below the legendary bomb "Batman & Robin". All of this has led to speculation on what, if anything, will happen to this much maligned franchise. Planned sequels are almost certainly off the board now. X-Men director Bryan Singer has been talking openly about the possibility of combining his X world with the FF. That would maybe serve to breathe new life into both, with new villains for the Fantastic Four to deal with, and new faces for the X-men franchise that is losing it's face soon with Hugh Jackman leaving as Wolverine. This is all merely speculation at this point, and it may take quite some time for Marvel's first family to lose the tag as the poison pill.
One of the taglines for this Fantastic Four film was "Change Is Coming". How true that is. Sometimes the change you need isn't the change you want. But hey, it could be worse. We could have gotten this...