The Fantastic Four reboot opens in theaters this weekend, but it's already being thrashed around in a storm of bad reviews and criticism. (As The Verge's entertainment reporter Jamieson Cox points out, the movie currently has a worse rating on Rotten Tomatoes than Pixels.) A lot of the angst over the movie's shortcomings — even some of our own — has been aimed at sophomore director Josh Trank. Last night, Trank hinted the studio is to blame for the movie's troubles in a tweet that has since been deleted:
And Josh Trank deleted his tweet. Good news, I still have it. The oral history lives: pic.twitter.com/AnZQ6ilM9r— Mike Ryan (@mikeryan) August 7, 2015
Not long after that, Max Landis — infamous Death of Superman critic and writer of Trank's directorial debut, Chronicle — let loose a series of his own tweets supporting Trank while at the same time offering some constructive criticism.
Chronicle was an incredibly rare and easy ride. I loved writing the script. I enjoyed our producer, John Davis, and our exec, Steve.— Max Landis (@Uptomyknees) August 7, 2015
I also loved collaborating with Josh, who I think is brilliant, and whose ideas inspired my script. I fought hard for him to direct.— Max Landis (@Uptomyknees) August 7, 2015
But Chronicle was a complete fluke. We had so much control because the movie was, in relation to other movies that year, TINY.— Max Landis (@Uptomyknees) August 7, 2015
A movie like Fantastic Four, an assignment with a lot riding on it, was always going to have a tremendous amount of cooks in the kitchen.— Max Landis (@Uptomyknees) August 7, 2015
Landis touches on some very salient points about the inevitable struggle for control that surrounds the making of a tentpole movie. But there's an overarching theme to all them, which is that — despite the trend in Hollywood of handing increasingly outside-the-box directors the reins to massive franchises — movie studios are mainly concerned with making money and protecting the intellectual property being portrayed.
Sometimes the two sides strike a balance, like when Gareth Edwards directed a thrilling Godzilla reboot or when Colin Trevorrow made Jurassic World one of the top-grossing films in history. Other times the struggle leads to spectacular flameouts, like when Edgar Wright walked out on Ant-Man, or what we're seeing now with Trank and Fantastic Four.
"No one is trying to make a bad movie." -Max Landis
Trank was lucky to enjoy the level of control he had over Chronicle, Landis says, but he also should have been prepared for the seemingly unavoidable ugly process required to make a Marvel movie in 2015.
Deleted tweet aside, maybe Trank is learning that lesson; in May, he stepped down from helming one of the upcoming Star Wars spinoff movies. "I want to do something original after this because I’ve been living under public scrutiny, as you’ve seen, for the last four years of my life," he told the Los Angeles Times. "It’s not healthy for me right now in my life."
Here's Landis' whole rant:
HEY, it's 1 AM. You know what, fuck it. Let's be real here.
Chronicle was an incredibly rare and easy ride. I loved writing the script. I enjoyed our producer, John Davis, and our exec, Steve.
I also loved collaborating with Josh [Trank], who I think is brilliant, and whose ideas inspired my script. I fought hard for him to direct.
But Chronicle was a complete fluke. We had so much control because the movie was, in relation to other movies that year, TINY.
Some holes opened up in Fox's slate and Chronicle was cheap and unique, so they were kind enough to make it. Only took 6 months.
At the time, I was like "THIS IS FUCKING INCREDIBLE I CAN'T BELIEVE THIS IS HAPPENING." I'd sold scripts, but it was my first greenlight.
Josh, who'd been for-hire editor and whose only experience behind the camera had been a web series, was a smart, fun collaborator.
During the shooting of the film, I had almost no input, but I was lucky in that the studio and Josh stuck astonishingly tight to my script.
But again, even this is a fluke. It was an original idea, a dark character movie with a first time director. Fluke. Freak of nature.
But I didn't know that and I'm sure Josh didn't know that either. In the five years since I sold Chronicle, I've learned the hard way.
You take huge hits in this industry, creatively, but that's only after you've been given the opportunity to take huge swings, which is rare.
A movie like Fantastic Four, an assignment with a lot riding on it, was always going to have a tremendous amount of cooks in the kitchen.
People always ask me when I'm gonna write a superhero movie. I have. I've gotten those jobs. They're very intense and stressful.
As a writer, I've been lucky to work on many, many projects, and seen how different and how hard each road can be, for five and a half years.
Josh didn't get that chance, and his second major project, after one with total freedom, was one with intense oversight.
So I don't think anyone's wrong or right, necessarily, and I don't imagine anyone cares about my opinion.
But I do think it's important to say that if you're not prepared going in to not FIGHT like hell, but WORK like hell, it's gonna get ugly.
No one is trying to make a bad movie.
Okay, I sleep now, and probably delete these in the morning. Again, to aspiring film makers:
This job is only very occasionally romantic. Don't let it own you, try not to let it hurt you. Because sometimes it's so much fucking fun.
But it's still a job.