What actually went wrong with the Fantastic Four reboot

Ian Sandwell
·5 min read
Photo credit: Marvel - 20th Century Fox
Photo credit: Marvel - 20th Century Fox

From Digital Spy

Fantastic Four held such promise before its release... until critics actually saw the finished product.

And all it took was a tweet (later deleted) from director Josh Trank to reveal that not all was well behind the scenes. "A year ago I had a fantastic version of this. And it would've received great reviews. You'll probably never see it. That's reality though."

The stars of the movie, including Toby Kebbell and Michael B Jordan, have defended the movie since its release, and even Trank has softened his stance on the experience recently by giving it an honest review.

And in a fantastic new profile piece on Polygon, the director has candidly opened up about what went wrong with Fantastic Four – and it turns out that it started from the original development phase.

Photo credit: 20th Century Fox
Photo credit: 20th Century Fox

With creative control from Fox, Trank hired Jeremy Slater – who helped to develop Chronicle with Trank – to write the movie as Slater could provide the comic-book knowledge that the director couldn't.

Trank's idea was that the end of the movie would "organically set up the adventure and the weirdness and the fun" for the sequel with the first movie, in Trank's words, being "the filmic version of how I saw myself all the time: the metaphor of these characters crawling out of hell".

However, it seems that the director wasn't as open to the movie featuring comic-book beats as Slater wanted.

"The first Avengers movie had recently come out, and I kept saying, 'That should be our template, that's what audiences want to see! And Josh just f**king hated every second of it," recalled Slater.

Trank added: "The trials of developing Fantastic Four had everything to do with tone. You could take the most 'comic booky' things, as far as just names and faces and identities and backstories, and synthesise it into a tone. And the tone that [Slater] was interested in was not a tone that I felt I had anything in common with."

Photo credit: Marvel - 20th Century Fox
Photo credit: Marvel - 20th Century Fox

The main challenge was that when it came to the Fantastic Four getting the powers that made them, you know, fantastic, Trank "did not give a shit" according to Slater, whether they were "fighting robots in Latveria or aliens in the Negative Zone".

Slater left the movie after six months and said that he wrote almost 18 drafts and 2,000 pages. He believed that Fox only saw two of those drafts as Trank was the only one talking to the studio and, at the same time, Slater only saw 5% of the studio's notes.

Once Slater had departed, Fox hired other screenwriters to get the movie ready to shoot, with long-time X-Men producer Simon Kinberg remaining for the rest of the production.

For all the talk of a troubled production, Trank said that he didn't receive a complaint from Fox during the initial 72-day shoot, even if he does admit to clashing with the crew on occasion.

Photo credit: Albert L. Ortega - Getty Images
Photo credit: Albert L. Ortega - Getty Images

Instead, the challenge during the original shoot was a personal one as Trank's dog died during production, and he had trouble dealing with online criticism and threats over the movie's casting.

"I was so f**king paranoid during that shoot," he noted. "If someone came into my house, I would have ended their f**king life. When you're in a head space where people want to get you, you think, 'I'm going to defend myself'."

But when Fox executives saw the first cut of the movie, that's when the real production troubles started as they were surprised by the movie's dark tone and the fact it "wasn't for fans".

There was another issue though: it didn't have an ending.

Trank claimed that the budget was cut before production began, meaning that they couldn't do the spectacular finale they had planned. According to Slater, the final version of the movie was his initial 40-page idea expanded, just without the superheroics.

Photo credit: Marvel - 20th Century Fox
Photo credit: Marvel - 20th Century Fox

While we don't know the full story of what happened during the reshoots to 'save' the movie, Trank said that he had to battle with producers to allow him to reedit the movie while Fox worked on its own cut with editor Stephen Rivkin.

During the reshoots though, Trank believed "there was no path out of hell" and he never thought his version of the movie would win out, given that the rewrites fitted the new version of Fantastic Four and not his own.

He hoped that Fox would use elements of his cut, but being on set during reshoots was "like being castrated".

"You're standing there, and you're basically watching producers blocking out scenes, five minutes ahead of when you get there, having [editors hired] by the studio deciding the sequence of shots that are going to construct whatever is going on, and what it is that they need," Trank recalled.

"And then, because they know you're being nice, they'll sort of be nice to you by saying, 'Well, does that sound good?' You can say yes or no."

Photo credit: Marvel - 20th Century Fox
Photo credit: Marvel - 20th Century Fox

It was around this time that Trank left the Star Wars movie that he was working on at the same time as Fantastic Four's production: "I quit because I knew I was going to be fired if I didn't quit."

But despite the troubles on set and the fact he only liked a few things in Rivkin's cut of the movie, Trank promoted the movie as best he could in the lead-up to its release.

Well, until that ill-timed tweet, that is.

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