As the weekend draws to a close, it’s become clear that 20th Century Fox’s reboot of the Fantastic Four franchise is dead on arrival. After a respectable opening night and reports that Fantastic Four was tracking better than Ant-Man, Marvel’s surprise late-summer hit, Deadline reported that Fantastic Four has lost 25 percent of its audience between Friday and Saturday night. Fantastic Four lost the No. 1 spot to Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, the Tom Cruise action flick, in its second week of release. In fact, audience rejection of Fantastic Four was so severe that it pulled down the entire box office. Deadline also revealed that box office returns were down from this time last year, though it didn’t say by how much.
As sensational as the most significant superhero movie flop in recent memory has been, it’s wasn’t unexpected. The week before Fantastic Four‘s release, reports emerged that 20th Century Fox would not lift the review embargo on Fantastic Four until the day before its release. The extended embargo was likely an attempt to hold off the dismal reviews until the all-important opening night returns, but die-hard comic fans have become too savvy for such tricks. Almost immediately, speculation began that Fantastic Four was a bad film. Those suspicions were confirmed almost immediately. Fantastic Four‘s initial rating on Rotten Tomatoes was 12 percent — it dropped to 7 percent on Saturday, before rising to 9 percent on Sunday.
While there is more than enough blame to go around for the failure of Fantastic Four, director Josh Trank seems to be the designated sacrificial lamb. Entertainment Weekly reports that multiple sources have spoken independently of Trank’s behavior on-set, describing it as “combative” and “abusive” to crew and cast. Though the sources also pointed to last minute script changes, delayed script approval, and severe budget cuts at the hands of 20th Century Fox, that news has been eclipsed by the infamous tweet from Trank where he implied that the poor quality of Fantastic Four was caused by executive meddling at Fox. The tweet was deleted quickly, but the damage to Trank’s career has likely been done. What remains to be seen is how much damage the careers of Fantastic Four stars Michael B. Jordan, Kate Mara, Miles Teller, Jaime Bell, and Toby Kebbell will take in the wake of the film’s failure.
Ultimately, the problem with Fantastic Four is that it feels more than a decade too late. It has none of the epic scale and plucky black comedy that has become a hallmark of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and none of the gritty realism that Warner Bros. Studios has made a hallmark of the DC Comics films. The multi-billion comic film business will probably move on without noticing the epic flop that is Fantastic Four. There is hope that in the wake of Fantastic Four‘s failure, Marvel can snatch the rights back from 20th Century Fox, but such an astounding failure may have tarnished the property beyond repair. The best fans can hope for is that Fantastic Four serves as a warning to studios looking for quick cash from the intellectual properties locked in their vaults: treat our memories with respect, or watch your efforts fail.
[Photo by Gustavo Caballero / Getty Images]