After Fantastic Four: Rise of The Silver Surfer, Tim Story’s 2007 superior (but still not fantastic) follow-up to his 2005 cinematic blunder, disappointed at the box office, 20th Century Fox decided to reboot the franchise. After the success of the 2012 dark, offbeat, found footage, teens-with-powers, superhero sleeper hit, Chronicle, Josh Trank was hired to
After Fantastic Four: Rise of The Silver Surfer, Tim Story’s 2007 superior (but still not fantastic) follow-up to his 2005 cinematic blunder, disappointed at the box office, 20th Century Fox decided to reboot the franchise. After the success of the 2012 dark, offbeat, found footage, teens-with-powers, superhero sleeper hit, Chronicle, Josh Trank was hired to direct in July 2012. Dissatisfied with the director’s original cut, which Trank described as a “fantastic version”, Fox executives mandated reshoots, which took place in January 2015, seven months before the film’s theatrical release. That same month, the first teaser trailer for Josh Trank’s Fantastic Four, aka “Fant4stic“, was released and not only replaced X-Men: Days of Future Past‘s trailer as 20th Century Fox’s most-watched trailer, but received a generally positive response, with people saying that the film “could be the most innovative and tonally unique marquee superhero movie.” That is…it could’ve been… All the pieces were there. The director of Chronicle helmed it, it had a talented cast, it had a darker tone; the cinematography and visuals seen in the trailers looked amazing. But…appearances CAN be deceiving.
Unfortunately, when I saw it in theatres with my little brother and my cousin in September 2015, I had never been more disappointed in my life. I mean, my Gosh. What the heck happened? I knew something was amiss when another trailer said the film was “From the studio that brought you X-Men: Days of Future Past” (as if we didn’t already know that) instead of “From Josh Trank, director of Chronicle, and producers Mathew Vaughn, director of X-Men: First Class & Kingsman: The Secret Service, and Simon Kinberg, co-writer of X-Men: Days of Future Past“. A 9% rating on Rotten Tomatoes? That’s worse than the any of the worst Marvel movies and never got lower than 10%. Never mind Tim Story’s Fantastic 4 duology. According to RT, that 9% technically makes Fant4stic worse than Dark Phoenix, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Electra, Venom, Blade: Trinity, Ghost Rider 1 & 2, Captain America (1990), Howard The Duck…and EVERY Punisher film adaptation. Jeez Louise, it’s worse than those?! Keep in mind. We live in a world where legendary tB-movie producer Roger Corman produced an unreleased low-budget ashcan copy in 1994 and THAT has 30% on RT. WOW. You know your big-budget ashcan copy is bad if critics like a micro-budget ashcan copy more than the big budget one. That’s not the worst part. Stan Lee didn’t even make his customary Marvel movie cameo…and he wasn’t even dead yet. Just too embarrassed, I presume. Serving as executive producer was enough humiliation for one man. That’s not the worst part. It failed to break-even at the worldwide box office. Fox didn’t think of selling the non-U.S/non-Canadian/non-German/non-Austrian/non-Chinese distribution rights to Netflix for half the film’s budget. Having Constantin Film involved didn’t help either as the German tax shelter fund closed in 2006, so no more free money from the German government. $120–155 million (not including P&A costs)…gone…right down the drain. That’s not the worse part. Tommy Wiseau, executive producer/producer/writer/director/star of the “Citizen Kane of bad movies”, The Room (which, BTW, has a higher percentage on RT than Fant4stic), expressed enthusiasm in directing a sequel, having personal admiration for the film. That’s how bad this movie is, folks. That’s the worst part. Be very afraid. I don’t know what was wrong with Trank’s first cut, but it couldn’t have been worse than what we got.
According to Trank’s deleted tweet he tweeted the night before the film’s release, his original cut was “a fantastic version” and “it would’ve received great reviews.” I can’t tell if he was just being cocky or if it actually was fantastic. Since that night I saw the movie in theatres, I prayed for many a night that 20th Century Fox would release Trank’s original cut on DVD & Blu-ray as a Director’s Cut. In fact, I actually set up a petition on Change.org to get Fox to do so. DIrector’s Cuts do have a history of being better than their theatrically released counterparts. Especially for superhero movies. The R-rated Director’s Cuts of Mark A.Z. Dippé’s Spawn and Mark Steven Johnson’s Daredevil arguably gained more critical praise than the PG-13-rated theatrical versions (although a particular scene involving my favourite actress, Jennifer Garner that made the theatrical cut of Daredevil even remotely watchable wasn’t included in the Director’s Cut, which is ironic because one of the reasons the Director’s Cut is rated R is for brief nudity, WINK-WWINK, NUDGE-NUDGE, Ben Affleck’s pre-Batman acting is still BUTCH compared to Charlie Cox’ and Todd McFarlane and Jaimie Foxx will soon correct the mistake Dippé made with a little help from Blumhouse and, hopefully, Universal Pictures, WINK-WWINK, NUDGE-NUDGE, but I digress). The Richard Donner Cut of Superman II has a higher percentage on RT than the Richard Lester cut. The Rogue Cut of X-Men: Days of Future Past actually gave Anna Paquin’s name a reason to appear in the main credits before Peter Dinklage’s name or even Nicolas Holt’s. Even the R-rated Ultimate Edition of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is better than whatever the heck the PG-13-rated theatrical version was supposed to be and yes, I should probably address the elephant in the room: The Snyder Cut.
Two years passed since that night and my family and I went to see Justice League. I wasn’t as disappointed as I was with Fant4stic but I still couldn’t help but feel…empty inside. I mean, I did notice Superman’s CGI mouth. Among other problems. I mean, my Gosh. What the heck happened? I knew something was amiss when the film wasn’t being advertised as being “From the producer & director of Man of Steel” or “From Zack Snyder, director of Man of Steel, Watchmen & 300, and executive producer Christopher Nolan, director of The Dark Knight Trilogy” (then again, neither was Batman v Superman or The Snyder Cut, for that matter). A 43% rating on RT? While that’s not as low as Batman v Superman or Suicide Squad (not to be confused with James Gunn’s recently released soft reboot, The Suicide Squad), it’s still not as high as Man of Steel or Wonder Woman. Warner Bros. executives called the Snyder Cut “unwatchable”, despite Snyder’s and screenwriter Chris Terrio’s significant efforts to lighten the tone, following the criticism of Batman v Superman for its dark tone, lack of humour, and slow pace. Joss Whedon, co-writer and director of Marvel’s The Avengers and writer-director of its first sequel, Age of Ultron, was brought in to rewrite Terrio’s script. After all, he did save The Avengers from being a disaster. Surely he could do the same for Justice League…right? Wrong. Snyder was to direct the reshoots, based on Whedon’s rewrites. Unfortunately, on March 12th, 2017…Snyder’s daughter, Autumn Snyder…committed suicide. It was a traumatic blow for Zackery. So traumatic, that two months later, he step down as director to be with his family. Whedon took over post-production duties and extensive reshoots in Snyder’s place after Patty Jenkins, director of the Wonder Woman movies (the second, of which, she also co-wrote), turned down the offer. I knew something was amiss when Whedon didn’t serve as executive producer of Infinity War or Endgame along side Jon Favreau, Stan Lee and James Gunn. Snyder still retained directorial credit even though the Whedon Cut used only about 10% of the footage that Snyder himself shot. Yet when Richard Lester reshot the majority of what Richard Donner shot for Superman II, it was Lester who got sole directorial credit. Logically speaking, Whedon should’ve got sole directorial credit and Snyder should’ve got executive producer credit alongside Christopher Nolan and Emma Thomas. But I digress. With the directors of arguably the two greatest superhero team movies of all time, Watchmen and The Avengers, involved, it was almost a dream come true. “Almost”, being the operative word. Whedon cut out Cyborg’s character arc, the heart and soul of the movie (because he apparently thought it made “no sense” and Ray Fisher’s acting was bad “in both senses of the word”; #IStandWithRayFisher BTW) and added a subplot about a Russian family of whom no one gave a cuss about. Between that, Henry Cavill being contractually obligated to keep his moustache during filming of Mission: Impossible – Fallout, Paramount executives responding to Whedon’s request to shave it off and add it digitally to M:I-6 with giving him the finger and saying, “Forget you. You and Snyder already helped us make money off of Watchmen and The Avengers. Why should we help you make money for another studio?” (I guess the change in his pocket wasn’t enough) and WB executives deciding not to push back Justice League‘s release date (which would have allowed Whedon more time to properly complete his cut) so the executives could keep their gosh darn annual bonuses, can we be surprised the Whedon Cut didn’t turn out as well as it should’ve? Anyway, Justice League was released on November 17th, 2017 and failed to break-even worldwide, leading to WB reevaluating upcoming DCEU movies, focusing on more stand-alone films (which are proven more successful) and putting plans for sequels on hold.
Immediately after the theatrical release of Justice League, which later gained the derisive nickname “Josstice League”, fans created an online petition on Change.org to release the “Snyder Cut”, which gained more than 180,000 signatures. The movement, which used the hashtag #ReleaseTheSnyderCut on social media, began before fans had any knowledge that a Zack Snyder cut of Justice League actually existed. Some, myself included, knew an alternate cut of Justice League was inevitable as some of Snyder’s films, Dawn of The Dead (2004), Watchmen (2009), Sucker Punch and, as mentioned earlier, Batman v Superman, had been re-released in extended cuts for home media and are considered superior to their theatrical cuts. Eventually, thanks to the fans’ efforts, HBO Max finally released the Snyder Cut on their streaming platform around this time last year, three and a quarter years after the theatrical release of the Whedon Cut, on March 18th under the title, Zack Snyder’s Justice League. For Autumn.
Following the release of the Snyder Cut, inspired by the original #ReleaseTheSnyderCut movement, several other hashtags have been trending on Twitter. #ReleaseTheAyerCut (of Suicide Squad, and no, the “Extended Cut” does not count, they just “extended” the theatrical version), #ReleaseTheSchumacherCut (of Batman Forever, not the one with Bat Credit Card), #ReleaseTheYanCut (of Birds of Prey, the Harley Quinn movie), #ReleaseTheRaimiCut (of SpiderMan 3), and #ReleaseTheWebbCut (of The Amazing SpiderMan 2). All of them seem to be trending. All of them, that is, except one. Funny enough, the #ReleaseTheTrankCut hashtag doesn’t seem to be trending anywhere despite Fant4stic being around longer than Justice League or Suicide Squad or even Batman v Superman. Why not? Follow-up question: Should Disney do so?
After the success of Chronicle and before Trank signed on to direct Fant4stic, Trank received countless directing offers. From film adaptations of The Red Star comic book for Warner Bros. and the Shadow of The Colossus video games for TriStar Pictures, to a Star Wars spin-off centred around Boba Fett written by Simon Kinberg for Disney/Lucasfilm, to a SpiderMan spin-off centred around Venom for Columbia Pictures. Trank turned down the offer to direct Venom after Sony rejected his story treatment or pitch document (there are conflicting reports on what it was he submitted) for an R-rated Venom movie in the vein of The Mask, which he co-wrote with his mentor, Robert D. Siegel. Amazing Spider-Man producer Matt Tolmach apparently read it and “hated” it. Had Deadpool, Logan, Joker and The Suicide Squad been made/released around this time, maybe Trank’s R-rated Venom movie would’ve had a bigger chance of happening and his career probably would’ve been different. Instead, Deadpool, Logan, Joker and The Suicide Squad came out years later and Trank had already chose to direct a film adaptation of Fantastic Four, which, in hindsight, isn’t what you’d expect to be adapted with a dark tone. Fantastic Four should have a tone similar to the MCU movies. Lighter. Trank was better suited for adapting/directing darker superhero comics like The Mask, Venom, Hulk, Blade, Daredevil, Punisher, Ghost Rider, Batman, Hellboy, Spawn, Invincible, The Boys, Joker and Suicide Squad. But no, Trank thought Marvel’s First Family was the perfect basis for a dark superhero movie.
Trank signed on to Fantastic Four and decided to write his own script after rejecting drafts written by Akiva Goldsman (writer of Batman & Robin, the one with the Bat Credit Card; smart move), Michael Green (co-writer of Logan, Alien: Covenant and Blade Runner 2049), Zack Stentz & Ashley Edward Miller (co-writers of X-Men: First Class and Thor) and Jeremy Slater (showrunner of Fox’s The Exorcist TV series and Trank’s first choice as screenwriter of Chronicle before Slater turned him down and Max Landis, son of Jon, was chosen). Slater still remained as co-writer at Trank’s insistence but his ideas conflicted with that of Trank’s. Slater viewed The Avengers as a template on how they should adopt Marvel’s First Family but Trank “just f**king hated every second of it.” In an effort to creatively engage Trank, Slater loaded Trank up with his personal comic collection, which included the greatest Doctor Doom stories and his favourite Ben “The Thing” Grimm moments…but nothing sparked. Trank was more interested in the early moments, like Reed Richards’ character development and traumatic arc. The screenwriting pair tried to find common ground, watching movies like Inception and Saving Private Ryan for inspiration. Once the team members got their powers, Trank got lost. Galactus? Annihilus? Herbie the Robot? Time travel? Multiple dimensions? Old teams fighting young teams? Slater said, “It didn’t matter if they were fighting robots in Latveria or aliens in the Negative Zone or Mole Monsters in downtown Manhattan; Josh just did not give a sh**.” Right. Because THAT’s the person you want directing your Fantastic Four movie…right? Wrong. But Fox didn’t want another Fantastic Four movie. They wanted Josh Trank’s Fantastic Four movie. Trank left Slater out of discussions with Fox executives and withheld “95%” of certain studio notes. Trank said he did that so he could retain the “creative control” Fox promised him. Slater got fed up after six months and left, with producer Simon Kinberg replacing him. Damn. Talk about cold hearted. Slater still retained screenplay credit with Trank and Kinberg.
Fun Fact: Game of Thrones co-stars Kit Harington and Richard Madden were both considered for the role of Reed Richards before Trank casted Miles Teller. Harington and Madden were both later cast as Dane Whitman and Ikaris respectively in Marvel Studios’ Eternals and why Trank chose Teller over Harington is beyond my understanding. Shameless co-star Emmy Rossum and Harley Quinn herself Margot Robbie were considered for the role of Susan Storm before House of Cards co-star Kate Mara was cast. Robbie went on to star as Harley Quinn in Suicide Squad. The casting of Michael B. Jordan, a black actor, as Johnny Storm was the subject of controversy among some fans. Fun Fact: Trank received numerous death threats through IMDb message boards and slept with a .38 Special on his nightstand, which he returned after production wrapped up. That dosen’t sound very fun. Trank justified his casting decision by saying he wanted to bring the iconic comic book team in line with real-world demographics. While that’s a good argument, I think he just used that as an excuse to work with Jordan again after working with him on Chronicle. I’m still baffled Trank didn’t cast Chronicle co-star Alex Russell as Johnny Storm. He would’ve been perfect as The Human Torch. But I digress. Jordan would later be cast as Erik Killmonger in Marvel Studios’ Black Panther. Trank did cast another black actor, who also happened to be a House of Cards co-star, Reg E. Cathey, as Dr. Franklin Storm. In fact, Trank wanted to cast a black woman as Susan Storm but was overruled by Fox executives, who wanted Mara, because why have one House of Cards co-star when you can have two?! Trank later stated that should’ve convinced him to step away from the project. Really? REALLY?! THAT should have convinced him to step away from the project?!
During filming, Trank reportedly had multiple disagreements with Fox executives, a lack of communication with the producers and an “erratic behaviour” on set. Filming ended August 23, 2014. The Fox executives who weren’t satisfied with the original cut were caught off guard by its “morose tone”, thinking it felt more like a sequel to Chronicle. Fox’s then-CEO Emma Watts ordered the reshoots without Trank’s supervision, changing/omitting certain major plot points from his original cut. The ending had not been finalized and the studio hastily cobbled together a new ending, composed of script pieces of the original draft. The new scenes were written on the day of reshoots. Much of Trank’s suggestions were swiftly ignored. Talk about cold-hearted. Stephen E. Rivkin, the Oscar nominated co-editor of James Cameron’s Avatar, was hired to edit the new cut together, with Trank referring to him as the “de facto director” for the new cut. Despite Trank’s efforts, putting together two more alternate cuts of the film, Rivkin’s cut was ultimately chosen over his…and just like that, what was once one of the most anticipated movies of 2015 quickly became the worst Fantastic Four movie ever (and that’s saying a lot). Or should I say, the LEAST Fantastic Four movie ever? But it’s not like Fox butchered a movie before (COUGH Digimon: The Movie COUGH COUGH Walking with Dinosaurs: The 3D Movie). Still, that must’ve sucked for Trank. It actually happens more often than you know. The last feature film the legendary adult animation director Ralph Bakshi directed, Cool World was…is just as much of a cinematic mess as Fant4stic was…is, because the producer, Frank Mancuso, Jr., who was also the son of the president of Paramount at the time, had Bakshi’s original script completely rewritten IN SECRET by two other writers because he just finished producing a Friday The 13th sequel and wasn’t in the mood for producing another horror movie. Studio executives and producers change EVERYTHING and the directors get ALL the blame. Trank got the creative control he was promised. But he didn’t get the right of final cut privilege. The rights that make it all work.
Trank’s success story is quite similar to that of Gareth Edwards and Colin Trevorrow. Edwards went from writing/directing the 2010 micro-budget sci-fi masterpiece, Monsters to directing big-budget blockbusters like Godzilla (2014) and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Trevorrow went from directing the 2012 micro-budget sci-fi rom-com drama, Safety Not Guaranteed to co-writing and directing big-budget blockbusters like Jurassic World & the upcoming Jurassic World: Dominion. That’s where the similarities end. Trank went from co-writing and directing the $15 million budget Chronicle to co-writing and directing Fant4stic and thus, destroying his own career. A common symptom of “Flying too close to the sun” syndrome. At least Ryan Coogler was smart enough to make the mid-budget Creed, also starring Jordan, before making the big-budget Black Panther. Yet directors like Adam MacDonald are denied opportunities to direct films like The First Purge (the prequel, not the first Purge movie) because producers like Jason Blum apparently hate underrated masterpieces like Backcountry. But I digress.
The reason for Fant4stic flopping is…debatable. The 9% rating on RT was obviously ONE contributing factor. For you see, ever since Transformers: Age of Extinction, which has 14% on RT, grossed $1 billion worldwide, people started growing intelligence and trusting RT’s judgement more and big-budget blockbusters that were hated by critics and based on popular IP’s like Terminator: Genysis and Warcraft started…GASP…flopping…? Some exceptions being Batman v Superman, Suicide Squad and Venom. Fant4stic…was no exception. Another factor is Trank’s deleted tweet, as mentioned before. He practically told everyone NOT to see it. But he tweeted it in RESPONSE to the RT rating. By admitting the cut released in theatres is not his, he basically threw his employers right under the bus. His directing contract probably contained terms requiring any statements about publicity to be cleared by the studio and refrain from rendering any derogatory remarks. Trank probably breached his contract the minute he tweeted that tweet. At least David Ayer waited until very recently to admit the version of Suicide Squad shown in theatres in 2016 wasn’t HIS original cut. At least fans rightfully guessed from the very beginning that the version of Justice League shown in theatres wasn’t the Snyder Cut. Trank straight up admitted the studio changed Fant4stic the night before it was released. While Fox didn’t sue Trank, that tweet sure as heck scared other studios from hiring him and rightfully so, as he “quit because he knew he was going to be fired if he didn’t quit”, as he put it, from directing the Boba Fett movie and was replaced by James Mangold, director of the last two Wolverine movies, The Wolverine and Logan (the later, of which, he also co-wrote), before Disney/Lucasfilm canceled the Boba Fett movie all together and replaced it with the Disney+ Original Series, The Book of Boba Fett.
Trank disowned Fant4stic on Twitter and Instagram and vowed that he would never again direct another superhero movie. Not that any studio would want him to anyway as even Venom himself Tom Hardy wanted Age of Ultron, Black Panther and The Batman co-star Andy Serkis to direct Venom: Let There Be Carnage instead of Trank, despite Hardy working with Trank on his recent attempt to make a comeback, Capone, a biopic written/directed by Trank and starring Hardy as Al Capone. Hardy must’ve watched the underrated Mowgli: Legend of The Jungle on Netflix too.
Would the results have been different if Trank didn’t tweet that? Would Trank’s original cut have received any different results? But what was Trank’s contribution to the film? What was his original cut? Would the good aspects about it have been enough to over shadow the bad? And would it have been better received by critics and audiences? On set drama doesn’t always result in a bad movie. Spielberg almost got fired from directing Jaws, but what street credit does he have? Coppala almost got fired from directing The Godfather and look how successful that movie turned out. Now I’m not saying Fant4stic would’ve been nominated the Oscar for Best Picture if Fox chose Trank’s original cut as the theatrical version. Heck, I’m still baffled that Black Panther and Joker were nominated and yet The Dark Knight, Logan and Avengers: Infinity War were not. Heck, the odds of SpiderMan: No Way Home getting nominated were slim. What I am saying is that there might be some good aspects about Trank’s “fantastic version” that would’ve been enough to overshadow the bad. Trank and Snyder are both advocates for darker superhero movies. Except Snyder gained everyone’s trust with hit after hit, even though people to this very day still debate whether he’s a mad genius or a hack or a smarter, less terrible Michael Bay. All Trank had under his belt was Chronicle. He didn’t have enough proof of his own worth.
As well as I can agree Fant4stic is the worst Fantastic Four movie ever…I will defend it…just a little. In addition to the Ultimate Fantastic Four comic series by Mark Miller (writer of Marvel Comics’ Civil War storyline, creator of Kick-Ass and Kingsman and co-founder of Millarworld) and the works of Steven Spielberg and Tim Burton, Trank was also influenced by the works of the master of body horror and one of the many reasons I’m proud to be Canadian (besides James Cameron), David Cronenberg…and comparing Fant4stic to Scanners and The Fly, viewing Fant4stic as a sci-fi movie rather than a superhero movie, I am pretty forgiving of it. The visuals and cinematography are, again, still decent to look at. I like how the first 50 minutes were all backstory and character development. The acting is watchable…except when it’s not. The visual effects are decent…except when they’re bad. Some of the jokes made me laugh on the inside…except when they weren’t funny. Writing isn’t exactly Cronenberg’s strongest suite either. In fact, Trank left the screenplay for Chronicle in the hands of another writer while he wrote Capone himself and co-wrote Fant4stic. RT gave Chronicle 85% and Capone 40%. He may not be a terrible writer but he may be better off not doing so without help at least. But if you’ve seen xXx: State of The Union or Dark Phoenix, then you know Kinberg isn’t the best writer either. The 355, anyone? Seth Grahame-Smith (producer of It: Chapter One & Two) did an uncredited script polish for Fant4stic as well and you saw Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows, then you know his writing isn’t exactly Oscar worthy either. Spielberg, Hitchcock and Cronenberg wrote some of their own movies too, especially their earliest ones, but they mostly knew when to let other writers handle things. In fact, Spielberg’s and Hitchcock’s best movies were written by other people. Heck, Chris Columbus (executive producer of Tim Story’s Fantastic 4 duology, director of the first two Harry Potter movies and the first Percy Jackson movie and writer of Gremlins, one of my all time favourite movies) and Jon Favreau (creator of The Mandalorian and director of Elf, Iron Man 1 & 2, Cowboys & Aliens, The Jungle Book remake and The Lion King remake) almost NEVER write the same movies they direct. It’s either one or the other. Even Snyder left the screenplays for the majority of his films to other writers, including his cut of Justice League. Unless you’re James Cameron, James Gunn or the Coen Brothers, never write your screenplays by yourself without a co-writer. Especially if you’re M. Night Shyamalan. But I digress.
While doing research for this article, I discovered a lot about Trank from this fantastic piece of journalism onPolygon. His drinking problem. His anger issues. His divorce. The house he let his three dogs trash. The one of his three dogs that died during production (while not as sad as having your daughter committing suicide, it’s still pretty traumatic, I lost my cat around this time last year; I feel your pain, Joshua). The sets he trashed. The life that fell apart. I won’t go into anymore detail. If you want to know more, read the Polygon article. This article is long enough as it is. What I’m saying is you can praise/support a man’s work but not the man himself. I’m not gonna stop watching Roman Polanski’s film adaptations of Rosemary’s Baby or William Shakespeare’s MacBeth, one of my all time favourite movies, just because of Polanski’s…criminal case.I’m not gonna stop watching Nostalgia Critic on YouTube just because of the #ChangeTheChannel controversy or Doug Walker’s reputation. I’m not gonna stop watching Lindsay Ellis on YouTube just because she keeps getting “cancelled”. I’m not gonna stop watchingMatch Point, one of my all time favourite movies, because of Woody Allen’s allegations. I’m not gonna stop watchingThe Avengers 1 or 2, Firefly, Serenity or the Whedon Cut just because of The Undoing of Joss Whedon…and I’m not gonna stop watching Chronicle or Fant4stic because of Trank’s bad reputation or Landis’ for that matter. I’m gonna stop watching Fant4stic because it’s bad and it’s not the Trank Cut. I enjoyed the first half of Fant4stic up until the point where the studio obviously reshot everything.
The Rivkin Cut of Fant4stic and The Whedon Cut of Justice League both have the same problem. They’re both each, respectively, two movies in one, at war with each other. Trying to be one and both failing miserably. Except Fant4stic does it worse. But why does the Snyder Cut petition have 180,000+ signatures and the Trank Cut petition has only…32? What makes Fant4stic more unwatchable compared to “Josstice League”, Suicide Squad or Batman v Superman? …Okay, that’s a stupid question, but what makes the other three less unwatchable than Fant4stic? As mediocre as Joss Whedon’s Justice League, David Ayer’s Suicide Squad and Batman v Superman are, there are a lot of good things about them. For Batman v Superman, it’s the action, the visuals, Affleck as Batman, Cavill as Superman, Jeremy Irons as Alfred; Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman. For Suicide Squad, it’s Robbie as Harley Quinn and…Robbie as Harley…? When they did certain aspects of the DC comics right, they are pretty kick-ass films. For Justice League, it’s, again, the action, Affleck, Cavill, Gadot, Ezra Miller as The Flash, Jason Momoa as Aquaman, Fisher as Cyborg, Ciarán Hinds as the voice of Steppenwolf (aka the Thanos prototype), Whedon’s signature one-liners as expected from a movie Whedon wrote, and I’d be lying if I said the jokes didn’t get a chuckle outta me. These…good qualities about them make people keep watching them and thus more curious about seeing alternate cuts of them. About seeing better versions. All Fant4stic has going for it is the cinematography, visuals and dark tone. Everything else is so bland, generic and forgettable that that’s what everyone did. Forget it. Fox cancelled plans for sequels and a crossover with the X-Men franchise, Disney bought Fox and now Marvel Studios is rebooting it. So what would be the point of Dinsey/Fox releasing The Trank Cut if Marvel’s rebooting Fantastic Four anyway? Well…why are people still begging WB to #ReleaseTheAyerCut if James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad and Peacemaker are so successful or #ReleaseTheSchumacherCut if Matt Reeves’ The Batman and the DCEU movies are still gonna happen anyway? Then again, the point of Director’s Cuts aren’t to increase the possibilities of sequels. Daredevil got rebooted despite the DIrector’s Cut being good. Spawn sure as heck is getting rebooted despite the Director’s Cut being better. Warner Bros. likely won’t #RestoreTheSnyderVerse despite the success of The Snyder Cut…and Teller, Jordon, Mara and Jaimie Bell will never play the Fantastic Four again…unless the MCU Fantastic Four teamed up with Doctor Strange and did a multiverse movie like SpiderMan did in No Way Home...when in Rome… That’s the only way the previous incarnations of the Fantastic Four could come back. But I digress. The point of the Director’s Cuts is to apologize to the people disappointed by the theatrical versions. Until Marvel reboots Fantastic Four, The Trank Cut maybe the only thing that could replace Rise of The Silver Surfer as the closest thing we have to a decent Fantastic Four movie.
Another good quality Justice League, Suicide Squad and Batman v Superman have in common: they stay true to the source material. They got their characters down to a tee…with some exceptions (COUGH Jessie Eisenberg COUGH-COUGH Jared Leto) Fant4stic got a lot of hate from fans because Trank re-imagined so much about the comic. But when Tim Burton re-imagines Alice in Wonderland, people love it. But the reason people want to see comics adapted into movies is so they can see the illustrations leap off the pages. To see what they’ve already seen/read come to life. With more dimension. Most novels don’t have illustrations so the writing can be interpreted visually in different ways. So their film adaptations get a bit of a pass when certain changes are made. There’s nothing wrong with focusing more on the human side of the characters and less of their superhero alter-egos. After all, it’s what makes these stories interested and grounded in the first place. That said, why hire someone to direct a film adaptation of a superhero comic like The Fantastic Four if they aren’t a fan of it? Compelling storytelling is important. At the same time, filmmakers have a responsibility to respect the history that these characters have had in the comic books, as well as the fans invested in the storylines. Remember how in the comics, Ben Grimm looked up to his older brother? Yeah, now his brother’s an abusive jerk and the source of Ben’s catch-phrase, “It’s clobbering time!” Remember in Tim Story’s Fantastic 4, when Ben said to Susan, “What I’d give to be invisible…” Yeah, Ben and Susan NEVER interact with each other once throughout the entirety of Fant4stic. It is good to try something different, especially if it’s been done to death several times before, but when you loose the heart and soul of what made fans become fans in the first place, what’s the point? But disrespect doesn’t always result in a bad movie. Teen Titans Go! To The Movies pays little to no respect to the source material, in fact, it makes fun of it and other DC properties, and critics and audiences love it. I love it. RT gave it 91%. It actually made critics curious about watching the TV show. I gotta admit, it makes the TV show worth sitting through and it’s nothing but disrespect for the source material. Heck, Neil Marshall’s Hellboy reboot stays more truthful to Mike Magnolia’s Dark Horse comic than Guillermo del Toro’s Hellboy duology and the reboot is hated by everyone while both of del Toro’s films are hated by no one and loved by all. Yet no one will #SaveHellboy3…not even Netflix…or Universal’s streaming service, Peacock. But I digress.
Maybe Fantastic Four shouldn’t be adapted with a darker tone. Maybe Power Rangers shouldn’t be adapted with a darker tone. Maybe Justice League shouldn’t be rated R. Maybe Robin shouldn’t say, “F**k Batman” or “Crack an egg on it!”…and the Teen Titans defiantly shouldn’t be singing about meatballs. Or waffles. Or how much they love pie. Cussing pie. But I digress. My point is…they happened anyway. Teen Titans Go! happened and it has its fans and haters (haters still have Titans on HBO Max & Netflix as an alternative). Power Rangers (2017) happened and it has its fans and haters. Zack Snyder’s Justice League happened and it’s the mother cussing dictionary definition of the word, “masterpiece”. Josh Trank’s Fantastic Four happened…and instead of letting us decide for ourselves whether it’s good or bad, Fox executives just said, “Nope-nope-nope. Doop-dee-doop-dee-do, we’re just just gonna reshoot everything because we know they are gonna hate this version because we know better because we are businessmen.” The Rivkin Cut happened…and Fox let it happen. They didn’t buy the North American distribution rights to Digimon Adventure: Last Evolution, but they let the Rivkin Cut happen. They won’t make Alien vs. Predator 3, but they let The Rivkin Cut happen. They won’t make Alita Battle Angel 2, but they let the Rivkin Cut happen. They won’t revive Firefly or Terra Nova, but they let the Rivkin Cut happen. They didn’t make a direct sequel to Nimrod Antal’s Predators (the Robert Rodriguez one) instead of making Shane Black’s The Predator, but they let the Rivkin Cut happen. They wouldn’t co-finance Neil Blomkamp’s film adaptation of the Halo video games with Universal, but they let the Rivkin Cut happen. They won’t (yet) un-cancel Alien: Awakening, Neil Blomkamp’s direct sequel to James Cameron’s Aliens (one of my all time favourite movies), retconning the events from Alien 3 and Alien: Resurrection…but…they let the Rivkin Cut happen…but…I digress. On Twitter, when an aforementioned fan told Trank they were “coming for” Fant4stic next, Trank, before deleting his Twitter account, simply responded with two words: “No need.” Last yeaR, Trank admitted in an interview that a director’s cut was practically “non-existent” as much of the sequences he had planned to film had gone un-filmed. If that’s the case, then what happened to the original cut he first showed Fox executives? Or for that matter, the other two cuts he made that Fox chose the Rivkin Cut over? Regarding the existence of a “Trank Cut”, Trank simply said, “Doesn’t matter. I’m not Zack Snyder. Zack Snyder is a storied, iconic, legendary filmmaker who has been knocking it out of the f**king park since I was in high school. ” I just have one thing to say in response: I don’t care. Trank continued: “Me? Then? I was 29 years old, making my 2nd film, in a situation more complicated than anything a 2nd time filmmaker should’ve walked into. That said… I don’t regret any of it. It’s a part of me. And I just hope Peyton Reed makes the next Fantastic Four and crushes it. And that I get a cameo.” Damn. Jon Watts, director of the MCU SpiderMan movies, was hired but still. Damn. Then again, age isn’t a factor. Ryan Coogler and Tim Burton were both 29 when they made Black Panther and Batman respectively.
Fant4stic is just one of many examples of what happens when a filmmaker makes a film only for a studio to take it away and destroy it rather than having more faith/trust in said filmmaker or coming to a compromise at the very least. Maybe Trank is difficult to work with. What filmmaker isn’t? Maybe he is arrogant. What director isn’t? Maybe he is a drunk who trashed his house and sets and got into a physical fight with Miles Teller during filming. I. Don’t. Care. Did Trank deserve to go to Movie Jail or Director Jail or, as some people, myself included, call it, The Institute for The Artistically Insane, alongside Ralph Bakshi and Julie Taymor? Did he deserve to get out like M. Night Shyamalan and Spike Lee did? Maybe. Did he deserve to be locked out of the editing room? Maybe not. Did he deserve the death threats? Defiantly not. Trank had such potential. Such promise. But he squandered his gift. His blind pursuit to make bigger and better things and show that he could roll with the big (budget) dogs when he probably should’ve left “good enough” alone only sped his career faster to its doom. But wouldn’t you have done the same in his position? I mean, why be good enough when there’s greater still? With that said, you can’t deny. There is a good movie in there…somewhere. Underneath all those blatant continuity errors, lack of development between the team members, uneven writing, pacing more uneven than that of Digimon: The Movie (which, BTW, has a higher percentage on RT than Fant4stic and you probably forgot THAT was a thing too), Teller’s disappearing/reappearing facial hair and Ms. Mara’s obvious wig, there is some decency to it…whatever it was supposed to be. I can’t pretend there’s nothing of value here. We can’t let all of this potential go to waste. If a Trank Cut did exist per say, we, as the audience, have a right to see it.
With the success of Zack Snyder’s Justice League on HBO Max, you’d think Disney+ (or Hulu & Disney+Star, depending on the Trank Cut’s MPAA rating) would follow suite. Then again, Disney+ still hasn’t released the Uncut…Cut of Disney’s first PG-rated animated movie, The Black Cauldron. Also, even if Trank was given opportunity to make a movie he was truly proud of, it may not be worth reopening that old wound and it’s unlikely the relationship between him and Fox ended on good terms. They probably wouldn’t have even spit in his direction let alone approach him even if it resulted in more money. But Fox is now owned by Disney. Not sure if Trank’s association with Disney ended very well either. With Bob Chapek now CEO of Disney, perhaps things will be different. Then again, this is the same guy who had Disney shut down Blue Sky Studios instead of sell them to someone who can afford them (like Hasbro or Netflix) like they sold Miramax Films and the same guy who had Pixar movies and Hamilton released straight to Disney+ instead of simultaneously in theatres and on Disney+ with Premier Access. But…I digress. I have hope he can prove to be as competent as Iger and given the $70 billion spent on the Disney-Fox merger and the financial impact the Coronapocalypse had on the House of Mouse, I think they’d be willing to do anything to make money. Unless it means Trank asking for a lot of money to make up for Ms. Watts screwing him over. But what’s more important to Trank? Money or having his “fantastic version” seen?
Mr. Chapek…if you’re reading this…please give Josh Trank a chance to cut the film as intended and I believe we’d have had a well crafted, more unique film with much better pacing and flow if Fox would have just had more faith in him and even if there’s a 1% chance that he could make it all work, we should take it as an absolute possibility. Isn’t that why they specifically chose HIM? For his unorthodox approach to making films? #ReleaseTheTrankCut isn’t trending anywhere because he said there’s “no need” and yet #ReleaseTheAyerCut is STILL trending despite WB CEO Anna Sarnoff saying they have “no intensions” of doing so or Ayer saying it’s “too soon”. So why should we give up? I know Josh Trank isn’t exactly the picture of grace under fire but we need filmmakers like him to think that much outside the box, fight the norms and take risks like his “fantastic version” whether they succeed or fail that as oppose to failures like The Rivkin Cut and The Whedon Cut which constantly limit their own potential. Fant4stic is an uneven, unfocused, un-inspired mess, no denying it, and it should be forgettable but it’s remembered by people like me either for being bad or because Trank tried to do something different with the franchise and you can still see that in the parts that obviously weren’t reshot. Would The Trank Cut be any less bad than the Rivkin Cut? Maybe… Would the good aspects of Trank’s Cut be enough to over shadow the bad? Just maybe…but at least it’d be 100% HIS, appealing to a world with no rules and we can still admire it for taking such a big risk. I know filmmakers like Ayer, Snyder and especially Trank are unorthodox and that’s not always good…but it’s their unorthodox methods. Nobody else’s…and it comes from a place of real passion. Call me crazy but they should be allowed to express their mad genius in any which way, shape or form and be as free as they wish to be. Because when you think THAT much outside the box…it can still, at the very least, inspire. Well…there it is. If it dose exist…wherever it may be…#ReleaseTheTrankCut!