Trank vs. Fox “Fantastic” Debate Turns Ugly

It was bad before, now it’s getting nasty.

People have been quick to take sides in the debate over the failure of the “Fantastic Four” reboot which took just $26 million in its opening weekend and looks to have overtaken “Batman and Robin” to be the worst reviewed superhero film of all time.

Some have leapt to filmmaker Josh Trank’s defense, seeing this as a debate about an artist with a vision who has been creatively stifled by capitalism-obsessed hollow men undermining him. Others have sided with the studio, painting Trank as an egotistical and out of control maverick who is running away from his own mess.

In the movie business, failure is an orphan and the truth almost always lies somewhere in between. After all, no-one sets out to make bad film and when one is made it’s often a culmination of compromises and bad ideas from everyone involved made manifest.

Even so there’s a certain level of civility that’s maintained on all sides during such a debate. Trank essentially disowned the film in a briefly posted tweet on Friday though, and that act has now led to a bunch of the dirty laundry surrounding the production being aired.

The most damning is a lengthy piece in EW which goes into the mess surrounding the film. Their sources say the problems on set were not creative differences but “rather combative and abusive behavior Trank demonstrated toward the crew, producers, studio and even the stars.” That hostility and frustration they suggest was a manifestation of personal disputes off-set regarding a house he was renting.

However Trank wasn’t the only one to blame it seems with he and Fox production president Emma Watts reportedly clashing quite often. The report indicates the studio deliberately delayed casting and script approvals, slashed tens of millions from the budget long after it was settled on, and tried to force last-minute script changes just before shooting began. The studio was said to have “bristled” at many of the traditional comic book elements that defined the characters and kept switching up managers and expectations in a bid to save the project.

Trank was the one who reportedly insisted on Miles Teller’s casting and won the debate, but Fox was the one who demanded Kate Mara’s inclusion and “Trank treated her badly as a result. Some say he was cruel, others say merely cold.” Trank and Fox were both apparently indecisive which meant the script was not finalized until late in preproduction and continued to change through reshoots – causing confusion and stress amongst all the various departments.

Still other sources say these problems are part and parcel in the production of a tentpole movie with a budget north of $100 million and Trank didn’t have the temperament or experience to manage the studio’s concerns even though the likes of Gareth Edwards (“Godzilla”), Colin Trevorrow (“Jurassic World”) and James Gunn (“Guardians of the Galaxy”) made the jump without such apparent conflicts. In fact by sending out that tweet on Friday, Trank was “biting the hand that covered him from public scrutiny”.

Meme’s about the film have exploded all over the Internet in the past few days, the schadenfreude is palpable on social media including some strangely fixated on Kate Mara’s bad wig used during the film’s reshoots – the poor-quality blond weave essentially serving as an indicator of which scenes were shot after the initial round of principal photography.

Fox domestic distribution chief Chris Aronson says the studio is sticking by the property, telling THR: “While we’re disappointed, we remain committed to these characters and we have a lot to look forward to in our Marvel universe.” It’s a hollow sentiment, and Birth Movies Death has indicated that several sources are telling them Fox will fast track the sequel to its upcoming “Deadpool” movie to fill in the June 9th 2017 slot originally slated for “Fantastic Four 2”.

There’s no doubt going to be more to this story in coming weeks.