Kate Mara and Michael B. Jordan in ‘The Fantastic Four’ (Fox)
The latest big-screen version of The Fantastic Four went down in flames over the weekend, earning just $26.2 million at the box office, thanks to scathing reviews, an all-time low CinemaScore from audiences, and more gossip and drama than a middle-school dance.
As previously (and thoroughly) chronicled, the film’s embattled director, 31-year-old Josh Trank, more or less disowned the movie last week, posting a tweet that claimed Fox was responsible for mangling his vision and creating the disastrous final product (which currently has a nine percent rating on review-aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes). Though the director quickly deleted the tweet, those 140 characters had a big impact: Not only did Trank’s vote of no-confidence likely hurt the film’s financial prospects, it ended the studio’s desperate attempt to present the Four team as a happy family, both on-screen and behind the scenes.
By the weekend, sources aligned with both Trank and Fox — granted a Sue Storm-like cloak of invisibility — were firing away at one another, trying to pin the blame for the catastrophe on one another. Much of the sniping came in an oft-updated Entertainment Weekly report; in the end, the story paints a portrait of a dysfunctional production that was doomed from the start, with plenty of blame to go around.
Trank, coming off of 2012′s relatively small teens-with-powers film Chronicle, seems to have not been barely equipped to handle a high-pressure, $120 million studio production like Four. He clashed with Fox from the start, the EW report alleges, fighting the studio for the right to cast Miles Teller as Reed Richards (a battle Trank won), and pushing back against the casting of House of Cards star Kate Mara as Sue Storm (a battle he lost). He supposedly ended up clashing with Teller, while his lack of enthusiasm for Mara’s casting purportedly spilled over to a lack of respect for the actress on set (keep in mind these are all anonymous allegations; Trank himself has yet to comment, save for his lone tweet). His anger issues is said to have cropped up elsewhere, making him a difficult presence on set, and unpopular with the film’s crew.
On the flip side, the studio allegedly slashed Trank’s budget, and toyed with the script all throughout pre-production, and even into the film’s shoot — a situation that would certainly test any filmmaker’s patience. At one point, according to TheWrap, producers Simon Kinberg and Hutch Parker even re-wrote Trank’s script, creating friction that Trank and Kinberg tried to play down in previous interviews.
The film’s ending was changed entirely, and it’s clear that even some elements and storylines that were filmed during production were later slashed in post-production, as a screen grab from B-Roll video of the “Fantasticar” below indicates. The car never appears in the final film, though it clearly was utilized in several since-deleted scenes. At least those were kept under wraps; several scenes in the trailer, such as a shot of The Thing jumping down from the sky, were also nowhere to be seen in the final cut.
Here’s another scene you didn’t see on the big screen, in which Teller, Jordan, and Mara flail around on a green-screen, near what appears to be a burnt-out Fantasticar:
How much of Fantastic Four belongs to Trank, and how much of the film came from decisions made by the studio, will probably never really be known: It’s unlikely we’re going to get to see a director’s cut of Four, which is already turning into one of the most-discussed (yet least-watched) movies of the summer.