Fantastic Four, a rebooted version of the famous Marvel Comics team from Chronicle director Josh Trank, opened over the weekend with a whimper. The film was thrashed by critics, and its final weekend box office take was only a little over $26 million. To put that in perspective, The Lone Ranger — a movie synonymous with the world “flop” — grossed about three million dollars more when it opened in 2013. Add in a tweet from Trank, which he later deleted, suggesting that Fox meddled with his vision, and there’s no other way to spin it: This movie was a failure for Fox, the studio that’s spent the last few years building its own little successful superhero universe with the X-Men films.
For many fans who weren’t happy with the way Trank and Fox were treating these characters (no colorful costumes, a weird new Doctor Doom, too much emphasis on grit), the prospect of the film’s failure seemed like good news, because it might mean that Fox would be willing to let the rights to the characters go back to Marvel Studios, where the Fantastic Four would inevitably team up with The Avengers on the big screen. Or, perhaps Marvel could work out some kind of shared deal with Fox, the way they did with Sony and Spider-Man. Alas, that doesn’t seem to be the way things are heading right now. On Sunday, Fox’s distribution head Chris Aronson said the studio is absolutely not giving up on the characters.
“While we’re disappointed, we remain committed to these characters and we have a lot to look forward to in our Marvel universe,” he said.
So, does that mean Fantastic Four 2 will somehow happen? Aronson wouldn’t comment, but over at HitFix, Drew McWeeny notes that his sources indicate Fox is still pushing for an eventual sequel, despite the thoroughly mediocre reception to the first film.
Everything I’ve heard would indicate that the studio will move forward with a Fantastic Four sequel. It may not make that original 2017 date, but they’re definitely planning to make it. The next filmmaker in is going to start from a difficult position, and they’re going to have to work hard to create their own movie while starting with some of Trank’s choices intact. For better or worse, Trank was given room to define these characters, and his signature will remain on the next film no matter who writes and directs it. The next movie will be a reaction to this one. What remains to be seen is whether or not this incident overall will test Fox’s resolve to try to support their filmmakers. It would be understandable if they suddenly reverted to the way things used to be, when you did what Fox said or they would just steamroll you.
So, all signs point to Fox hanging on to these characters and refusing to give them up to Marvel, which already got Daredevil back from Fox and leveraged him into a hit Netflix series. So, where does that leave the Fantastic Four? Well, they could get a movie sequel, or they could end up next appearing in a crossover with the X-Men, which director Bryan Singer has hinted at. Whatever the case, despite all the drama, Fox is clinging to its potential superhero universe, and at this point it’s hard to imagine what it would take to make them let go.