The much talked about “Fantastic Four” reboot hits cinemas today with reviews mostly slamming the film though praising a few aspects. One thing that has caused a stir in the past day or so though has been the behind-the-scenes shenanigans.
As previously reported, the film’s director Josh Trank seemingly distanced himself from the final theatrical cut of the movie in a social media posting that was quickly taken down. However this is the internet, and once something is online it’s often up there for good.
Trank indicated that a “fantastic version” of the film existed a year ago, but that is no longer the case. Certainly more than a few reviews have indicated that the more sci-fi style tone of the early part of the movie is more cohesive and better than the last 45 minutes where all the superhero action comes into play and which was rumored to be a part of extensive reshoots at the studio’s behest.
This has led to much speculation about how much of the movie was subjected to studio interference, and how Trank went about handling it. The three most recent Marvel Studios films – “Ant-Man,” “Avengers: Age of Ultron” and “Guardians of the Galaxy” – all had major changes and inclusions based on studio involvement. To what extent is unknown, but each of those came out at least OK and in at least one case resulted in a strong movie.
People have been quick to take sides though and place blame squarely on either Trank or Fox, rarely taking into account that it was ultimately a whole bunch of people and a lot of decisions that have resulted in the final product we’ve received.
One person who has firmly taken Trank’s side in the debate though is his old collaborator and friend Max Landis, the writer of Trank’s first film “Chronicle”. Whereas “Fantastic Four” is Trank’s second film, Landis grew up in this industry (his father is filmmaker John Landis) and has had more experience with some of its rougher side. In postings on his Twitter account last night, he revealed his take on the issue in the context of his own experience:
“HEY, it’s 1 AM. You know what, f–k it. Let’s be real here.
Chronicle was an incredibly rare and easy ride. I loved writing the script. I enjoyed our producer, John Davis, and our exec, Steve. I also loved collaborating with Josh, who I think is brilliant, and whose ideas inspired my script. I fought hard for him to direct. But Chronicle was a complete fluke. We had so much control because the movie was, in relation to other movies that year, TINY. Some holes opened up in Fox’s slate and Chronicle was cheap and unique, so they were kind enough to make it. Only took 6 months.
At the time, I was like “THIS IS F–KING INCREDIBLE I CAN’T BELIEVE THIS IS HAPPENING.” I’d sold scripts, but it was my first green light. Josh, who’d been for-hire editor and whose only experience behind the camera had been a web series, was a smart, fun collaborator.
During the shooting of the film, I had almost no input, but I was lucky in that the studio and Josh stuck astonishingly tight to my script. But again, even this is a fluke. It was an original idea, a dark character movie with a first time director. Fluke. Freak of nature. But I didn’t know that and I’m sure Josh didn’t know that either. In the five years since I sold Chronicle, I’ve learned the hard way.
You take huge hits in this industry, creatively, but that’s only after you’ve been given the opportunity to take huge swings, which is rare. A movie like Fantastic Four, an assignment with a lot riding on it, was always going to have a tremendous amount of cooks in the kitchen. People always ask me when I’m gonna write a superhero movie. I have. I’ve gotten those jobs. They’re very intense and stressful.
As a writer, I’ve been lucky to work on many, many projects, and seen how different and how hard each road can be, for five and a half years. Josh didn’t get that chance, and his second major project, after one with total freedom, was one with intense oversight. So I don’t think anyone’s wrong or right, necessarily, and I don’t imagine anyone cares about my opinion. But I do think it’s important to say that if you’re not prepared going in to not FIGHT like hell, but WORK like hell, it’s gonna get ugly.
No one is trying to make a bad movie. This job is only very occasionally romantic. Don’t let it own you, try not to let it hurt you. Because sometimes it’s so much f–king fun. But it’s still a job.”
“Fantastic Four” opened to $2.7 million in Thursday night preview screenings and is said to be on track for a $40 million weekend.