As 20th Century Fox is no doubt considering what to do with its Fantastic Four franchise, more details have surfaced surrounding the reboot’s troubled production. The Josh Trank-directed film opened to disappointing box office, poor reviews, and even poor notice from audiences with a C- CinemaScore. The movie itself isn’t a disaster, but the stitching and extensive reshoots are abundantly clear in the final product, making for an uneven and highly unsatisfying story arc.
While rumors had swirled about issues with the film in recent months, it wasn’t until last weekend when the floodgates really opened, as word got out about Trank’s “combative” behavior on set, Fox’s uncertain vision, and the attempt to salvage the film in post-production. And now more alleged information has arrived via THR, which cites sources noting Trank’s withdrawn behavior on set coupled with odd direction for the actors:
Sources say Fox believed in what one executive calls a “grounded, gritty version of Fantastic Four that was almost the opposite of previous versions” — and initially thought Trank could deliver that. Several sources say Fox stood by Trank as he pushed a gloomy tone on young stars Miles Teller, Michael B. Jordan, Kate Mara and Jamie Bell. “During takes, he would be telling [cast members] when to blink and when to breathe,” one person says. “He kept pushing them to make the performance as flat as possible.”
I’m not sure the tone was the problem, but there’s no denying that the performances of four otherwise solid actors are stilted and wooden in the final film. But the blame for the film’s final product doesn’t rest solely on Trank, as THR also notes the studio’s rush to get the movie made simply because they wanted to retain the rights to the characters:
As Fox hurried to put the project into production before rights to the material reverted to Marvel, the studio was scrambling with multiple rewrites and delays in starting the film. They “were afraid of losing the rights so they pressed forward and didn’t surround [Trank] with help or fire him. They buried their heads in the sand.” Fox declined to comment.
Fox was apparently trying to move away from its reputation for micromanaging and also felt they had the opportunity to groom an “in-house” director with Trank, so they were reluctant to interfere early on despite signs of trouble. But when principal photography was completed, it was clear they weren’t happy with the final product and subsequently set out to salvage the film. However, the limited availability of the cast meant that reshoots for the new ending had to be done creatively:
With some of the cast not fully available at that point and [producer Simon] Kinberg juggling X-Men: Apocalypse and Star Wars, a lot of material was shot with doubles and the production moved to Los Angeles to film scenes with Teller against a green screen. “It was chaos,” says a crew member, adding that Trank was still in attendance “but was neutralized by a committee.”
As evidenced by footage of the original ending involving Reed, Johnny, and Sue using the Fantasticar to travel to Planet Zero, the third act of the film was significantly reworked. THR even cites one source who says that Drew Goddard, who wrote and directed The Cabin in the Woods and also helped craft a new third act for Paramount’s World War Z with Damon Lindelof, was brought in as part of a “dream team” to help rescue the film. But it’s unclear how significant his involvement was in the final product.
What is clear, and what Perri highlighted in her recent editorial in defense of Trank, is that the initial idea of a grounded, David Cronenberg-esque Fantastic Four was solid, but somewhere along the way that vision was lost and we were left with a movie that feels like a shell of its former self (or selves, more appropriately). Regardless, it appears we’ll be sifting through the wreckage for some time.
For more of our recent Fantastic Four coverage, peruse the links below: