Normally when writing about a movie the weekend after its release, I’d say something like “By now you’ve all seen director Josh Trank’s Fantastic Four reboot,” but the box office numbers say otherwise. The film opened with a low $26.2 million and debuted at number 2 on the charts. Ironically enough, it’s IMDB user rating is a 4.0 which sounds cool until you realize that score is out of 10. Oof. There is a lot out there about what went wrong. Hopefully in the coming months we are able to piece together what went wrong with the movie, and perhaps even learn something. Right now though it sounds as if the studio and the director were unable to come together at all and worked around each other to form a new vision completely devoid of narrative cohesion. But now the question is: what next?
Let’s start by addressing the nature of the Fantastic Four franchise. Fox owns the rights to make F4 films along with X-Men films. These are not the same people making the Marvel Cinematic Universe films, even though they are all under the same comic brand – various studios own various properties of the brand. Many say that Fox only made the F4 films to not let the rights revert back to Marvel who would find a way to make fistloads of money that Fox would rather make. Fox is most certainly hoping to find a way to blow this franchise up in a way most other superheroes have. Marvel hasn’t exactly been a team player however and has officially canceled any future Fantastic Four comics obviously as a spite against Fox for not parting with the rights.
Now that it’s August 2015 and the fourth Fantastic Four film has been made it’s also become the fourth film to be critically slashed. I’ve already seen many people say that now hopefully Fox will sell back the rights to the F4 and let Marvel Studios ‘do it right’ – it’s easy to see why. Fantastic Four fans (I’m assured they exist!) would love to see more Marvel faces in Stark Tower working on complicated science experiments. We’re all hoping the next actor cast as Johnny Storm will be able to get a sly comment in about Chris Evans’ acting choices.
So what are the options?
The first option is that the F4 get rebooted again. Josh Trank is seen by many in Hollywood as an amateur and his thirst for total creative control undoubtedly put him at odds with the studio and the fans. Perhaps the biggest indication of how specifically Trank wanted to do things was to recast Johnny Storm, who had been historically white, as a black man. Undoubtedly, if Fox does reboot, they will go the opposite route and, like Marvel Studios, pick a plan for the movie then find a director to fulfill the vision. In fact, after this spectacularly public and disappointing feud and subsequent failure, one wonders how stingy Fox will be with future filmmakers. Imagine if decades ago Lucas and Spielberg weren’t given their creative freedom. It’s a scary thought, and hopefully one bad experience doesn’t ruin it for the rest of Hollywood. Fox rebooting F4 for a (sigh) fourth time seems to be the most likely option. Fox is the Donald Trump of movie studios right now, refusing to admit defeat or acknowledge somebody else could do it better because they are solely focused on making it profitable.
The option that fans want most is that Marvel Studios regain the rights to the characters, and again for obvious reasons. But would this be a great idea? Marvel Studios already has their Phase 3 slate lined up and another franchise being owned by them does not guarantee that a movie will be made. Any flexibility in their schedule is surely taken up by the Spider-Man reboot that will come out in two years. It might not be ideal, but Fox has the resources and time right now that Marvel might not have. It’s also important to remember that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been built on years of movies now. Shoehorning in the Fantastic Four could be awkward and possibly disrupt the bigger picture. We’ll see if the recent reacquisition of Spider-Man throws off the established balance.
Of course, Marvel and Fox could share the rights to the characters, similarly to how Spider-Man is being handled. In that scenario Fox could make their own F4 films, but the MCU would get the boost of having their characters show up occasionally for some spice and narrative necessity. At one point I would have said that this is a fever dream at best, but it’s a very real possibility now. Their roster is massive right now and MCU has some other problems it needs to address first – namely their women, villains, and now their quickly becoming exhausted three-act structure.
It’s important to remember – Marvel Studios has had plenty of their own behind-the-scenes drama as well. Most notable was last summer when Ant-Man director Edgar Wright, who had been working on the film for eight years, parted ways with Marvel because his vision didn’t fit with that of the studio. Sound familiar?
Another rumor floating around regarding the F4 is that Fox would have them crossover with the already established X-Men universe. After the drama and poor performance of Trank’s vision, it’s a guarantee that if this does happen, another actor will be portraying the titular heroes.
The most entertaining possibility of all of these is the idea that Fox will make a sequel. As of now, the film still has time to at least break even on its budget and it could regain money from overseas. Sadly, that feels like a bit of misplaced hope. Yet, Hollywood is as predictable as it is unpredictable. It wouldn’t be out of character for a universally loathed film to get a sequel in Lala Land.
After everything that has happened, this has been one of the more famous train wrecks in history to watch unfold, but the fate of Reed Richards and his team could signal big changes for the superhero hype train, which, as I’ve said before, will crash spectacularly at some point. It’s just a question of casualties now. Hell, it’s entirely possible this is the last Fanstastic Four film we ever see.