Fantastic Four Debacle

So, between the poor film reviews, Josh Trank’s tweet that was deleted and me spreading baseless rumors on Trank’s sobriety (which I apologize for, by the way), I feel like Fantastic Four is a special kind of drama that needs to be explained.  This Fantastic Four debacle is so fascinating; the story has so much mystery and secrecy it’s like a real-life version of The OC.  I mean, this must be the reason why we don’t get the 90210s, OCs and other relationship-based dramas: the internet provides it for us!  Nothing is more intriguing that having a director delete an offensive tweet about a studio.  You know what else got our attention like this?  DeAndre Jordan, Mark Cuban and a horde of Clippers.

Look, we like knowing parts of a story because we can begin filling in what makes sense to us.  I think we crave it.  These other lives seem so much more interesting than ours and these stories have a sense of realism to them as well.

Anyway, we have rarely seen a trainwreck like this Fantastic Four film.  It will be part of superhero movie history;   you know, the kind of history that has films like Catwoman.  I think I saw Green Lantern there, maybe even Blade Trinity?  Ugh, just awful.  This might make the top 3 list of worst superhero films of all time.  And that list would include the terrible Hulk vs. Thor live action film, the Captain America from the 1990s and the first Fantastic Four film.  But this one might even outdo Catwoman in the number of Razzies it might pick up.  We are looking at something legendary.  Not only is the film at 9% on Rotten Tomatoes but all the stuff backstage makes LEGEN….. Wait for it…..

DARY!

I haven’t seen the film but from what I can tell it will be remembered for all the wrong reasons and most will have nothing to do with the film.  Like a more PG version of OJ Simpson or Chris Benoit.

I won’t say that this film was doomed from the start but… It was pretty much doomed looking back on it.  Remember when it was first announced?  We had just gotten done with two other superhero reboots: Amazing Spider-Man and X-Men: First Class.  One’s stock soared and the other crashed.  I won’t let you know which one but chances are it was the one that ended up going BACK to Marvel in some capacity.

Fantastic Four came out and the idea was… What, exactly?  My first thoughts were that this was a way for Fox to retain the rights of the characters.  It also seemed like Fox was going the route of Marvel and DC and looking to create their own universe.  They announced a sequel and an X-Men crossover before this one came out!

Speaking of which, Josh Trank and scriptwriter Simon Kinberg had apparently been at odds with the studio for a while.  Apparently the studio wanted to fire both Trank and Kinberg (along with the talented cast they had assembled) way back in March of 2014! Six months before they were going to start filming!  While Fox denied the rumors (of course) doesn’t this start to make some more sense now?

But wait!  There’s an M. Night Shyamalan twist!  During the shooting, Josh Trank had apparently told his actors that they shouldn’t bother reading the comics.  He said this because they were going to take a different twist on the story and that getting the background information would be detrimental.  This is FASCINATING!  While on some level I can agree that you would want a blank canvas… Wouldn’t you want to at least be familiar with the character that you’re playing?  That’s like telling a saxophone player “don’t worry about listening to Charlie Parker or John Coltrane because you need to develop your sound.” I know when I started shooting a basketball I didn’t think watching NBA players shoot would help.  Really, it’s quite bizarre.

Then the studio decided to shift the release date of the film.  While that’s not a huge red flag on its own, the building blocks are there.

So, then there are the rumors that Trank showed up to the set “late or high.” Maybe my comments about him being sober weren’t founded?

But what is even more bizarre is that there are now stories of the studio coming in and taking major action set pieces.  Fox and Trank agreed to 3 major action sets.  Well, at some point Fox comes in and takes those away.  Insane right?  Well, that’s just the beginning.  Then Fox fires the head effects guy without even telling the director.  This whole show sounds like a bad episode of the Apprentice.  It’s like Mr. Magoo is firing people around here.  Then there are stories of the studio basically taking pieces of scenes out and then even editing the film WITHOUT TRANK THERE!  It’s absolutely insane!  Why did this studio feel the need to get so involved?

It makes Trank’s defense of himself (his tweet said that he was not responsible for the final film) seem plausible.  It might not have been his vision or his version.  Even so…

Speaking of insane, back in May Disney and Lucasfilm cut ties with Trank.  Remember, the guy was originally going to be directing one of the Star Wars Anthology films.  Then suddenly either Disney fired him or Trank resigned.  One story is that he caused $100,000 worth of damage in a studio provided house.  Either way the guy was gone, gone, gone!  And unlike the cups song, no one was missing him.

Then in August, Kinberg comes to Trank’s defense.  He basically says that Trank is an easy target for people.  I can also understand that.  Trank had one film before this, Chronicle (which I enjoyed), and some studios would not trust a guy like Trank to be able to do this all on his own.  So, did Trank just not play the political game?  Did he think of himself as untouchable?  Was this too much success and too much pressure too soon?  Am I even asking the right questions?  Nah, my questions are terrible, it’s something Skip Bayless would come up with.  The end game is that these two didn’t like working with each other.

Look, what this shows is that the studios and Trank were shooting each other in the foot.  It also seemed like the studio really did get too involved in the making of the film.  From what I hear the film is all over the place with no flow, no rhyme and no reason.  The editing is pretty poor from what I understand.  This studio really has shown that it will get involved when it wants to.  BUT, Trank’s reactions and his actions don’t seem to help him any.  If, let’s say, some of the stories are not true but some ARE, that doesn’t help him.

I also think that Trank’s tweet was the final break up.  You know in The OC and 90210 where the main couple is on the fritz and eventually there’s that dramatic part where one of them breaks up with the other and you think “thank GOD!  Now they can stop fighting?”  That was Trank’s tweet.  Only it was WAY more public and rooted in reality.  Unless Fox and Trank have pulled off the greatest non-wrestling reality storyline, I think it’s safe to say this relationship is over.  The whole thing and events didn’t work with each other and we ended up with this film.  Could it have been done differently?  I suppose but that might have required more egos to be put aside and a shared vision to be done (plus having Fox get the hell out of the way and let Trank do his stuff).  However, I doubt very much that it could have worked out.

But reading all about this…  I realize that between this, the DeAndre Jordan saga earlier this summer, and probably something else I’m missing, we don’t need reality TV anymore.  We have it right here!  We have everything we could possibly need from reality right now.  And we don’t even need the paparazzi anymore to hear about it!  God bless America.  Where invading personal and professional lives can be a full time job.

Fantastic Four now

OK, so I have a new question regarding Fantastic Four.  So, this group has had four films, 3 reboots, and four different television series.  Before I get into this, I want to say this much:  Fantastic Four, as characters and as superheroes, deserve respect and for us to realize their impact on comics and Marvel.  They were created by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee.  These guys created Spider-Man, X-Men, Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, Ant-Man, Hulk and Avengers among others.  They have created such iconic characters and stories that have now become etched into American culture.  They were the first Marvel team.  They are Marvel’s first family.  Without Fantastic Four, there are no Avengers.  Without the Fantastic Four, we may not see Marvel as it is today.  They are a family that explores the universe; they are kind of like Star Trek.

With that in mind, I have to ask the question: is the Fantastic Four a relevant property?  Can it be successful?  I know it was mentioned on the audio show that Marvel was stopping publication of the comic book series.  Correct me if I’m wrong but Marvel would not just pull the plug on their oldest and most respected property if sales were doing well.  If there was a real demand for stories about the team the comic would continue.  So if they are losing the hardcore comic book based fans, they can’t expect to hold an audience for feature films.

That can all change around.  If America can turn around the fortunes for a guy like Mike Tyson or Kobe Bryant for doing horrendous things we can certainly turn around the fortunes of the Fantastic Four, right?  It would only take one stellar blockbuster to do the trick.

But let’s look at that possibility.  Yes, we can blame the director, the studio and even God (if you want to go that far) for this latest incarnation of the Fantastic Four.  However, let’s look at the different incarnations.  Have any of them been good or great?  Any of them stand out?

1967 series

So, this one is pretty great.  Pretty cheesy, not great animation and pretty poor acting but all series from this time weren’t exactly amazing.  Thor, Hulk and Spider-Man all had their struggles.  In fact, Cartoon Network was syndicating this show for years (though only 20 episodes were made).  However, this feels completely dated and even though it might have been popular, there is only one show that really left a legacy from that era of Marvel cartoons.

1978 series

The shortest run out of all the cartoon series, this FF incarnation lasted a mere 13 episodes.  You know what’s hilarious about this show?  It didn’t have the human torch!  That’s right!  No Johnny Storm!  Instead, there was a robot unit called HERBIE.  Unreal.  Are you surprised that it didn’t work?  When you take away the most interesting character that’ll happen.

1994 series

Holy crap, 1990s style music and my goodness the animation sucks.  I can’t believe this actually aired.  Sure, we’re judging books by their cover but this series went the way of the Silver Surfer and Iron Man series.  Not very good indicator.  People didn’t respond to this series almost 30 years after the 1967 series came out.  It’s so over the top campy and the song… Dude, that song.  Why didn’t they just hire Kenny Loggins to write the song and be done with it?  Loggins could have created an epic song.

2006 series

This one was the longest of all cartoon shows.  Know how many total episodes there were? 26.  That’s it.  26.  That’s at least the length of one season of television nowadays, though.

What’s the point of this?  Well, if you compare Fantastic Four to other Marvel properties given this many chances, it’s not pretty.  X-Men: The Animated Series ran for 7 seasons, which is one of the longest runs for any superhero show.  Not only was it critically acclaimed but it spawned other quality shows like X-Men: Evolution and Wolverine and the X-Men.  Spider-Man’s 1967 television show’s legacy is defined by the song.  In the 70s and 80s we saw two Spidey shows: Spider-Man and Spider-Man And His Amazing Friends.  Then in the 1990s we saw Spider-Man: The Animated Series bring a new, darker version of the web-slinger.  It also lasted for 5 seasons.  Then there was Spectacular Spider-Man (one of the best) and Ultimate Spider-Man (which is still running today).  The point is that when Marvel took chances on other properties, they have done much better than Fantastic Four.  Sure, Iron Man, Thor and the other Avengers didn’t do well but the MCU has rectified that and now those heroes are just as staples in the public eye as X-Men and Spider-Man.

The point being, is that the Fantastic Four have had just as many opportunities to succeed as X-Men and Spider-Man and more opportunities than the Avengers.  Yet, they are still not resonating and no one seems to be able to write an engaging story for them.  My point is that maybe it is time to put the Fantastic Four to rest for a bit.  From the comics, from TV and from film.  We may need to take a step back and take time for the next film.  It may be that the right group hasn’t come around, so wouldn’t it be better to take a break and make sure that the project becomes a success?

And if Fox and Marvel come to a Sony-like agreement on the properties, do we really want to see the Fantastic Four crossover into the MCU?  There is no particular interaction that would make me the slightest excited.  Maybe Thing vs. Hulk but outside of that?  Not much.  Tony Stark and Reed Richards talking science?  Nah.  Sue Storm hanging out with Captain America?  No thank you.  I guess you could have some meta humor fun with Human Torch (Michael B. Jordan) and Captain America (Chris Evans) but that’s still not exciting for me.  Maybe Marvel could create some interesting stories?  But they are struggling selling the comic so would they still have a problem?

The one shining spot is the Incredibles.  That film is essentially a Fantastic Four film and it was done right.  It had heart, it had powers and it had the family dynamic.  It just seems like there is a way to make all of this work but… Hasn’t been done yet.

With the advent of this new film, how it was handled, the discontinuation of their comic and what we have learned from the past, it might be time to put the Fantastic Four down for a long nap.  it doesn’t need to be abandoned because we know that a family of superheroes can work (Incredibles).  They aren’t in Old Yeller territory yet but they are on the verge.

That’s it for today!  Have a great weekend everybody!

*This blog post has been updated as new information has come in*

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