What Exactly Happened to 'Fantastic Four'?

Published on May 5, 2020

Fantastic Four was a disaster. The movie itself is more mediocre than disastrous with serious tone and pacing issues. The comic book reboot had promise, especially with such a strong cast, but it was ultimately more dull than dramatic. The troubled production was more compelling than the movie itself with rumors swirling around about director Josh Trank’s on and off-set behavior. Now, the filmmaker is finally opening up a bit more about his experience.

Backstory on Fantastic Four

The reboot was the complete opposite of Fox’s first two Fantastic Four movies, which were total cheese. Trank wanted to ground the heroes in a mopey reality similar to his breakout directorial debut, Chronicle. Trank was coming off that hit hot. Fox banked on his darker vision for Fantastic Four, but ultimately, they weren’t fans of the end result, ordered reshoots, and greatly altered Trank’s vision. The end result was a mess torn apart by critics and barely seen by audiences.

The Rumors 

Trank bashed his own movie shortly before it was released. He talked out of school. It was unprofessional and only made his reputation worse, following a split from Lucasfilm on a Star Wars movie and rumors of bad behavior on Fantastic Four. A rumor went around Trank and his dogs caused over $100,000 in damages to his New Orleans pad, in addition to being too stoned to work on set. 

Trank’s Paranoia 

Trank’s new movie, Capone, is what he considers his first “real movie.” Starring Tom Hardy, we’ll see Trank’s vision for the movie, not a studio’s. Now that he’s promoting the gangster movie about Al Capone, he’s talking about his Fantastic Four experience. 

Trank doesn’t blame himself much for the experience or the end result, but admits he was in a bad place during the movie. He even slept with a gun, thinking angry Fantastic Four fans would come for him (Source: Polygon):

“I was so fucking paranoid during that shoot. If someone came into my house, I would have ended their fucking life. When you’re in a head space where people want to get you, you think, ‘I’m going to defend myself.’” 

That’s a very… telling quote. Tells us a lot about Trank’s mindset during the filming of the movie. He added some rumors, such as the destroyed apartment, weren’t exactly accurate, but didn’t do much to dispel them. 

A Matter of Tone

The major production issues didn’t happen until Fox saw Trank’s cut of the movie, but there were signs of trouble early on. For example, Trank had no real interest in the comics or the characters. That’s fine, of course, but the studio wanted to make a Fantastic Four movie. Trank wanted to go that way with the sequel: 

“The end of the Fantastic Four was going to very organically set up the adventure and the weirdness and the fun. That would be the wish fulfillment of the sequel. Because obviously, the sequel would be, ‘OK, now we are [superpowered] forever and it’s weird and funny and there’s adventure lurking around every corner.’ But the first movie was going to basically be the filmic version of how I saw myself all the time: the metaphor of these characters crawling out of hell….The trials of developing Fantastic Four had everything to do with tone. You could take the most ‘comic booky’ things, as far as just names and faces and identities and backstories, and synthesize it into a tone. And the tone that [Slater] was interested in was not a tone that I felt I had anything in common with.”

In trying to make the movie for everyone at the last second, Fox and Trank made a movie for no one. Would they have been better off letting Trank stick to his vision? Who knows? Trank seems to think so, but he’s still a question mark as a director, both personally and professionally. He’s certainly lucky to have made another major movie to his name with Capone. Not a lot of other directors, especially less privileged filmmakers, would’ve gotten the same chance Trank is getting.

Jack Giroux is a Staff Writer at Grit Daily. Based in Los Angeles, he is an entertainment journalist who's previously written for Thrillist, Slash Film, Film School Rejects, and The Film Stage.

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