The Fantastic Four - A Trankwreck?
If you keep up with movies at all on the internet, there's no doubt you've come across articles about how disastrous the opening of the new Fantastic Four movie has been. On top of that, there are numerous accusations flying back and forth between Josh Trank and 20th Century Fox studio as to who is to blame. It's messy and ugly, and either side could be accused of being childish in their actions depending on who's viewpoint you take. Instead of going into a review of the film, of which their are hundreds if not thousands on the internet, it might be more interesting to talk about why the aftermath is so ugly.
Having a big name in Hollywood is an odd dilemma, whether it's as a director or actor. No matter how famous or popular one gets, fame and fortune can be short lived. Very few can bounce back from a huge flop, unless your name is Spielberg or some other name that's been around for a long time. This is likely why cases like this lead to so much mud slinging, particularly in Trank's case who doesn't have a lot of major films under his belt. So what exactly transpired to cause the mess? We'll probably never know the extent that both sides played in what became a fairly terrible film although some details have come out.
On Fox's side, there's a rushing of the production to retain rights to The Fantastic Four. Maybe this would have worked with an Indie film but for a big budget film requiring special effects and intricate sequences, where the expectations are high due to the success of other comic book films, rushing through things is rarely the path to take. There's also been talk of Fox production president Emma Watts clashing with Trank, delaying casting and script approvals, which again makes it hard for those hired to do their jobs when they don't know what's going on from day to day. Finally, it's been mentioned that there was large budget cutting from what Trank was originally promised. Scenes that he had already worked out had to be completely reworked at the last minute, including the big action scenes that had been planned. This once again throws another kink into things when big scenes that move the story along have to be changed on the fly.
On the other side of the coin there's Trank, who from reports has acted somewhat childish. From destroying the house he was renting during production, to completely removing himself while on set. There's even been accusations that he even went so far as to tell actors when to breathe and blink during scenes when he was there, a huge no-no that any trained actor worth his salt would likely run from. Obviously his tweet on the eve of the debut about how his vision of the film would have received great reviews but will never be seen didn't help at the box office. Who wants to see a film, when the filmmaker himself passive-aggressively bashes what's being shown. In other words, from the reports he completely shut down even attempting to make the film work after the studio stabbed him.
Now what Trank dealt with is in someways normal for Hollywood. There's usually fighting over creative control when it comes to films. Spielberg and Lucas have to deal with it, even though they're extremely accomplished filmmakers. The thing is, those few big names have a bit more pull, and they have a lot more experience than Trank in how to navigate disagreements with studios. It might be reasonable to assume based on previous films of Fox's and accusations of micromanaging, that they saw Trank as someone easy to control because of his lack of experience. Even though Fox had mentioned giving Trank more creative control, the fact that he is an up and comer would still allow a studio like Fox to bend his arm when needed because of the opportunity they afforded him. Most people in that situation, hoping for another big hit under their belt to cement themselves as a serious filmmaker, would be susceptible to such strong arming in spite of what may have been originally promised. Apparently Trank isn't one of those people.
It's for this reason I think the whole thing got ugly, and why Trank acted and reacted the way he did. As an up and comer, a big flop like The Fantastic Four on Trank's resume could spell doom. Therein lies the catch with Hollywood that most people don't see. Whenever a film flops it's usually the director or actors that take the heat for the failure publicly. The blame takes it's toll on possible future ticket sales for projects that these people are involved in which translates to less chances for them to be hired again, let alone command a paycheck of a similar scale. In this case, and the majority of other cases, the actors and director are the ones that suffer.
Imagine being the person that finally gets a break to work on a big budget film. You're promised a certain budget and creative control of that project, and you have the film all scripted out. Suddenly as you're getting ready to shoot, all of that is yanked out from under you. The studio starts demanding changes that maybe you don't agree with, or changes what you originally thought you were signing up for, and in spite of that you're name is attached to it. It might be fine if you think the changes improve the film, but what if you see the changes ruining it?
That's where the problem lies. If Trank thought the changes ruined the film, he knew he'd also be held responsible and thrown under the bus if it failed even though it wasn't his film any longer. That's not something you want to happen on your first big break because a huge failure could mean never getting a second chance. It's one thing to fail because your own work wasn't up to par, but to be blamed for someone else's vision isn't something any of us enjoy. To add merit to this, most reviews I've seen had people mention that they enjoyed the first part of the film, the part Trank was responsible for. The ending, which most people hated, was the studio's attempt at bringing in others to finish what Trank started but in a way the studio wanted.
Did Trank act badly? It looks like it from the reports, and certainly there are things mentioned that were uncalled for on his part. Either way though, he would have been in trouble. While it may have been better not to burn bridges as it appears he has with some of his statements, there's also something to be said for speaking out so as not to be blamed for something that wasn't his own. It's basically a lose lose situation for him no matter which way you look at it. Only time will tell if he will be given a second chance, or if he made the correct decision in speaking out. Such is the way it goes in Hollywood.
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