Why Fox’s ‘Fantastic Four’ Reboot Will Fail

Fox's (NASDAQ: FOX  ) upcoming Fantastic Four reboot, scheduled to hit theaters on June 19, 2015, is a polarizing topic among comic book and film fans due to its unconventional casting choices and a jarring new take on the classic characters.

The first two films, released in 2005 and 2007, were profitable but bombed with critics. Fox clearly hopes that rebooting Fantastic Four will give it a second main Marvel franchise to complement the X-Men characters. Fox has even gone ahead and scheduled the sequel to be released on July 15, 2017.

Source: Marvel.

While Fox's ambitions are admirable, I believe that this film could flop -- possibly resulting in another reboot or the sale of the film rights back to Disney (NYSE: DIS  ) and Marvel.

Not caring about the comics
The main problem is that director Josh Trank, whose only previous film was the found-footage superhero film Chronicle, doesn't plan to base the new Fantastic Four film on the comics at all.

Kate Mara, who stars as the new Sue "Invisible Woman" Storm, recently told Esquire Mexico that Trank advised the cast not to read any Fantastic Four comics, because it "won't be based on any history of anything already published." Michael B. Jordan, who stars as Johnny "Human Torch" Storm, told MTV News that the film was about "kids that had an accident" coping with disabilities. At a Crave Online interview, writer Simon Kinberg declared that the film would be a "more gritty, realistic movie" than its predecessors.

Trank's casting choices have also been unconventional. Ben "The Thing" Grimm, who was traditionally a beefy character prior to his transformation, will reportedly be played by Jamie Bell, the short and slim protagonist of AMC's Turn. Casting Jordan, a black actor, as Johnny Storm has also raised eyebrows considering that he is supposed to be Sue Storm's brother.

The new 4: Miles Teller, Kate Mara, Michael B. Jordan, and Jamie Bell. Source: Wikimedia Commons, Marvel.

Put all of these factors together, along with Kinberg's promise of a "gritty" film, and Trank's new Fantastic Four feels too much like a film trying too hard not to be a Fantastic Four film.

Taking a few lessons from Batman
I'm not a purist who believes that films must be completely faithful to the original comics. However, I think superhero films need to at least resemble the source material to be marketable.

For example, Christopher Nolan skillfully distilled four classic Batman stories -- Year One, The Killing Joke, The Long Halloween, and Knightfall -- into his grounded and realistic Dark Knight trilogy. Nolan, who was admittedly not a comic book fan, let screenwriter David S. Goyer, an accomplished comic book writer, tell him "what could be changed and couldn't be changed" in the Batman mythos.

That statement, made by Goyer during a BFI Screenwriters' Lecture, explains why some comic book films work and why others -- like Joel Schumacher's disastrous Batman & Robin -- don't.

Schumacher's Bane vs. Nolan's Bane. Source: Warner Bros.

Back in 2000, director Darren Aronofsky and famed comic book writer Frank Miller teamed up to reboot Batman for Time Warner (NYSE: TWX  ) /Warner Bros. after the failure of Batman & Robin.

Aronofsky and Miller, just like Trank and Kinberg, wanted to wipe the slate clean and introduce audiences to a completely new version of Batman. Aronofsky and Miller's plan was bold -- they rebooted Bruce Wayne as a homeless orphan adopted by a black mechanic named Big Al (instead of Alfred), who later fights crime in a Lincoln Town Car instead of a Batmobile. Warner wasn't impressed with that odd, ambitious vision, and quickly scrapped the project.

The lesson that Fox should learn from Warner's Batman is that diverging completely from the comics is a bad business move that alienates comic book and film fans at the same time.

Why so serious?
That brings us to the next point -- Fantastic Four is not designed to be a gritty and serious film. Fantastic Four is a fun, light-hearted comic with over-the-top sci-fi themes. It's the tone that Disney captured perfectly in its new trailer for Guardians of the Galaxy -- fun, silly, and epic.

Guardians of the Galaxy is more Fantastic Four than Fantastic Four. Source: Marvel.

What Fantastic Four needs is a creative team that understands those themes, rather than one that believes all comic book films must adopt the dark, serious tone established by Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy. That serious tone works for Batman, but it's not meant for Fantastic Four.

Although critics didn't love the first two Fantastic Four films, they at least partially captured the spirit of the comics. That mainstream approach was profitable -- the two films grossed $620 million on a combined budget of $230 million. However, that return still falls short of other recent Marvel films. The two Thor films grossed $1.1 billion on a budget of $320 million, while the two Captain America films also grossed $1.1 billion on a budget of $310 million. Those films all did perfectly fine by staying faithful to the comics and maintaining a balance between action and humor.

Therefore, it's baffling that Fox thinks that a rebooted, unfamiliar version of the Fantastic Four characters will be a bigger box office hit than the more familiar versions.

The Foolish takeaway
To make matters worse, Fox is wedging Fantastic Four between two huge films -- Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA  ) /Universal's Jurassic World and Ted 2 -- in the prior and subsequent weeks of its release. This means that Fantastic Four's one shot to make a lasting impression could be completely buried by those two films.

In conclusion, I might be wrong about the Fantastic Four reboot. After all, Chronicle was a solid, well-made film and Fantastic Four might be as well. However, I'm concerned that in their bid to make this film unique, Trank and Kinberg could cook up a box office turkey that completely misses the mark with comic book and film fans alike.

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  • Report this Comment On July 18, 2014, at 10:48 AM, Puma wrote:

    The new FF4 WILL bomb, and rightfully so. Sue and Johnny are brother/sister, not a sister with and adopted brotha, and The Thing is huge, not a little nerd. If he bulks up all it's going to do is remind people of Banner becoming the Hulk, but not green. The Dark Knight Trilogy kinda ruined comic book movies, because now it seems some people are going to try and make their movie dark and gritty when it shouldn't be. Man Of Steel, which I loved by the way, had Nolan's hands all over it, and that's what I kinda didn't like. I want to see FF4 and Spiderman go back to Marvel so they can be done right.

  • Report this Comment On July 18, 2014, at 11:14 AM, ChuckT63 wrote:

    If you are going to completely re-write the Fantastic Four, then don't call it the Fantastic Four, idiots! If it's not based on anything that's been written before, then it is obviously not The Fantastic Four, so can't they be sued or something?

  • Report this Comment On July 18, 2014, at 11:30 AM, BrettOG wrote:

    I agree with article and previous posts. Total disaster in the making. Why pick short guys to be the Thing? I get having a nerd get to be big…just do the Capt America thing. Get a a big dude and superimpose his face on someone small. That works. A lil nerd with a rubber suit will not. I get what they are trying to do….but they are totally alienating the fan boys.

  • Report this Comment On July 18, 2014, at 11:36 AM, Saicam53 wrote:

    From what I originally understand, they are rushing the FF movie due to the reason, if they dont make one by a certain date the rights would be reverted back to marvel.

  • Report this Comment On July 18, 2014, at 11:45 AM, darkwarrior3007 wrote:

    I don't have a problem with the casting choices. I do have a problem with just basically throwing out everything to do with the comics. The movie should have some type of semblance with the comics.

    Changes are always going to be made with these type of movies but there is always something recognizable about the movie from the comics. If they are so insistent about all of the changes then they should create there own original movie with original characters and not use the Fantastic Four name to try and make money.

  • Report this Comment On July 18, 2014, at 11:50 AM, ChillaxB wrote:

    This is to the Fantastic Four, what Halle Berry's Catwoman was to Catwoman. Too bad because the FF is a great book with great characters. I look forward to the day when some film maker will get it right. But this isn't going to be it.

  • Report this Comment On July 18, 2014, at 11:51 AM, thiagorulez wrote:

    I don't even know anyone who likes the Fantastic Four, myself included.

  • Report this Comment On July 18, 2014, at 11:55 AM, nymarbleman1 wrote:

    Big Fantastic Four fan but there is no way I am watching this movie. FOX is going about this all wrong. Why would you pay Marvel for the FF franchise if you arent going to use the history and build off of the success and popularity of the characters. FF has just as much potential as Avengers if not more if it is done right. Very disappointing.

  • Report this Comment On July 18, 2014, at 12:02 PM, goliath209 wrote:

    There should be a sweetness in the Fantastic Four story that has to be there for the film to succeed. Reed is the brain, but they are ALL nerds of one type or another. Johnny doesn't realize it, but he's a nerd. He spends his time hanging with nerds and he doesn't have any other friends. Ben-same thing. They need each other, and it's those moments of acceptance of that fact that makes them a force to be reckoned with. I have to say, it's a story that probably works a LOT better as a comedy than as a drama. This group could work on their own merits. It's all in how well the story is told. Can they make us believe it, and can they make us want to be IN it?

  • Report this Comment On July 18, 2014, at 12:24 PM, sai99shadow wrote:

    Totally agree with @Puma this movie WILL bomb. I know they'll try to get a buzz going at this years San Diego Comic Con but it's just bad. Let the rights revert back to Marvel. To just ignore the history is absurd. Why call it Fantastic Four then? Just call it Chronicle 2 and come up with some reason why Michael B. Jordan's character came back to life. I predict this movie will do about 2 million the first weekend it comes out just from a few curious people.

  • Report this Comment On July 18, 2014, at 12:53 PM, jonesy81 wrote:

    "Gritty" is just another word for boring. It looks like Trank wants to do Chronicle pt 2 and cal it Fantastic Four. Hopefully this one will flop and Fox will sell the rights back to Disney/Marvel.

    One of these days, we may actually see a good FF movie, just not soon.

  • Report this Comment On July 18, 2014, at 12:55 PM, InvisibleZombie wrote:

    Well I LOVE the FF, I grew up reading them, even having those little 45 story-records with books, ICEE comic cups, I still have my 1974 Mego action figures. But they're FANTASTIC! You worded it just right with "trying too hard not to be a Fantastic Four film.".

    Even though Burton's Batmans are 10x better at least I can say that Schumacher's disasters are watchable and recognizable as no sillier than what some of the comics put him through at certain points (think the giant props era!).

    I'm less familiar with Guardians but I can tell instantly that it's possibly the mixture of familiar hero themes tweaked with a fresh sensibility that Star Wars gave us in 1977.

    I don't like the FF cast at all, and yes I don't want Johnny Storm to be black, period. It's far easier and more sensible if casting dictates to race-change a solo character, like Ben, (or The Kingpin, Nick Fury). If Trank's really got some good ideas and talent then he probably deserves a fresh product to try his ideas out on, something original. As it is he seems just as intent on pizzing off fans as he is in not attracting new ones.

  • Report this Comment On July 18, 2014, at 1:11 PM, comics1realm wrote:

    Yes avoiding comics not completely faithful to the innovation and style of the original material is cause to boycott. Miscasting characters is the greatest problem with these films.

  • Report this Comment On July 18, 2014, at 1:24 PM, Alericc wrote:

    This is the same formula that Hollywood has been using for years to make dreadful super hero movies. They continue to think that they can make better characters and write better storylines than established comics that have been successful for over 40 years. Time and time again they have failed but yet they STILL think they can do it. I don't plan on see this film due to the sloppy casting and writing they have chosen.

  • Report this Comment On July 18, 2014, at 1:36 PM, SuntanIronMan wrote:

    @Puma

    It'll more likely be the other way around: Sue will be the adopted one. Doctor Storm (Sue and Johnny's father) is also played by a black actor. That or they will be a blended family or half-siblings or whatever.

    This is movie with a rubber man, an invisible woman, a rock man, and a flying fire man... but it is the multiracial family aspect of the movie that people can't comprehend? lol

  • Report this Comment On July 18, 2014, at 1:58 PM, phoenix01690 wrote:

    I have always been a fan of the Fantastic Four. I started collecting during John Byrne's run as writer and penciller (yes, I just dated myself) and even though I no longer collect comics, I still follow as best I can. I rather liked the movies, although the Torch's characterization didn't match his comic book counterpart - too narcissistic.

    Anyway, there is no movie I hope fails worse than the new Fantastic Four movie. Only way it could be worse was if Michael Bay was directing. Hopefully, this bombs so badly that Fox will allow the rights to revert to Marvel again, like they did with Ghost Rider.

  • Report this Comment On July 18, 2014, at 4:21 PM, Halfdan74 wrote:

    Why it will fail?

    Because Johnny Storm is black. I'm white but if I were black I would find that the most offensive, racist piece of marketing garbage since Thor!

    What you are saying to the world is, "Are marketing research says that minorities have felt left out of American culture in past decades and that changing the ethnicity into an African American would help them bond with a fellow African American. We condescend to this cross section of people we continue to keep seperated in our limited dysfunctional thinking and somehow think so lowly of their self esteem that they would actually want to change and transform art and fictional mythology so that the Fantastic Four has a black member. Just as Nick Fury was turned into a black man. Let's pat ourselves, shall we?"

    I would be Just as offended if Black Panther were Korean, Falcon were white, If Storm was Puerto Rican. But I am so DEEEEPLY offended by the fact Comic books are made a target of this, and not the first black James Bond, the first chinese Tarzan. I want to have a Jesus movie starring a chinese midget with a lisp and get a North Korean to play Pilot. I want to star Carrottop as George Washington in a serious film about our four fathers. Honey Boo Boo's mom can play Martha Washington and Thomas Jefferson can be played by Tiny Lister.

    Hollywood marketing executives are killing our culture, ruining the world(seriously) and way overdue for their ritual suicide gathering.

    If that ever came about, and all professional marketing suits who collect a paycheck for work with Hollywood cinema marketing research did the honorable thing and ended their horrible existence, 3 weeks and all our problems would be gone.

  • Report this Comment On July 18, 2014, at 5:08 PM, monster7of9 wrote:

    There are a lot a valid arguments about the failure of the FF reboot. I only pray that we don't get the extra cheesy low budget treatment from Roger Corman's version of FF. Now, putting that aside, I really liked Chronicle and Trank's direction.

    Sometimes you need to have a new director come into a project with fresh eyes and not be hampered with what has been done before. Look at JJ Abrams who was able to a brilliant Star Trek movie and was not a fan. Trank could set the FF universe much in the same manner. Who knows?

    On the other side, how much do we depart from the source material? I hated the idea that Victor Von Doom was exposed to the same cosmic rays as the FF group in the movie. This made no sense and made Doom the worst part of the movie. Could we update the origin story? Yes. Peter Parker (Tobey) was bitten by not a radioactive spider but a genetically altered spider and that spiderman can generate organic webs. (I buy this) Can we change characters and their attributes around? Yes. BSG has two male roles in the original series that were recast as two female roles in the re-imagined series. This change made the characters stronger and more interesting. FF does have a chance to be a hit for FOX but 2015 is going to be a very tough year regardless.

    Please check out the link below for another issue regarding the FF reboot and Marvel.

    http://monsterscifishow.wordpress.com/2014/07/17/what-if-the...

  • Report this Comment On July 18, 2014, at 6:59 PM, SuntanIronMan wrote:

    @Halfdan74

    Movie universe Nick Fury is visually based on Ultimate Nick Fury from the Ultimate Marvel comic book universe. And Ultimate Nick Fury is black.

    Not only that, but Ultimate Nick Fury was actually designed (unauthorized, mind you) to outright look like Samuel L. Jackson years before Jackson would play Fury on the big screen. So in a happy happenstance, Jackson is playing a comic book character that is literally (100%) visually based on him. So instead of it being an example of horrible Hollywood marketing as you call it, Jackson playing Fury is probably the most perfect Hollywood casting decision of all time! In a weird way Jackson is basically playing himself.

    Also, there is Nick Fury Jr. from the main Marvel comic book universe. He being the half-black son of white Nick Fury. Junior is also based visually on Samuel L. Jackson.

    Comic book stories evolve over time, as do comic book characters. They always have and they always will. That's the nature of American comic books. If they didn't evolve, we wouldn't even have a Johnny Storm (white or black) or a Fantastic Four for you to complain about. That's because the original pre-Fantastic Four Human Torch wasn't Johnny Storm (or even a human). He was an android named Jim Hammond.

  • Report this Comment On July 18, 2014, at 8:08 PM, Droppo wrote:

    They should hire a creative team that is required to sit down and read the entire run of Fantastic Four that John Byrne wrote and illustrated in the early 80's before they do ANYTHING relating to a new FF movie. That was the modern rebirth of the team and it captured the original spirit of the Kirby era original while bringing it into a more modern setting. Invisible Girl became Invisible Woman (finally), and the team dealt with a variety of issues trying to live their lives besides all the constant cosmic disaster they had to avert. And there was some amazing storytelling along the way. I wouldn't expect them to retell the same stories, but they would be well served to become familiar with how to make FF successful before trying to put their stamp on it and create a box office bomb in the process.

  • Report this Comment On July 18, 2014, at 9:14 PM, tw170 wrote:

    I don't really care about Fantastic Four and whether it does well but I have to say, Halfdan, your comments are far more ignorant and offensive than this movie's casting"

    Seriously, you're comparing changing the race of a fictional comic book character, to changing the race of historical figures. There's nothing about any of the characters in FF that dictates race aside from the sibling relationship, which could easily be explained with a same mother, different father statement.

    The only reason all those comic characters are white is because they wanted to sell comic books. When the 60s and 70s rolled around they added black characters. Now they're adding gay characters.

  • Report this Comment On July 18, 2014, at 9:47 PM, geecue27 wrote:

    I really don't think this movie will do well at all. This is from someone who was on set during filming. Very unorganized. I know much will go through editing, but you can't edit actions; can edit poor acting qualities. It's like they really didn't care if the movie would flop. It's sad when a Grip has to ask you questions about a scene. No bueno.

  • Report this Comment On July 19, 2014, at 9:14 PM, maxtoo wrote:

    Yes this FF reboot is DOA! It is already generating so much backlash it has no chance. They should just cancel it now before they lose lots of money. It will probably have as much box office success as "Punisher: War Zone".

    I won't pay to see it and there will be no sequel.

  • Report this Comment On July 20, 2014, at 7:40 PM, mischif wrote:

    this movie will DOA and it’s not that the torch is black. It the whole cast that’s going to (doom doom doom) the whole movie. None of the people they have chosen could act their way out of a wet paper bag. and they are barely out of diapers. And I imagine the writers are probably of the same caliber. This movie is gonna be the biggest flop of all the super hero movie ever made. But they will try to make up for the lack by just having a lot of big explosions and blowing every thing up..Its literally gonna be a bomb of sh*t and its (doomed doomed doomed) hahahahahahaha!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Report this Comment On September 04, 2014, at 12:16 AM, Rickey1971 wrote:

    I really don't care too much about them changing races... I am white, but what does that mean? I think Jordan would make a good torch. My two main issues... and I will start with the least offensive to me, is that they are changing Susan and johnny storms back story. If they want a black torch... cool.. then make his sister black as well.

    I was called racist for that remark, but how am I racist when making Susan Storm black means she will marry a white man. People need to stop all this crap. It's really getting old.

    My main issue is that the person making this movie Plainly stated that the movie he is making has absolutely has nothing to do with FF. He really is just making another movie about people gaining powers and fighting people and calling it FF. For that statement alone I hope this movie fails... even though I know that will kill the FF franchise, which I hate.

    There have been tons of comic books with different continuities... x-men had at least four as well as spiderman. But in every continuity, the foundations were the same... Peter Parker was always the friend of Harry Osborn.

    It's okay to tweak the powers, tweak the story, but to say this movie will have NOTHING to do with the original material except the names is pathetic.

    Smallville paid a decent homage to superman, it was modern but still held to the mythology. Superman Returns was an out and out copy of 1977 Superman except without all the good parts. Keatons Batman, this first and only this first, reminded me so much of the comics... Batman Begins reminded me of... NOTHING. There is a difference between batman and just any dude with tons of money wanting revenge.

    The characters matter. That has what kept these comics on the shelves for decades. Who Hated that the totally screwed up Deadpool in Wolverine? That was in no way shape or form Deadpool. Wade was perfect however.

    The Star Trek reboot has a lot of Trek fans in a frenzy.. but it made sense, you are not changing continuity, you are creating a way that does NOT destroy what has come before, and enables you to create original stories without stepping on the hearts of people who cared about the original series.

    Anyway... this was too long and I was too months late to respond.. but I wanted my thought posted even if it's too late for anyone to read.

  • Report this Comment On September 04, 2014, at 12:20 AM, Rickey1971 wrote:

    And if anyone does read my above post... it's late, and I do know how to spell. I see all the spelling and grammar errors. Sorry.

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