Josh Trank’s Fantastic Four has been getting hammered this weekend—at the box office, by critics, and by audiences. The question everyone’s asking is: was the material bad from the get-go? Or did studio interference make this a bomb before it was even filmed?
Earlier this weekend, Trank tweeted out that the movie that he envisioned isn’t the one in theaters. And now, Entertainment Weekly has talked to some anonymous sources, who shed some more light on what went wrong with this film.
Some of EW’s sources blame Trank’s “combative behavior” for the disastrous outcome, but others say the studio and producers were meddling in the film from the beginning:
Some who worked on the film say Trank was driven to the breaking point by the studio, which delayed casting and script approvals, slashed the budget by tens of millions from what was originally promised, and tried to force last-minute changes to the film just as principal photography was beginning.
With uncertainty about who should star (the studio wanted more famous actors, but Trank won that battle) and studio hemming and hawing on approvals for the final script, it 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.
Beyond the production’s alleged disorganization, there’s the question of subject matter—since the popularity Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, studios have also mandated that the films take on a level of gritty reality. That works for something like Batman or Iron Man, but for heroes like Spiderman, Superman or The Fantastic Four? It doesn’t translate over as well, and it appears to have been an issue with this film. Says EW:
Fox executives desperately wanted to reboot Fantastic Four after the indifferently received big screen versions in 2005 and 2007, but they bristled at many of the traditional comic book elements that defined the characters.
Reading between the lines, it seems as though the studio itself couldn’t figure out how to adapt the material, and the execs expected Trank to figure it out for them. The solutions he came up with didn’t please them, so they simply worked around him.
This brings up another point: some of the biggest directors in Hollywood have faced being fired from their own films, and have staved it off by sticking to their vision or by holding off the studios supporting their production. EW cites the stories of Steven Spielberg almost being fired from Jaws and Francis Ford Coppola almost getting booted off The Godfather.
But, 2015 isn’t 1975: studios have gotten larger and the infrastructure for making a film has become more complex: how can a young filmmaker, with a single film to his name, dig his or her heels into the sand and hold off a studio that’s bent on making major changes to something that you’ve passionately worked on?
Bear in mind, we’ll never really know what went wrong with this film, and Trank’s now-deleted tweet did claim that he had put together a cut of the movie a year ago that he was proud of. Which means that whatever studio interference happened on set, it didn’t prevent Trank from filming material that he was personally happy with.
But, from the sounds of things, it sounds like the studio expected that Trank would implement any changes that they wanted, without resistance. And clearly, that didn’t happen, because it sounds as though he was removed from that process at some point during the production. [Entertainment Weekly]