Steven Spielberg has a long history with Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy and her husband, producer Frank Marshall. It’s a relationship that dates way back to the formation of Amblin, and continues today as the three friends have helped each other on various projects, including Jurassic World and the upcoming Indiana Jones 5. It was Kennedy who found Colin Trevorrow for the Jurassic Park sequel, having recently worked with another young up-and-coming director on a potential Star Wars anthology project. That director was Josh Trank, and if you mention that name to Spielberg, he’ll do a great Mean Girls impression.
A lot of people were disappointed by last summer’s Fantastic Four. The reboot, directed by Josh Trank, was supposed to relaunch one of the most popular comic-book series in history, and erase the memory of two previous, unpopular Fantastic Four movies in the process. It had a great cast, including Miles Teller, Kate Mara, and Michael B. Jordan. It had Trank, coming off his acclaimed superhero film Chronicle. It should have been the start of something huge.
Miles Teller popped up in early reports regarding Lucasfilm’s shortlist for Phil Lord and Chris Miller’s young Han Solo movie, along with a handful of interesting contenders for the upcoming Star Wars spinoff. And while an actor has yet to be chosen to fill Harrison Ford’s intimidating shoes, Teller has confirmed that he did audition for the part while also acknowledging some problems on that other major franchise film he appeared in last year.
Yesterday, we learned that 20th Century Fox had worked out a new accord with Marvel permitting the studio to ferry one of its hottest properties into the lucrative land of milk and honey that is television. Fox has announced plans to develop two shows spun off from their X-Men franchise, one about an elite organization of mega-rich mutants called Hellfire and another about David Haller, a.k.a. the son of Charles Xavier, a.k.a. Legion. A new report from Den of Geek (still awaiting confirmation from Marvel) suggests that there may be an unknown flip side to this deal that would place The Fantastic Four, one of Marvel’s most iconic properties, back in their portfolio with another big-screen project to follow.
We already know that many things went very wrong behind the scenes of Josh Trank’s Fantastic Four. We also know that, once upon a time, the film was significantly different than the finished product. The latest “Wow, here’s how much this movie changed from conception to execution!” revelation comes from a concept artist who worked on the film. Early on, he was tasked with illustrating Doctor Doom’s castle, a location that doesn’t even exist in the final version.
We have spent our fair share of time sifting through the ashes of the new Fantastic Four movie, desperately trying to figure out exactly what happened here. Call it a morbid fascination. Call it professional curiosity. All we know is that the finished movie is not what anyone involved set out to make. Now we have another item of interest – a glimpse at an early screenplay for the film and it couldn’t be more different than the final film.
When Fantastic Four stumbled into theaters two weekends ago, the audiences that did show up noticed that the movie in theaters was not the movie being sold in the trailers. There were a ton of scenes and elements present in the marketing that were absent from the finished film. We even catalogued them right here. The full details of what went down (and what went wrong) on this set will probably remain covered up for a while yet, but details have begun to slowly trickle out. Now we know exactly what happened to the biggest missing scene of them all. Sort of.
It was quite a surprise when Josh Trank no-showed his big panel at last spring’s Star Wars Celebration. As described by one journalist, Trank’s name was still being advertised “on the jumbotron at the convention center just moments before the panel began,” when his absence was explained by moderator Pablo Hidalgo, who claimed Trank was “under the weather.” That made it much less of a surprise when, a few weeks later, Lucasfilm announced Trank was leaving the Star Wars spinoff film he’d been developing with the company, supposedly to do something more personal and “under the radar.”
As of this writing, Josh Trank’s Fantastic Four has made $25.6 million. Improbably, that’s less than half of either of the previous big-budget Fantastic Four movies, which are widely disliked by comics fan and cinephiles alike. There’s a chance Trank’s FF could wind up grossing less in theaters than Blade: Trinity, or even Trank’s own surprise debut hit, Chronicle (which cost about a tenth of his follow-up). In Hollywood parlance, those are ungood numbers. In most cases, they would almost mean certain doom (har dee har har) for any chance of a sequel.
The fact that Fantastic Four had a disastrous shoot followed by laborious reshoots may be the worst kept Hollywood secret of all time. Even if director Josh Trank hadn’t publicly displayed his dissatisfaction with the finished movie, just about anyone who sat through this mess could tell something was wrong just from the finished product. They’d know if from the inconsistent pacing, the main characters who contribute nothing to the movie, and a climax that feels like it was cobbled together by a completely different creative team. Hell, they’d know it from Kate Mara’s terrible reshoot wig, which sticks out like, well, a bad wig.