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FANTASTIC FOUR (2015): Josh Trank Mourns Film, Max Landis’ Thoughts on Filmmaking

Josh Trank Fantastic Four Background

Josh Trank on Fantastic Four and Max Landis on Film-making. Fantastic Four has not been receiving positive reviews with film critics breaking the embargo that 20th Century Fox had put into place until today, the day of its release (not including the screenings held yesterday evening). Director Josh Trank was apparently not pleased with the released version of the film either or the big-budget, film-making process. He apparently had no idea that 20th Century Fox would be micro-managing him, film scenes, and the finished product. Trank’s ignorance came from the fact that he had never directed this type of film before (a potential tent-pole and franchise builder) and had only directed one other film, Chronicle, before Fantastic Four. Trank apparently learned the hard way on-set and in the editing room about the multi-million dollar, Hollywood, film-making process.

Because of his frustration and the finished product that bears his name, Trank posted a tweet that he has since deleted (he didn’t really delete it because there are ways to retrieve deleted tweets). As an objective observer with “no skin in the game,”  I can not believe he lamented the version of Fantastic Four being released before its release. That was amazing, stupid, honest, and insane. 20th Century Fox has millions of dollars wrapped up in the Fantastic Four. By showing a lack of confidence in the film before its release, Trank hurt its opening weekend gross. Trank may have encouraged people to stay away from the film (since – reading between the lines – the opposite of a fantastic version of a film is an abysmal version of a film). 20th Century Fox must have been livid when they heard about then read Trank’s tweet (via Slashfilm):

Josh Trank Fantastic Four Deleted Tweet

Josh Trank Fantastic Four Tweet

The writer of the aforementioned Chronicle and Trank’s former collaborator, Max Landis, chimed in with his own two cents on the film making process (his followers were asking him about Trank, Fantastic Four, and Trank’s deleted tweet). This is what he had to say:

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, 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. 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.”

I think Landis’ response “hit the nail on the head.” Trank did not know what he was signing on for or getting into when he signed on to director Fantastic Four. The freedom that he previously experienced with Chronicle was a fluke, experienced by independent film-makers e.g. Woody Allen and directors that have earned the privilege of Final Cut through a long history of directing hits and noteworthy films.

Was the tone of the first Fantastic Four trailer the tone of the film that Trank had envisioned? If so, that is the film that I had always wanted to see. Something dark and tragic. Something heavy on sci-fi. Something real-world. Something Batman Begins.

Everyone was looking forward to a Fantastic Four film done right, a good film that was imaginative, engaging, and fun. Sadly, from all reports, including from the director, that is not the case.

On to the next reboot (and another origin story. Christ.) so 20th Century Fox can keep the rights to the Fantastic Four (and Marvel Studios does not obtain them).

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About the author

Rollo Tomasi

A Political Science and MBA grad who started FilmBook during an eCommerce B-School course in 2008. Cinema and TV addict. Former writer at Empire Movies, Blogcritics, and Alternative Film Guide. In addition to writing for FilmBook, he also edits the copy published on the website, manages its writing staff, manages the back-end operations, site finances, its social network accounts, and works with publicists, actors, and companies on press coverage and promotions. He has also created ProMovieBlogger.com and Trending Awards.com.

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