All statistics correct at time of writing.
We were all a little worried for Josh Trank’s embattled vision for Reed Richards, Ben Grimm and the Storm siblings, but nothing prepared us for this: already, Fox’s new and would-be improved version of Fantastic Four has become the worst superhero movie of the modern age.
Since 2002’s floodgate-opening Spider-Man, just one comic-book/superhero film has received a lower Rotten Tomatoes score than F4: 2005’s The Crow: Wicked Prayer, sitting pretty on 0%. Fantastic Four is tied in second-lowest place with the infamous Catwoman – both on 9%.
To put that into perspective: Elektra (10%), Jonah Hex (12%), The Spirit (14%) and even The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (17%) are all statistically “better” than this new release. Other surprising improvements include Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (18%), Blade: Trinity and Green Lantern (both 26%), as well as known duds from Kick-Ass 2 to Punisher: War Zone to Daredevil. Both previous Fantastic Four movies are rated in the 40s.
It’s not just Rotten Tomatoes, either: though it seems 9% of the critics out there thought F4 was somewhere above average, Metacritic shows that, generally, the film is about 27% good. Again, this is equal to Catwoman and well below the previous Fantastic Fours, at 40 and 45 respectively.
And again, all the above movies – save Wicked Prayer, which isn’t listed – garnered a fair bit higher on Metacritic. Green Lantern is at 39, for chrissakes. We can even turn to the “amateur” rating of IMDb users – but at 4.1/10, F4 is still lower than most (this time, however, it beats Catwoman‘s 3.3). It already, mere hours into release, seems an objective fact that 2015’s Fantastic Four is the worst superhero film to have been released since the genre’s big revival.
There you have it. Are we vindicated, or just disappointed?
It’s worth examining the sort of critical instincts that go into this, though: many were annoyed at Fox’s dogged determination to arbitrarily hold onto the rights when they should’ve just gone to Marvel; they, and we, saw the previous F4 films, were disappointed, and really really thought Trank and the studio could do better; people are amazed that such a great cast can possibly let us down so hard; all were worried, finally, over that none-too-encouraging embargo that prevented reviews until near the last minute. Is the 9% a mere symptom of schadenfreude?
However you look at the reviews, though, Fantastic Four‘s box office is looking equally dismal. A $2.7million opening Thursday is not good for a wannabe tentpole, especially when that take comes from 2,900 screens (that’s an average of 114 people per screening). Just the other week Minions opened on $6.2m, and how many children are allowed a schoolnight cinema trip? The best wide releases at the moment are raking it in from far outside their stated demographics; Fantastic Four isn’t even capturing the attention, acclaim or money from its own die-hards. With current figures, it looks unlikely to hit even $30m over the weekend, a gaping financial disappointment (on a $120m budget no less).
Whether this is deserved for such a beleaguered production is beside the point, ultimately. Spare a thought for Miles Teller, Kate Mara, Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Bell: all fine actors who should have had more. This should’ve been the big one. Like with Marvel’s casts, or even Fox’s X-Men series. As it is, Teller now has something more embarrassing than the Divergent series on his CV and the other three, who’ve had much less exposure than their Mr. Fantastic, could be looking at a real slide down the ladder after this debacle. It took a few years for Chris Evans to recover from Silver Surfer, and we’re not sure his teammates ever really did the same.
That said, no slide looks to be as great as Josh Trank’s: having been strongarmed by the studio, lambasted for being unprofessional, (allegedly) forced out of his Star Wars movie and now posting ill-advised tweets about his film, the man once briefly seen as a true wünderkind may have blown up his own career just by signing on the dotted line. The co-writers are nicely insulated; Simon Kinberg already weathered multiple crap films to become a Fox bigwig. Meanwhile, compared to his actors – Teller has two biopics coming up, Jordan’s starring in the new Rocky, Mara has drama Captive and likely hit The Martian coming up – Trank barely has a plan, occasionally alluding only to some unspecified “smaller scale” feature. It could be years in the making.
Just a fortnight ago, this was a storm on the horizon, a mountain of shit being tentatively built up. Now we have a big, stinking apex – the lowest moment yet for a relatively indestructible genre, and one which may take its helmer with it. Ladies and gentlemen, your great Greek tragedy for the 2010s: 20th Century Fox’s Fantastic Four (2015).