Fantastic Four Failure: Director’s Fault or “Superhero Fatigue”? Bad as Green Lantern?

Fantastic Four poster

The New York Times jumped on the “bash the Fantastic Four movie” bandwagon earlier this week, opening the article

20th Century Fox’s big-budget Fantastic Four went down in flames at the weekend box office, adding to fears about superhero fatigue and calling into question Hollywood’s willingness to hire novice directors for major films.

They point out that director Josh Trank’s previous film work consisted of the “found footage”-style Chronicle, about three high schoolers who get superpowers. Trank was supposed to direct one of the Star Wars spinoffs coming from Disney, but he was fired due to concerns about his “professionalism” due to reportedly erratic, uncommunicative behavior while filming FF. Then again, blaming Trank for a movie that seems to have been taken over by the studio doesn’t really seem fair.

Fantastic Four character posters

As for the superhero film genre,

There are at least 20 superhero movies planned for release over the next five years by Disney, Fox, Sony and Warner Bros…. studios do privately acknowledge that audiences have grown more sensitive to quality.

Yes, viewers do prefer better movies, regardless of the subject matter. What struck me most about the article, though, was this statement:

The latest attempt, which took in an additional $34.1 million overseas, will instead go into the failed superhero movie hall of fame, joining efforts like Catwoman and The Green Lantern.

I hadn’t realized that popular wisdom had taken the GL movie down THAT far.


  • Mike

    I find that the popular labeling of movies as “bad” has less to do with whether the movie was actually bad and more to do with whether disliking the film has become popular or a badge of hipness. For some reason, the media take to disliking certain movies regardless of whether there are films equally bad or worse released at the same time. The second half of the Green Lantern movie is a perfectly fine superhero movie. The first half is bogged down (as is the FF movie) with too much backstory and origin rehashing. But then I’m not someone who cared whether or not his suit and mask were animated. The FF movie OTOH spends the first 2/3 on backstory leading up to their getting their powers and squashes the actual story, intro of the villain, climactic fight, and denouement into the last half hour.

    As for superhero fatigue, bloggers and reviewers fight over who gets to first announce that something is “over.” Superhero movies are as popular as ever. Attendance at comic conventions has increased, and the reason is that more people are into the movies and TV shows rather than into the comics. For people to observe that “fans want quality”–well, duh. It’s never been popular to make terrible movies. Terrible movies only become popular if they develop some cult following later.

  • Jer

    Given that Ant-man was released to theaters just a few weeks before FF and did better than any human being on the planet should expect a movie about Ant-man to do, this idea that audiences have “superhero fatigue” right now is kind of stupid.

    Shockingly it seems like audiences might not be interested in dour, serious, grim-n-gritty movies about superheroes (unless the superhero’s name is Batman). That was what this movie was advertised as – a “serious” take on the Fantastic Four. Something asked for by nobody ever. The fact that the movie is apparently a narrative mess full of studio meddling probably comes second on the list of reasons why nobody is going to see it – the trailers were enough to put the non-comics readers I know off seeing the movie. Even the ones who were moderately interested given that they like the Fox X-men franchise movies thought the trailers made FF look like the opposite of fun.

    If this is true, then Batman v. Superman might have problems. Except it has Batman in it – the ONE superhero that seems to defy the rule and that people want to see depressingly miserable movies about – so probably not.

  • I don’t remember where I saw the article, but one FF post mortem was blaming the quick downfall of the film on the rapidity of social media — too many people who saw it told others not to. That’s the modern world, I guess. Word spreads very quickly.

    As for Batman v Superman, if I succeeds, even though I don’t care for that style, then maybe that bodes well for more Justice League movies, which I am interested in — and if it fails, then maybe we’ll see more upbeat superhero films.

  • “Batman V Superman” won’t fail… it has Batman in it! Unless Joel Schumacher’s directing, people *will* go see it no matter what. DC/WB knows it as well, thus the reason their recent comics/movie material feels like it’s doubled down on the cynical/grimdark elements that make their most popular/marketable hero popular (New 52, direct-to-video films, “Man of Steel”, etc.).

  • James

    This one was just disappointing.

  • Jim Perreault

    I agree that Green Lantern was a fine movie, and doesn’t deserve to be in the same category as Catwoman.

    I didn’t mind the long buildup ( for either movie) but I do think audiences don’t expect that from a superhero movie. That is a shame. Although, I don’t think FF is, or was intended to be, one. It’s more of a sci-fi thriller, in the vein of the first Alien movie.


  • Ah, “superhero fatigue”. Like when Warner wouldn’t make another Batman movie for eight years after Batman and Robin. As if it were a referendum on Batman, instead of a referendum on a bad movie.

    Curious to see what Fox does next. My guess is they’ll go through with doing an X-Men/Fantastic Four teamup movie, partly because crossovers among Marvel properties are all the rage and partly because it’s a way to keep the FF rights without gambling on releasing an unpopular movie. (I get the impression that if Fox had thought of putting Daredevil in an X-Men movie, they would have done that instead of letting the rights revert to Marvel.)

    On the other hand, they may see the team-up idea as too much of a risk; would it make the Fantastic Four more successful, or the X-Men less successful?

  • I’d go see a teamup! More characters interacting -> more fun for me.

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