20th Century Fox’s reboot of the “Fantastic Four” bombed at the multiplex this weekend, and that's putting it mildly. The movie made a mere $26.2 million at the domestic box office, according to Rentrak, and finished second to “Mission: Impossible—Rogue Nation,” which is now in its second weekend.
That's not only significantly less than pre-release estimates ($40 million), it's also less than half of what the two previous movies about Marvel’s First Family made in their opening weekends. 2005’s “Fantastic Four” made $56.1 million in the U.S. on opening weekend and its sequel, “Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer,” brought in $57.2 million. To be fair, the new movie—which stars Miles Teller (“Whiplash”), Michael B. Jordan (“Fruitvale Station”), Kate Mara (“House of Cards”) and Jamie Bell — did bring in more than “Catwoman” and “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance,” so that’s something to be happy about.
But movies fail for a reason and this one had four big ones going against it:
1. It Was Just A Terrible Movie
There’s no getting around it. “Fantastic Four” is a pretty mediocre movie, which is says a lot because it only had to be better than the original series. And audiences knew it. Moviegoers this weekend gave it a C-minus CinemaScore.
Trank’s Nolan-ified take on the Stan Lee-Jack Kirby created super-family devolves into a mess after the first half hour, and the movie's final act might be the worst part. What was Victor Von Doom’s (Toby Kebbell) villainous plan? Not exactly sure, but it involved a giant “Avengers”-like hole in the sky and using his unexplained powers to blow-up people’s brains. Moreover, the script didn’t do a good job of establishing a relationship between Reed Richards (Teller), Sue Storm (Mara), Johnny Storm (Jordan) and Ben Grimm (Bell). So, that when it came time to set aside their differences in the final act to defeat the Big Bad, it felt rushed and didn’t feel earned.
Overall, there was a lack of coherency in the screenplay, penned by Trank, Jeremy Slater and Simon Kinberg (who confusingly co-wrote both one of the worst X-Men movies, “X-Men: The Last Stand,” and two of the best, “X-Men: First Class” and “X-Men: Days of Future Past”). At times it felt as though the writers said, “You’ve seen other superhero movies, right? So, you can just fill in the blanks.”
2. Critics' Hatred Of The Movie Became The Story
“Fant4stic,” as it was ridiculously stylized on movie posters, is one of the most negatively reviewed superhero movies in memory. Based on 36 reviews from top critics, it currently has an 6 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, a rating worse than “ Catwoman,” which has a 9 percent.
Reviews of “Fantastic Four” from a few publications started to trickle onto the internet the Tuesday evening before it opened. They were all negative reviews, which became a story itself as many sites started to aggregate the juiciest and most damning quotes from each and didn’t do a great job of generating faith in a movie whose production and publicity had been plagued with troubling rumors (more on that later)
“ ‘Fantastic Four’ feels like a 100-minute trailer for a movie that never happens,” Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter wrote in one of the earliest reviews to hit the web.
The reviews didn’t get better from there, and by opening day, the movie’s dismal Rotten Tomatoes score, at the time 9 percent, was widely reported. Critics took issue with the movie’s subpar special effects and clunky script.
“The latest reimagining of ‘Fantastic Four’ is an experiment gone horribly wrong,” IBTimes’ Monica Castillo wrote in her scathing revie w that also pointed out the movie’s mishandling of Sue Storm. “Its sloppy script needs at least a baker’s dozen of rewrites before it’s remotely palatable.”
3. Even The Director Hated The Film
You know who did like the movie? Josh Trank himself. In response to the bad reviews sweeping the internet like a flamed-on Johnny Storm sailing through the sky in the movie’s second act, Trank tweeted: “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.” Unfortunately, the director deleted the tweet.
This tweet didn’t help a movie that was already a generating a lot of negative press. It’s unlikely that negative reviews could hurt a movie, but a bad review from the movie’s director could definitely do the trick.
“That’s tough to overcome. Fangirls and fanboys might not listen to a 50-year-old critic, but they’ll listen to the filmmaker,” Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Rentrak, told Variety.
4. The Movie Was Probably Doomed From The Start
As chronicled in great detail by Film School Rejects , the road to this reboot’s Aug. 7 debut was far from smooth and didn’t help engender much confidence in the movie’s success. There were reports of Trank clashing with writer/director Simon Kinberg and exhibting “erratic” behaviour on set. Although, Kinberg and Trank denied any significant discord. Furthermore, the news about the movie doing reshoot in January was also worrisome. Reshoots are pretty standard, but they made some fans worry because at the time, not much about the film had been released.
One of the significant roadblocks "Fantastic Four" hit on the way to theatres was the controversy of Jordan's casting as the Human Torch. Jordan is a black actor, but the original comic book character is white. Naturally, a vocal part of the fan base was not happy with the race change. For his part, Jordan penned an essay for Entertainment Weekly responding to these critcs and Stan Lee himself said he supported Jordan's casting. This actually became the subject of a cringeworthy interview in the cast in which a reporter couldn't understand how Jordan and Mara's characters could be siblings given the race difference.