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Fantastic Four (2015 film)

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Fantastic Four
Fantastic Four 2015 poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Josh Trank
Produced by
Screenplay by
  • Jeremy Slater
  • Simon Kinberg
  • Josh Trank
Based on Fantastic Four 
by Stan Lee
Jack Kirby
Starring
Music by
Cinematography Matthew Jensen
Edited by
Production
company
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Release dates
  • August 4, 2015 (2015-08-04) (New York City premiere)
  • August 7, 2015 (2015-08-07) (North America)
Running time
100 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $120 million[2]
Box office $146.5 million[3]

Fantastic Four (stylized as Fant4stic) is a 2015 superhero film based on the Marvel Comics superhero team of the same name. It is the third theatrical Fantastic Four film to be distributed by 20th Century Fox, and a reboot of the Fantastic Four film franchise. Directed by Josh Trank, with a screenplay by Jeremy Slater, Simon Kinberg and Trank, the film stars Miles Teller, Michael B. Jordan, Kate Mara, Jamie Bell, Toby Kebbell, Reg E. Cathey, and Tim Blake Nelson. In Fantastic Four, the team must learn to harness abilities gained from an alternate universe to save Earth from a friend turned enemy.

Development of the film begin in 2009, with principal photography going from May 2014 to August 2014. Fantastic Four was primarily shot in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Studio executives, concerned with Trank's footage, mandated some reshoots, which took place in January 2015. Fantastic Four premiered in New York on August 4, 2015, and was released in the United States on August 7 the same year. The film received a mostly negative reception from critics and audiences. At the box-office, it underperformed, earning $26.2 million in North America during its opening weekend. A sequel is scheduled for release on June 9, 2017.[4]

Plot

Friends Reed Richards (Miles Teller) and Ben Grimm (Jamie Bell) have worked together on a prototype teleporter since childhood, eventually attracting the attention of Professor Franklin Storm (Reg E. Cathey), director of the Baxter Foundation, a government-sponsored research institute for young prodigies. Reed is recruited to join them and aid Storm's children, scientist Sue Storm (Kate Mara) and the somewhat reckless technician Johnny Storm (Michael B. Jordan), into completing a "Quantum Gate" designed by Storm's wayward protégé, Victor von Doom (Toby Kebbell), who begrudgingly agrees to help due to his unrequited feelings for Sue.

The experiment is successful, and the facility's supervisor, Dr. Allen (Tim Blake Nelson), plans to send a group from NASA to venture into a parallel dimension known as "Planet Zero". Disappointed at being denied the chance to join the expedition, Reed, Johnny, and Victor along with Ben use the Quantum Gate to embark on an unsanctioned voyage to Planet Zero, which they learn is a world filled with otherworldly substances. Victor attempts to touch the green-lava like substance, causing the surface they are in to collapse and the ground to erupt. Reed, Johnny, and Ben return to their shuttle just as Sue brings them back to Earth. Victor is left behind after he falls into the collapsing landscape. The machine explodes, altering Reed, Sue, Johnny, and Ben on a molecular-genetic level, affording them super-human conditions and abilities beyond their control: Reed can stretch like rubber, Sue can become invisible and generate force fields of energy, Johnny can engulf his entire body in flames and fly, and Ben becomes bigger and develops a rock-like hide which gives him enhanced strength and durability. They are then placed in government custody and confinement to be studied and have their conditions and abilities tested. Blaming himself for the accident, Reed escapes from the facility.

One year later, Reed, now a fugitive, is located in Central America by Sue and captured by Ben, who has become a military asset along with Johnny and Sue. Johnny and Sue have been outfitted with specialized suits, one of which Reed later receives, designed to keep up with their conditions and abilities and to help them stabilize, control, and contain their abilities. Reed is brought to Area 57, where Dr. Allen conscripts him to open another portal to Planet Zero in exchange for giving Reed the necessary resources to find a cure. Arriving in Planet Zero, Dr. Allen's explorers find Victor, who has been fused to his spacesuit and can now control the elements, as well as having telekinetic abilities, and bring him back to Earth. Believing the human race needs to be destroyed so he can rebuild Planet Zero in his image, Victor kills scientists and soldiers in the base including Dr. Allen and Professor Storm and returns to Planet Zero using the Quantum Gate, with Ben, Johnny, Reed, and Sue in pursuit.

Now dubbing himself "Doom", he activates a portal on Planet Zero using a structure he made while in the realm, that begins consuming the landscape of the Earth. He is confronted by the four and, after a destructive battle, Ben punches Doom into the portal's energy beam, disintegrating him, while Johnny closes the portal. Returning to Earth, the group is rewarded for their heroics by being given a new base of operations by the United States military. They decide to use their powers to help people and adopt the mantle of the "Fantastic Four".

Cast

Richards has been exploring the universe in his garage after school. After being transformed by one of his experiments, he gains the ability to stretch his body into different forms and lengths.[5] Teller said of the role, "When I read the script, I didn't feel like I was reading this larger-than-life, incredible superhero tale. These are all very human people that end up having to become, I guess, what is known as the Fantastic Four. So for me it was just a really good story and gives me an opportunity to play something different from my own skin."[6] Owen Judge portrays Reed as a child.
A troublemaker, thrill-seeker and the younger brother of Susan Storm, he has the ability to shoot fireballs and fly.[7] Jordan said of the cast, "We're more or less a bunch of kids that had an accident and we have disabilities now that we have to cope with, and try to find a life afterwards – try to be as normal as we can."[8] Jordan previously worked with Trank on 2012's Chronicle, and according to Trank, Jordan's character in Chronicle shares characteristics with Johnny Storm.[9] Trank has described Storm as "smart, hilarious and charismatic."[10]
Brilliant, independent and sarcastic, Storm has the ability to become invisible and generate force-fields.[11] Mara said that she was supposed to read the Fantastic Four comic books for preparation. However, director Josh Trank suggested to her that it was unnecessary, with writer Simon Kinberg adding that the film is not based on a single issue of the comic books.[12] Mara has also said that she intended to focus on making her character "as real as possible".[13] Trank has described Storm as "smart, dignified and [with] integrity."[14]
Warm, sensitive, a loyal and protective friend, Grimm's stone body gives him super-strength and makes him "indestructible".[15] Trank said Grimm grew up an alienated child in a "tough" neighborhood.[9] Trank also said that Bell has "qualities" of warmth and strength which people would want to see from Grimm.[14] Bell has said that Grimm is the "heart of the group [Fantastic Four]".[16] In preparation for the motion-capture performance, Bell approached actor Andy Serkis for advice.[17] During filming, he wore a tracking suit and stilts to match the height and eye-line of The Thing.[18] Evan Hannemann portrays Grimm as a child.
A computer technician and computer scientist who is mentored by Dr. Franklin Storm. Doom finds a new father of sorts in Storm. Angry, vengeful, and bright,[19] Doom was changed in the Negative Zone, as were the other characters. Kebbell said that he concentrated the most on the voice of the character, adding, "on the animated series, they never got his voice what I imagined it to be when I read the comics as a little boy. What I spent the majority of my time doing was not just being a fan, but being a bit of pedant and making sure I got exactly what I always wanted to see."[20] Kinberg said that Doom is as central to the film as the "titular" heroes. He added that Doom has "aspirations and struggles that are a little bit more classically tragic than the other characters" and that the film would show how he becomes a villain.[21] Dr. Doom's full name in this film was originally going to be "Victor Domashev", but after backlash by fans, it was changed back to "Victor von Doom" during reshoots, to match his name in the Marvel Comics universe.[22]
The biological father of Johnny and adoptive father to Sue.[19] Cathey described Franklin as a "brilliant scientist who has achieved much more than he thought he would" and that Franklin's main drive in life is to help "brilliant" kids who may have been dropped through the cracks or who were misunderstood.[23]
A scientist who works for the government, and takes part in training the members of the team to hone their abilities. Nelson said that Allen is "responsible for what the creative people do that he has to ring them in and discipline them."[24]

Additionally, Dan Castellaneta portrays Mr. Kenny, Reed's teacher and Tim Heidecker appears as Mr. Richards, Reed's stepfather.[25]

Production

Development

"This Fantastic Four movie is sort of a celebration of all the Fantastic Four comics that have preceded it. We have elements from the original Fantastic Four that there's a sort of optimism and inspirational quality to the film. In some ways a comedy that was really distinct in the original Fantastic Four. Also, the notion of this dysfunctional surrogate family that comes together and has to work together is very present in the movie that owes a great debt to the originals and this idea that they are scientist and that it's almost like this science adventure, more than being superheroes... We also owe a lot to the Ultimate's and the current crop of Fantastic Four comics."[12]

—Simon Kinberg on adapting the Fantastic Four comic books into film

In August 2009, 20th Century Fox announced that they would reboot the Fantastic Four film franchise. Akiva Goldsman was attached as producer and Michael Green was hired to write the screenplay.[26] At the time, actors Adrien Brody and Jonathan Rhys Meyers were considered for the role of Mr. Fantastic, while Kiefer Sutherland was considered for The Thing. In July 2012, Josh Trank was hired to direct, and Jeremy Slater was hired as screenwriter.[27][28] In February 2013, Matthew Vaughn was attached as a producer and Seth Grahame-Smith was hired to polish the script.[29][30] In October 2013, Simon Kinberg was hired to co-write and produce the film.[31] The Calvary FX was hired in April 2014 for the pre-visualization of the film.[18]

Kinberg has said that the film would be a celebration of all Fantastic Four comic books, and is inspired by its history. He added that Trank had a unique vision for the film, to be more grounded, more character driven, more emotional, and a little more dramatic than the previously released Fantastic Four films.[12] According to 20th Century Fox's consultant for their Marvel Comics-based films, Mark Millar, the film would take place in the same universe as the X-Men film series.[32] Although Kinberg contradicted this statement,[33] Bryan Singer confirmed talks of a potential crossover among Fox.[34] Trank has said that the film is heavily influenced by David Cronenberg, that 1981's Scanners and 1986's The Fly influenced the look of the film, and that its overall tone would feel like Steven Spielberg meets Tim Burton.[9][35]

Casting

In January 2014, Kinberg finished rewriting the script, and casting for the roles of Reed Richards and Sue Storm began.[36] Miles Teller, Kit Harington, Richard Madden, and Jack O'Connell were tested for the role of Reed, before Teller was cast. Meanwhile, Kate Mara, Saoirse Ronan, Margot Robbie, and Emmy Rossum were tested for Sue.[37][38] In February, it was revealed that Michael B. Jordan would play Johnny Storm / Human Torch, and Mara was cast as Sue Storm / Invisible Woman.[39] In March, Toby Kebbell was cast as Victor von Doom / Doctor Doom,[40] and Teller confirmed that Jamie Bell had been cast as Ben Grimm / The Thing.[6] Sam Riley, Eddie Redmayne, and Domhnall Gleeson were considered for Doctor Doom.[41] In April, Tim Blake Nelson entered final negotiations to play Harvey Elder.[42] In May, Reg E. Cathey was cast as Sue's and Johnny's father, Dr. Storm.[43]

Filming

Fantastic Four had a production budget of $122 million.[44] Principal photography commenced on May 5, 2014 at the Celtic Media Centre in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and ended on August 23, 2014, lasting for 72 days.[9][45][46][47] Matthew Jensen served as director of photography.[48] The film was planned to be shot in Vancouver, Canada, but was moved to Louisiana due to the state's film production tax incentives.[49] During filming, producers Hutch Parker and Simon Kinberg rewrote Trank's original script and gave the film a different ending.[50] In January 2015, reshoots were ordered by 20th Century Fox executives who were not satisfied with the film.[51][52]

Post-production

The film used the Los Angeles based company OTOY for the visual effects. According to Josh Trank, with the use of cloud-rendering technology from OTOY, they could create visual effects at a much lower cost.[53] Moving Picture Company, Pixomondo, Rodeo FX and Weta Digital also created visual effects for the film.[54][55][56] Moving Pictures Company took on the visual effects for The Thing, rendering a fully digital character based on Jamie Bell's on-set performance and the Human Torch's fiery visual effects. Weta Digital handled Reed Richards' stretch effects. Pixomondo delivered Sue Storm's force-field and cloaking effects and augmented Doom's costume. James E. Price served as the over-all visual effects supervisor.[18] Plans to convert the film to 3D in post-production were canceled, with Trank stating that he wanted "the viewing experience of Fantastic Four to remain as pure as possible."[57] A sequence showing The Thing performing a "divebomb" in the film was cut due to budget constraints.[58]

Music

In January 2015, Marco Beltrami was hired to compose the film's score.[59] Philip Glass was also hired to work on the score with Beltrami.[9] Additionally, American hip-hop recording artist El-P scored the end credits of the film.[60] To promote the film, Kim Nam-joon, known as Rap Monster of the Kpop group Bangtan Boys, and American recording artist Mandy Ventrice, worked on the digital single "Fantastic", which was released alongside the South Korean run of the film.[61] In July 2015, Beltrami attended the 2015 San Diego Comic-Con International to discuss scoring the film. Beltrami described the score as "eerie" and "mysterious", landing it in a "musical territory leaning towards fantasy."[62] The film score was released on August 14, 2015 by Sony Classical Records.[63]

Controversies

Since the film's release, several sources have reported that there were multiple disagreements between 20th Century Fox and director Josh Trank during production. After being unsatisfied with Trank's original cut of the film, Fox ordered their own changes to the film without Trank's supervision, changing and omitting certain major plot points from Trank's original cut. This decision was heavily criticized by critics and audiences. Many other sources claimed that there was "erratic behavior" from Trank on the set of the film, which resulted in many controversies involving Trank.[64][65] One controversy was when Trank posted a message on Twitter one day prior to the film's release that criticized the finished film. Expressing heavy dissatisfaction towards the final product, he stated, "A year ago I had a fantastic version of this. And it would've received great reviews. You'll probably never see it. That's reality though."[66] Trank deleted the message shortly after.[67]

Marketing

The teaser trailer for Fantastic Four was released in January 2015 to a generally positive response.[68] Graeme McMillan of The Hollywood Reporter gave the trailer a positive review, calling it a "surprisingly strong step in the right direction for a faithful adaptation of an often-problematic property."[69] Abraham Riesman of New York‍ '​s Vulture also responded to the trailer positively, saying that the film "could be the most innovative and tonally unique marquee superhero movie."[70] However, correspondents for Newsarama noted that there was "nothing" in the trailer to characterize it as being based on the Fantastic Four, feeling it could have easily been a substitute for similar science fiction films such as 2014's Interstellar.[71] The trailer became the most-watched trailer in 20th Century Fox's history, surpassing the previous record-holder, 2014's X-Men: Days of Future Past.[21]

The second trailer for the film was released in April 2015.[72] Sean O'Connell of CinemaBlend called the trailer "amazing" and said that it "does a much better job of setting up everyone's roles."[73] Drew McWeeny of HitFix said the film "looks like it was approached with serious intent" and that the scale "feels positively intimate."[74] In the same month, the cast attended CinemaCon to present footage from the film, which also generated positive reviews.[75]

Release

The world premiere of Fantastic Four occurred at Williamsburg Cinemas in New York City on August 4, 2015.[76] It was released in North America on August 7, 2015 on 3,995 screens.[2][77] In December 2012, the film was scheduled for a March 6, 2015 release date,[78] and was later changed again in November 2013 to June 19, 2015, before settling on its final date of August 7, 2015.[79]

Box office

As of August 30, 2015, Fantastic Four has grossed $53 million in North America and $93.5 million in other territories for a worldwide total of $146.5 million, against a production budget of $122 million (estimated $200 million including marketing and distribution costs).[3][80] The film received a "C-" rating from audiences surveyed by CinemaScore on a scale of A+ to F, which was referred to by Pamela McClintock of The Hollywood Reporter as "the worst grade that anyone can remember for a marquee superhero title made by a major Hollywood studio".[81]

In the United States and Canada, Fantastic Four was projected to take the top spot and earn around $40–50 million on its opening weekend, which would be lower than the opening weekend gross of 2005's Fantastic Four ($56.1 million) and 2007's Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer ($58.1 million).[2][82][83][84] The film made $2.7 million from late night previews on the night of August 6.[85] On its opening day, Fantastic Four earned $11.3 million (including Thursday's preview screenings), lower than early tracking,[86] and $26.2 million on its opening weekend, marking one of the lowest openings of all time for a big-budget superhero movie which box office analysts have attributed to poor critical reviews and audience reception. It came in second place behind Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation ($28.5 million).[87] When asked to comment on the weekend box office results, Chris Aronson, Fox's president of domestic distribution said: "There's not much to say. I have never seen a confluence of events impact the opening of a movie so swiftly," referring to negative reviews and a renegade tweet by Trank that blamed the studio for the poor reviews.[80] In the film's second weekend, it grossed $8 million, dropping 69% from the opening weekend.[88] Its low financial performance has been described by Adam B. Vary of BuzzFeed as a box office bomb.[89]

Outside North America, it grossed $33.1 million on its opening weekend from 43 countries from 8,996 screens, coming at second place behind Rogue Nation at the international box office. While it underperformed in certain countries, it opened at number one in 20 countries. Its top openings were in Mexico ($5.29 million), the United Kingdom, Ireland and Malta ($4.19 million), France ($3.85 million), Venezuela ($3.81 million) and Brazil ($3 million).[90][91]

Critical reception

Fantastic Four received negative responses from critics and audiences.[81][92] Critics thought the film started with some promise but failed to achieve quality, ending with a bland and CGI effect-heavy fight.[93] They found the film, like previous adaptations of the superhero team, poorly served with skilled actors wasted in a film that had poor pacing and a strangely gloomy tone.[94] The film review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reported an approval rating of 9% based on 194 reviews. Categorizing the reviews as positive or negative, the site assessed 177 as negative and 17 as positive, with a rating average of 3.4 out of 10. The site's determined consensus states: "Dull and downbeat, this Fantastic Four proves a woefully misguided attempt to translate a classic comic series without the humor, joy, or colorful thrills that made it great."[95] The similar website Metacritic surveyed 40 critics and assessed 21 reviews as negative, 18 as mixed, and 1 as positive. It gave the film a weighted average score of 27 out of 100, indicated by the website as "generally unfavorable reviews".[96] The previous Fantastic Four films by 20th Century Fox, Fantastic Four (2005) and Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007), both earned higher ratings on Rotten Tomatoes.[97][98]

Peter Travers of Rolling Stone gave Fantastic Four zero stars out of four, calling it "the cinematic equivalent of malware" and "worse than worthless."[99] Jim Vejvoda of IGN criticized the film as "aesthetically drab and dramatically inert", said that the two previous Fantastic Four films "seem better in hindsight", and that the film did not show enough character development between the members of the team. He also criticized the blatant continuity errors, such as Mara's changing hair style and color and Teller's disappearing facial hair, brought on by the film's reshoots.[100] Brian Lowry of Variety found the film to be a technical improvement over the 2005 release but criticized its uneven pacing and writing, saying "Ultimately, Fox's stab at reviving one of its inherited Marvel properties feels less like a blockbuster for this age of comics-oriented tentpoles than it does another also-ran — not an embarrassment, but an experiment that didn't gel."[101] Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter felt the film is "like a 100-minute trailer for a movie that never happens." He called the film "maddeningly lame and unimaginative" in addition to criticizing the visual style as a "dark, unattractive, gloomy mode."[102] In a review for Screen Daily, Tim Grierson criticized the film's narrative as nonsensical, making the movie "progressively more muddled and tedious."[103]

In contrast, David Jenkins of Little White Lies praised Fantastic Four for its stylistic deviation from other recent superhero films, and argued that the film's characters "make decisions which may appear to lack credibility, but the writing works hard to show you why these people are doing what they are doing – and it's not just haphazard patching work, but believable reasons which build on the themes of the movie".[104] James Berardinelli gave the film two and a half stars out of five, opining that Fantastic Four is "no better or worse [than] the other superhero movies of 2015", welcoming the dark tone, and praising the performance of the main actors. However, he stated that "As a superhero movie, it falls into the 'adequate' range of the spectrum - neither memorable nor forgettable."[105]

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