“Fantastic Four” flopped in fantastic fashion this past weekend, taking in only $25.7 million in the U.S. The number is just about half of the most optimistic projections and well below what Fox, which is notorious for low-balling its box office estimates, was hoping for.
The budget for the film was an estimated $120 million.
The spectacular demise of “Fantastic Four” offers a case study in what can go wrong when a studio rushes a film into production and clashes with its director. Or when a makeup department slaps a random wig on an actress during reshoots, as Vulture.com's Kyle Buchanan gleefully points out.
When Buchanan joined us at The Frame studios, we asked him about Kate Mara's Reshoot Wig, the disappearance of the mid-budget blockbuster, and the issues that arise when a studio other than Marvel tries to produce a Marvel superhero movies.
Kyle, you're one of the few and the proud who have seen "Fantastic Four." We know the reviews are bad, but how bad is the movie?
It's pretty painful. I think it was hovering around 10 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. These movies aren't always surefire critical successes, although Marvel Studios has managed pretty well — movies like "Guardians of the Galaxy" and even "Ant-Man" have been fairly well-reviewed on the whole. But this movie, oh man, this is a textbook example of how not to make a movie. And the version of the movie that director Josh Trank is said to have made, while you can get little glimpses of it in the old trailers, has had whole scenes and moments that are just gone.
So people are now trying to reconstruct the movie that Josh Trank might have made by looking at old trailers?
Yeah, I think people are very curious as to where this movie went wrong. It's pretty obvious that the studio stepped in at some point and reshot the movie, and you can tell by looking at Kate Mara's scalp.
What is it about her hair that's telling?
She has something that I'd like to call a reshoot wig, where she has cut her hair recently and you can immediately identify the re-shot portions because there's this blonde porn-star wig that they just slap on her. From shot-to-shot, it seems like her special power is making her scalp disappear.
So clearly the wardrobe company didn't do a good job, but it seems like there's a bigger problem here: Fox had to release this movie on a certain timetable or else the rights to it would revert back to Marvel Studios.
They were contractually obligated to make this, and this is the difficult thing — before Marvel Studios had this terrific run that we now know, they sold a couple of their most famous characters to Fox. So Fox has those characters as long as they keep making movies about them, and if they don't, those rights will go back to Marvel Studios. It's hard to say whether Fox was motivated by an actual desire to make this movie, or just a bottom-line, Well, I guess we better do something with it mentality that led them astray.
Before the movie came out, Josh Trank said this to whip up enthusiasm in moviegoers: "I want them to go see a really, really great movie, something that is different from your average superhero film, something they don't really expect." Some people have said that Josh Trank wasn't a good fit for this film because his previous film, "Chronicle," was lower-budget. But while there are directors that have transitioned from low-budget movies to big-budge action flicks, Trank still doesn't seem like the right fit for this movie.
You know, the real problem here is that we've essentially gutted the medium-budget movie from Hollywood. In another world, Josh Trank would have moved on to a $40 or $50 million movie, but nowadays you go from making these micro-budget films to making $200 million monstrosities, and those carry with them all sorts of additional pressures, and that apparently made this a very contentious shoot at times.
Does "Fantastic Four" fall into the "so bad it's good" category? Or is it just bad?
Oh man, there were parts of the movie, especially near the end during the obviously re-shot portions, where I was actually watching through my fingers. And I don't even do that during horror movies. There are talented people that worked on this movie, and I'm pretty sure that they're going to put this behind them as fast as they can.