Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Not So Fantastic Voyage

I did not go see the reboot of the Fantastic Four in theaters this past weekend and it appears, neither did anyone else.  OK, some people went. $28 million in ticket sales came from somewhere. But in the high stakes game of movie releases, it’s about meeting or better yet beating expectations. Original estimates predicted that Fantastic Four would land somewhere in the low to mid $40 million range. 

As of last Friday, that prediction was ratcheted down to $30 million and by Saturday, it was clear that FF would fall short of that modified modest target. FF did not even come in at #1, coming up 2nd to the winner from the previous week, Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation.

Reviews on this latest film version of Marvel’s iconic comic book were near universally bad with a score on Rotten Tomatoes of 9%. Add to that all the bad press that swirled around this movie during and after production. There was a stench of failure on this movie before the first image flickered on the screen of your local multiplex. 

This was the film version of Fantastic Four that was going to set right the mistakes of the first two films. For the record, both films had opening weekends in the $50 million plus range. I have seen most of the first film from director Tim Story but only a small part of the 2nd. Nothing I saw of either film set my world on fire but I never saw what was so bad about them either. OK, I get that having Galactus appear in the 2nd movie as a cloud entity was a major cop-out and the make-up effects for The Thing were a bit too old school. I thought Michael Chiklis as Ben Grimm, the ever lovin’ blue eyed Thing, was very good casting.

But both of those Fantastic Four movies failed to ignite with audiences, failed to engage people the same way the movies made directly by Marvel did. So Fox decided to go back to the drawing board and start anew with the Fantastic Four. But instead of improving on the product and expanding the audience, the exact opposite happened. What went wrong?

Again, I will reiterate that I did not see this film but here are my observations nonetheless.

  1. It was too soon for a start from scratch reboot. Audiences did not need to pay big ticket prices to see an origin story that can be had for a lot less money on Netflix or digging through the $5 DVD bin at Wal-mart.
  2. It seems as if too much attention was paid to the franchise and too little to the movie itself. This was my criticism of Terminator: Genysis that spent an entire movie reestablishing a new status quo to serve as the foundation for future movies, future movies that may not get made because the first one did so badly. From what I’ve heard about the new Fantastic Four, it only really gets any good near the end after spending most of the preceding movie establishing a set up for future movies that we may never get to see.
  3. Filmmakers are not trusting or understanding the source material. The Fantastic Four is not just some random super hero group. First and FOURmost (Get it? FOURmost? Oh never mind!), the FF is a family. And they are a family in the public eye. In today’s world of reality TV and a constant social media presence, one would expect this unique element of the FF to be promoted, not ignored. 

One hopes that Fox will come to its senses and do what Sony did with Spider-Man: make nice with Marvel and let Marvel Studios handle the Fantastic Four on film. Fox seems to have a good handle on the X-Men franchise which is OK; the X-Men have always been a bit apart from the rest of the Marvel comics universe. But Fantastic Four’s history is intertwined with the rest of the Marvel Comics Universe and it would great to see the FF take their proper place as the Marvel Cinematic Universe. 

Whether or not that's going to happen is still up in the air. Fox has publicly declared its willingness to make another Fantastic Four movie despite the abysmal performance of this reboot. Of course, it makes sense they want to say that publicly. If Fox does want to unload this albatross back on Marvel, they want to get the best bang for the buck, something that won't happen if Fox looks too eager to run away from the franchise.  

It bears remembering that the Marvel/Sony team up deal involving Spider-Man wasn't announced until several months after the lackluster performance of Amazing Spider-Man 2

At any rate, this past weekend has proved that super hero movies don't sell. GOOD super hero movies, now those sell. 

Everybody remember to be good to one another. And stay fantastic, y'all! 

I'm So Glad My Suffering Amuses You

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