It’s hard to imagine now, but there was once a time — lasting over a century — in which most big screen motion pictures weren’t comic book movies. There were dramas, musicals, romantic-comedies, war pictures, Westerns, even the occasional foreign-language import. That time is no more, and no one in Hollywood is getting poor funding superhero entries, particularly this weekend.
Still, it’s worth remembering that not literally every superhero movie has made green. Sunday, filmmaker Jospeh Kahn — of last year’s acclaimed, non-superheroic Bodied — tweeted the vaguely bitter words “No superhero movie fails.” To which one Josh Trank replied, “Hold my beer.”
Trank, of course, is the credited director of Fantastic Four — not the versions from 2005 and 2007 that featured a pre-Captain America Chris Evans as a wise-cracking frat boy version of the Human Torch. (Nor did he helm the notorious cheapie 1994 version produced by Roger Corman that, for complicated reasons, was never intended for release.) Trank made the Fantastic Four from 2015 that made a whopping $56 million against a $120 million budget.
Trank’s Fantastic Four was a known disaster before even critics saw it (and hated it), which was about 12 hours before it hit theaters. The production was plagued with bad press, and Trank — who had previously made the resourceful indie sci-fi hit Chronicle — had endless battles with the studio, which he did not win. The result was a pretty much objectively misshapen mess, featuring ugly, unfinished-looking CGI and oddly lethargic turns from otherwise reliable stars Miles Teller, Michael B. Jordan, Kate Mara, and Jamie Bell. It also has perhaps the worst-ever example of the titular line.
Trank famously lashed out at the studio, and the final product, on the eve of the film’s release. “A year ago I had a fantastic version of this,” he tweeted. “And it would’ve received fantastic reviews. You’ll probably never see it. That’s the reality though.”
It’s all good, though. The 2015 Fantastic Four quickly escaped the public consciousness, and its talented cast emerged unscathed. Trank is back at work on Fonzo, an Al Capone picture starring Tom Hardy.
Fantastic Four ’15 also didn’t harm the comic book genre. There was no seismic reckoning, no think pieces asking if the comic book movie was dying. One gigantic bomb in nine years is nothing to sneeze at. Indeed, you’d have to go back to Jonah Hex, in 2010, to find another comic book movie that bombed that hard. Green Lantern, from the following year, merely underperformed, and it wound up freeing up star Ryan Reynolds to mock the genre with Deadpool. So good on the superhero genre, which can clearly take a lickin’ and keep on tickin’.