There are many out there claiming that the comic book movie is dead (or is at least close), but those sour, fun-starved individuals probably said that after coming out of a screening of Fox's Fantastic Four.* Others, who don't want comic book movies to die, but just don't want them to suck so hard, decided to start a petition (via Comicbook.com) asking Fox Studios to sell the rights to Fantastic Four back to Marvel.
At the time of this writing, there are 7K fans in agreement with the petition, and the number is rapidly growing. But while fans look to effect what they believe is positive change on the comic book movie landscape, the question remains whether Fantastic Four's shortcomings can be blamed entirely on Fox. Does director Josh Trank deserve the blame here? Or maybe it's both? (Or maybe it's writer Simon Kinberg! He's been running around Hollywood blame-free !)
Who can tell? New details about the behind the scenes drama on Fantastic Four seem to arrive daily, but what we do know is that Trank tweeted out a message that his version of the movie will never see the light of day, which seemed to confirm that the studio took the movie away from him. According to EW, the reasons behind the apparent divorce between Fox and Trank was due to a number of issues, ranging from Fox being indecisive about decisions that impacted a number of aspects of the production to Trank being a cranky asshole who didn't get along with anybody.
Some who worked on the film say Trank broke, for sure, but was driven to the breaking point by the studio, and that his clash was not with Kinberg but Fox production president Emma Watts. According to several individuals who worked on the movie, the studio delayed casting and script approvals, slashed the budget by tens of millions from what was originally promised during the development phase, and tried to force last-minute script changes to the film just as principal photography was beginning.
Different sources say Trank was indecisive, others say the studio was hemming and hawing on his choices. Either way, the script was not finalized until late in preproduction, and continued to change right through reshoots, which stalled crew workers who were trying to build sets, make costumes, props, and prep the movie. This created confusion and stress from the get-go that often boiled over among department heads trying to put together pieces of a movie that was still in flux.
Meanwhile, HitFix claims that the issues were mostly on Trank's side, and dismissed Trank's tweet where he said his version of the movie from a year ago was so great.
He may claim that his cut a year ago was amazing, but that opinion was not shared by the majority of the people working on the film. There were internal conversations at that point about potentially scrapping everything. That's how strong the concerns were. Even so, they decided to back Trank while looking for ways to fix the movie, and the end result is the film audiences largely didn't bother to see in theaters this weekend.
Whatever the reasons were, Fox remains committed to the franchise, which has a sequel scheduled for June 9, 2017 (for now). HitFix reports that Fox is "definitely planning to make" the sequel, but nothing is official yet. And by that I mean, the sequel not happening.
Fox will likely continue on with Fantastic Four 2 or, if a petition is not enough to persuade them, they could sit on the franchise for another 7 years, much like they did in the intervening years between 2007's Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer and the current reboot. Would a studio really just sit on a property in order to keep it from reverting back to another studio. Oh, you bet your ass.
But let's face it, while the evidence is still coming in and all the hanging chads are still being counted in the Fox/Trank blame race, both parties are guilty here. Trank's Chronicle was a great film, so it's unlikely that he forget how to make movies and more likely that he was in over his head on a huge project that carried future implications for the studio. Meanwhile, Fox has had three chances to make a decent Fantastic Four movie and have failed three times, a studio hat trick of suckage. Has another studio ever done that? Made a mediocre at best first movie, a terrible sequel and then completely failed with a reboot?**
For the record, Trank's Chronicle screenwriter Max Landis also had a chance to write a Fantastic Four script - apparently for a pitch that happened four years ago - and tweeted out the first four pages for fans to view. While Landis' version seems way more fun than the current reboot, it's still evident that Landis didn't know what to do with the property either, even though it would have probably pleased fans.
So what happens now? Only Fox can say, but unless this weekend sees audiences give Fantastic Four a chance, it appears that Fox is in a jam with the franchise (and looking to audiences for help). Eventually, I think they'll decide to go ahead with the X-Men/Fantastic Four movie, despite their apparent resistance to the idea). It would be a way to kick-start the Fantastic Four without having to start all over (again) while also having the X-Men on board to help with ticket sales for those that have a bad taste in their mouth from the reboot (along with nightmares of Ben Grimm's smooth rock scrotum).
Until Fox announces what they plan to do next, fans will have to content themselves with ultimate Fantastic Four adaptation: Roger Corman's unreleased 1994 version, which is currently streaming.
*I'm kidding, of course. As evidenced by the box office, no one went to see Fantastic Four.
**Warner Bros, now that I think of it. Two bad Superman sequels and then Superman Returns. But note to Fox: Warners stood firm and made Man of Steel, which was considered terrific by some and horrible by others but no one gives a shit because he's gonna fight Batman now! See you at all at FF/X-Men in 2017!