With X-Men: Apocalypse now in theaters, Hugh Jackman’s final Wolverine movie currently filming, Deadpool 2 deep in development, and Gambit and New Mutants in the works, 20th Century Fox’s interconnected X-Men universe is firmly in motion. However, efforts to expand said universe got off to a bit of a rocky start last year with the release of Fantastic Four, which was intended to eventually connect to characters of the X-Men world after first kicking off a new franchise of its own. The critical and commercial failure of the film has been well covered, as have the intense creative battles throughout production under the direction of Josh Trank, but with the sting now a little further away, co-writer/producer Simon Kinberg has gotten candid about what, exactly went wrong with Fantastic Four.
Appearing on Josh Horowitz’s Happy Sad Confused podcast, Kinberg spoke openly about the film’s failure and one major lesson he learned about adapting this particular Marvel property:
“I don’t think that there is, in any movie that doesn’t work, a single decision that is the reason that that movie doesn’t work. I think that there were many decisions we made along the way that led to a movie that people didn’t like and to a movie that I would do differently next time. I think the biggest takeaway for me [is that] the tone of the movie, while really interesting and ambitious, ran counter to the DNA of the source material. I think the source material of Fantastic Four is bright, optimistic, poppy in tone. There’s a sort of plucky spirit to those characters, and we made a darker, sort of body-horror kind of version of Fantastic Four, which again as I say it now sounds really interesting and cerebrally ambitious, but isn’t necessarily Fantastic Four.”
It’s interesting that Kinberg pinpoints the gritty tone as one of the major problems with Fantastic Four, given that that was the major selling point of the reboot leading up to its release. While leaning into a darker take was no doubt part of an effort to differentiate this new Fantastic Four from the previous films, Kinberg’s not wrong in saying that the body-horror aspect is an interesting-sounding superhero movie. And indeed, the brief flash of body-horror we got in the finished film—directly after they return from their mission—is one of its few bright spots. But indeed, the tone overall is extremely muddled, and it feels like perhaps the extensive reshoots were an attempt to lessen the overall darkness of the film, but in execution just made the mess even messier; that humor-fueled coda feels like it’s from an entirely different movie.
But even though Fantastic Four wasn’t the franchise-starter that Fox was hoping for, Kinberg reiterates that it remains a focus for the studio’s superhero plans going forward:
“It’s a big part of the plan going forward. Like I say, the biggest lesson learned is that Fantastic Four is a great comic book that has its own tone and voice, and we need to let that lead us… I would love to continue making movies with that cast.”
It’ll be interesting to see how Fantastic Four is handled going forward. Do you make a sequel that is a tonal 180 from the first movie, even when audiences rejected that film outright (it topped out at just $167 million worldwide)? I think the more comfortable play might be to start incorporating the Fantastic Four characters into other movies. By letting them exist within tonally lighter universes, it might make the transition more natural and open audiences up to wanting to see another Fantastic Four movie.
Whatever the case, the casting for Fantastic Four was spot on, and I’d certainly like to see these actors get another chance. Although now that Michael B. Jordan has joined the Marvel Cinematic Universe with Black Panther, it’ll be interesting to see the actor tackle two major Marvel characters at the same time.
What do you think, folks? Would you be interested in seeing a Fantastic Four movie with a lighter tone? Sound off in the comments below.