This weekend marks the end of an era for superhero films, as Dark Phoenix hits theaters and closes the door on 19 years of storytelling with Fox's version of the X-Men. The characters (and the still-unreleased New Mutants) will now head over to the Walt Disney Company, where Marvel Studios will begin adapting them to their own massively successful cinematic universe in the coming years. We've spent so much time in recent weeks talking about Dark Phoenix, though, that the other Fox Marvel franchise has sort of been pushed aside.
In its acquisition of Fox assets, Disney also got the film rights to the Fantastic Four, Marvel Comics' first superteam who formed the basis for three films at the studio between 2005 and 2015. The X-Men managed to keep churning out movies through thick and thin, but the FF struggled more, earning two films in one continuity before a long break and the eventual, ill-fated reboot from director Josh Trank (Chronicle). That reboot was a commercial and critical disaster as the studio was hoping to launch a new franchise continuity, and things only got worse when the behind-the-scenes reports came in.
On the eve of the film's release, amid a torrent of bad buzz, Trank tweeted, and then deleted, a claim that he'd made a "fantastic" version of the movie that we would "probably never see." It only got worse from there, as reports of everything from Trank isolating himself in a tent during filming to producers demanding reshoots that effectively "neutralized" the young director came out. At one point Trank even retained the services of a lawyer.
Producers Simon Kinberg and Hutch Parker are certainly aware that things got ugly, and in a new interview with Yahoo! Movies they acknowledged that there are definitely regrets over the way the production went.
“Is there anything I would have done differently?” Parker said. “Yeah, there are. There are lots of things I would have done differently.”
Parker and Kinberg did not address reports of Trank's behavior on set directly in the interview, but Kinberg (who also co-wrote the screenplay) did put emphasis on the tonal problems of the film, noting the decision to make it more gritty and grounded seemed "radical" at the time but ultimately did not "mesh" with the lighter version of the Fantastic Four that so many fans have grown to love. As for Parker, he framed the whole debacle — in which he acknowledged people "suffering" during the production — as a learning experience that he's been able to use in subsequent productions.
“What I'd like to hope — as somebody who survived some really challenging productions, both when I was at the studio, and now as a producer — is that you learn each time and you become wiser about the ways in which you can ensure a great experience," he said.
The reboot was an attempt to root the Fantastic Four in the superhero shared universe model that took off with Iron Man in 2008, but it was not the only attempt Fox made. In 2010, back before the rebooted film was even conceived of, the studio was toying with its own version of the Civil War concept that would have pitted the Fantastic Four against the X-Men. According to last Friday's edition of The Hollywood Reporter's Heat Vision newsletter, X-Men: First Class writers Ashley Edward Miller and Zack Stentz worked on an idea that would have led off with Johnny Storm blowing up a big chunk of Manhattan after going nova in pursuit of villain The Molecule Man. That incident would have sparked talk of superhuman registration, and the X-Men and the Fantastic Four would have battled each other over that concept, including a showdown that would have featured Mr. Fantastic getting the better of Wolverine. Had it landed, the film was supposed to set up a Skrull Invasion that would have formed the basis for the next film. Director Paul Greengrass was at one point attached to the project, but Fox later backed off the team-up concept when First Class hit at the box office, and decided to instead continue to pursue a version of its prequel timeline with Days of Future Past.
We still don't know exactly when Marvel Studios will be picking up the Fantastic Four baton and running with it, but here's hoping in the coming years they don't endure the same issues with the characters Fox did.