‘Fantastic Four’ Reboot Bombs

by Arthur Vandelay on August 10, 2015

fantastic-four-2015-josh-trank-star-warsThis weekend, Fox’s attempt to reboot its Marvel comics franchise Fantastic Four bombed at the box office, earning only $26.2 million in its first three days, despite playing in nearly four thousand theaters nationwide. Even after adding the superhero actioner’s international earnings, the film’s current box office total climbs to only $60.3 million.

While the actual budget numbers are hard to come by, some reports place the production budget at circa $120 million dollars. That almost certainly excludes the cash spent when the production returned to Baton Rouge for lengthy reshoots that went on for months. It also does not include the typical marketing spend for a major tentpole release, which I’d estimate is at least $100 million.

In addition, films split box office receipts with the theaters. That means Fox has only covered circa $30 million of at least a $220 million dollar investment in Fantastic Four. Ouch.

With a very poor first weekend and an even weaker critical response, the reasons behind the film’s disappointing reception aren’t mysterious. Outside of the film’s stellar cast – which includes Michael B. Jordan as Johnny Storm, Kate Mara as Sue Storm, Miles Teller as Reed Richards, Jamie Bell as Benn Grimm, and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes alum Toby Kebbell as Dr. Doom – not much went right.

Second time director Josh Trank, who was hired in the wake of his excellent film Chronicle, had a bumpy road and was essentially removed from the project. Another director was brought in to do substantial reshoots. Just days before Fantastic Four‘s release, Trank bashed his own movie on Twitter, blaming the film’s apparently poor quality on studio meddling. At the time of its release, Fantastic Four only had a 9% positive rating on the movie review aggregator site Rottentomatoes.com. Even the little loved 2005 film has 27% positive reviews.

Early fan reaction to the film was also not very promising. From the first images, the rebooted film seemed to be the embodiment of that soulless studio executive promise that they are going “grittier, darker.” All while retelling a boilerplate origin story already well known to audiences. There was also much made of casting a black actor as Johnny Storm, brother of Sue Storm. Both characters have been historically portrayed as white. For most people, including me, this is a ridiculous reason to criticize the film before its release. As long as there’s a plausible explanation in the story, who cares? However, this strikes me as one of those “issues” with the film that wouldn’t have mattered to fanatical Fantastic Four purists at all if the final product was a great movie. Since it wasn’t great, the move away from tradition is just one item in a long list of items that seems to indicate studio meddling that may have harmed the project.

Fox will be fine, though, thanks to 2015 hits like the animated feature Home, which has earned the studio $386 million, Kingsman: The Secret Service, which earned $406 million, and Spy, which is currently at $233 million.

Fantastic Four is now playing in theaters everywhere. Go see it for yourself and make up your own mind.

  • tedbaldwin

    the script is terrible, the reimagining is shallow, and the idea to take a property with adult characters and turn them into teenagers was spotty at best. There is almost no conflict in the story, and the villain is lame-o compared to even the worst villains in other marvel stories. It takes a full hour before the team has its powers. AND THEN THE SCRIPT SEPARATES THE TEAM MEMBERS. idiocy.

    I would have started this film with a full on attack and destruction of a major city by doom, flexing his muscles, then further develop the tensions between the team members stuck with each other.