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David Poland

By David Poland poland@moviecitynews.com

Friday Estimates by Not-So-Fantastic Klady

Friday Estimates 2015-08-08 at 9.14.31 AM

Part of the most of the reporting of Fantastic Four‘s box office that you see this weekend will be colored by the guesses that were made in the last couple week’s about what the film would open to this weekend. There are a lot of reasons for this film to misfire at the box office. And in one of the rarest events, the influence of critics may actually have caused some people to stay away, as a near unanimous (9% on Rotten Tomatoes) dismissal of the film is one of the few times when critics can influence the box office of a wide release. Sadly, it doesn’t work the other way, as the 99% RT score for Shaun The Sheep doesn’t seem to have helped much, nor the 92% RT rating on The Gift nor did the 93% rating on Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation keep it from a 59% Friday-to-Friday drop in its second weekend coming off a just-okay opening.

But the critical influence is not the only problem here. The ads. The tone, altogether lacking humor. The limitations of an origins-only movie on the marketing, which tried to pretend that there were other adventures to come.

Essentially, this is a pre-Marvel Studios kind of opening for a Marvel character movie. There were a few cases of Marvel comic openings before Iron Man‘s 2008 premiere that opened better. But there are few films in recent years that so clearly point out the before-and-after of the CG-driven comic book movie… including why they have have arrived in such numbers in the last 7 years. The first Fox Fantastic Four was in 2005, after Spider-Man, but when Fox was becoming the place that understood comic book movies better than anyone else, led by X-Men, Daredevil, and Fantastic Four. Aside from the #1 Marvel character – Spidey – they were doing best at this game… which was not that sensational, which was keeping the parade of CG comic book movies in line, really. Then Iron Man. And that didn’t really change the math – as there had been $100m Spider-Man openings and the then last X-Men opened to $100m – until Avengers brought good-not-game0changing Cap and Thor numbers together with Tony Stark and things exploded.

Now, a $57m Ant-Man opening is rationalized, as though it was disappointing… as that is the weakest Marvel Studios era opening.

The big question is whether if this Fantastic Four opening was, say, $40 million instead of mid-20s, that would be enough to launch the trilogy that Fox seems to have been considering. The answer, unless this film had very strong legs (which would would not), is no. And international would need to be so overhwhelming – like 3:1 at least – to change that.

So this is a movie that was walking dead and got, in the last week, deader.

Fox marketing lied about what it is in the ads as much as anyone could, really. Didn’t work.

Some more critics could have given it a pass. Didn’t.

Could, as Josh Trank suggests, this have been a different movie, leading to different ads and different reviews? Possible. But every indication I have heard is that Trank’s version would be even more self-serious and thus, appealing to some critics, but even more difficult for the marketing team to make look like something broad audiences wanted to see.

And maybe it would be nice to have seen Josh Trank immolate with the movie he really wanted to make and not a studio-manipulated one. But it seems pretty clear that Fantastic Four was destined to flame out, get clobbered, stretch patience, and become invisible form the day someone decided that a moody, broody FF was the way to go. Great for the Blade series, which was made on a relatively small budget with relatively low expectations. But while CG has allowed Marvel Studios to make comic book movies that actually look like comic books, the real spice that has made that machine run is humor…. self-mocking super humor.

And so it goes…

17 Responses to “Friday Estimates by Not-So-Fantastic Klady”

  1. alynch says:

    “But it seems pretty clear that Fantastic Four was destined to flame out, get clobbered, stretch patience, and become invisible.”

    Get out.

  2. EtGuild2 says:

    THE ERA OF COMIC BOOK MOVIES IS OVER!!!

    I was expecting to see those arguments left and right, because I expected it to be mediocre, not cringe-inducingly bad. Instead, it’s such a bad movie that no one is really making broader generalizations.

    RICKI looks to be Streep’s weakest opening since RENDITION. Which wasn’t really her movie. MUSIC OF THE HEART?

  3. That Guy says:

    “when Fox was becoming the place that understood comic book movies better than anyone else, led by X-Men, Daredevil, and Fantastic Four”

    Whaaaat? X-Men worked out, even though in retrospect it isn’t as good as many thought at the time. But Daredevil and Fantastic Four(I notice you left out Elektra) were horrible misfires. Misfires that made a bit of money? Sure. But Marvel has shown just how much money Fox was leaving on the table. There’s a reason why Marvel’s brand became so strong so quickly despite not possessing the marquee names: they corrected a lot of the mistakes the bozos at Fox and Sony were making.

    Prior to Marvel Studios the only superhero films that worked were by auteur directors. Raimi with Spider-man, Burton with Batman, X-Men with Singer. Even Donner with the first Superman. Norrington and Del Toro on Blade. WB still only really works with auteur-types.

    Fox tried making superhero films with hack directors and got hack results, like WB with Schumacher’s Batman films(and Schumacher is a better director than most of the people Fox has hired). Their Singer-less X-Men films were trash and no one seemed to even notice when Singer retconned them all with his last one.

    Fox’s problem, over and over again, is a distinct lack of respect for or understanding of the source material. They don’t get that there was a reason these things were successful as comics, and that what seems cheesy to them might be a part of the innate charm. Instead they’re scared of the source and try to fix problems that aren’t there.

    Trank might be everything they’re saying and more, but I don’t think it’s fair to lay all or even most of the blame on him. Fox has made plenty of bad superhero movies, and they greenlit his take. And then undermined it.

    I realize this is a lot of words and vitriol to expend on comic book movies(Io-level), but though I’ve grown increasingly disenchanted with Marvel and WB’s choices I still really like the Fantastic Four. Fox has had three chances, and three miserable failures(at least creatively if not always financially). They had their chance.

    Fox should just sell back the Fantastic Four to Marvel and settle Perlmutter’s stupid feud with them.

  4. Martin says:

    [i]the day someone decided that a moody, broody FF was the way to go.[/]

    That would be Matthew Vaughn and Mark Millar, I believe.

    Before them, all signs pointed to Fox recasting and moving away from an origin film. There was even CGI/animatronic Thing test work.

  5. movieman says:

    That’s an exceptionally small break for a major studio Streep movie; especially one that’s received such a heavy marketing push.
    Per-screen it’s OK, I guess.
    Still, the whole thing is kind of strange.

  6. Geoff says:

    I honestly don’t know how every one can just vilify Fox over this – their track record over the past few years has been pretty strong with comic properties: X Men First Class, Wolverine, X Men Days of Future Past, and Kingsmen. All of these films were well received and pretty profitable, I expect they’ll do well next year with Deadpool and X Men Apocalypse…..not sure about Gambit yet. Kinberg has been doing fantastic work the past few years and he was their writer on F4 and they had a very strong cast…..I think it does come down to Trank. Not that he’s a bad director but he obviously had a pretty uncommercial vision for this movie and it was too little, too late to try to save it – they should have never hired him if they were going to spend so much on the movie in the first place.

    You could kind of say the same amount of studio meddling happened with Ant-Man – very fun movie, but it’s obvious where they made chops and edits to the story post-Edgar Wright and I still don’t understand why they hired Paul Rudd if they weren’t going to let him be…..Paul Rudd. But they obviously had the film geared in a commercial direction from the getgo – they had a ready-made mold they were going to fit it into and even if it was a bit clunky, it pretty much fit the Marvel Studios mold.

    I DO think there is still room for dark-and-brooding superhero and even marketing them that way – it just has to fit the character. You look at more than 20 years of marketing campaigns for Warners for Batman, The Dark Knight, TDKR……none of those films were marketed as jolly, happy romps and they still killed at the box office from day one. You can kind of do that with Wolverine, Daredevil, probably even Black Panther…..but it was never going to work with Mr. Fantastic and Sue Storm.

  7. Triple Option says:

    The person in front of me at the movies asked for a refund for Fantastic 4. This was before it started. She said the reviews just got to her and that she wanted to see Shaun the Sheep instead.

    Meanwhile I saw Ricki & the Flash. People talk about athletes playing past their prime, crap, I can make a prominent list of directors who’ve made clunkers when they should’ve been collecting social security or taking their grandkids to the end of the subway line to see where it goes. Demme, Sidney Pollack, Ridley Scott, (Tony, too, but he’s had just as many misses as hits along the way).

    Film was really stilted. Streep’s character came across more like a bad counselor who dampened summer camp, not a destroyer of lives from her absenteeism. People were all shouting at each other and the music scenes weren’t even up to par as the old American Bandstand.

    I seem to remember August still having exciting movies to see. Is that not the case? What’s the point of moving up “summer” bo to April if everything past the 3rd week of July just seem like a fall dump.

    I am looking forward to Straight Outta Compton. After that, I don’t know.

  8. EtGuild2 says:

    I liked Demme’s adaptation of MASTER BUILDER last year.

    @Geoff not sure who is villifying Fox per se, but this really torpedoes their bid for an MCU of their own unless DEADPOOL really takes off, and let’s be honest, it stars RyRy. None of the films you mentioned were more than moderately profitable. In fact, I’m not sure any of them were more profitable than THOR 2.

  9. Geoff says:

    EtGuild2, you forget that Disney/Marvel has spent quite a bit on their films PLUS all of the advertising – Kingsman made more than $400 worldwide on a $70 million budget and The Wolverine made $415 million on a $120 million budget, they’ll both see more profit than Ant-Man for sure. On the other hand, Fox is going to take a real bath on F4.

  10. Pete B. says:

    Just gotta say there’s a reason Shaun the Sheep is at 99%. It’s a completely adorable film. Amazing that you feel so much for the characters in a dialogue-free movie.

  11. brack says:

    The trailers for Fantastic Four were all just bla. There was very little interest to see this kind of FF. I know I can say this now, but I would’ve been shocked if the movie would have had a decent opening. And it’s a shame because I generally like the cast, but just in other movies. I’ll probably see it at home someday.

  12. movieman says:

    I liked Demme’s “Master Builder,” too, Et.
    It does, however, pale in comparison to “Vanya on 42nd Street.”
    Another problem w/ “Ricki” is that I never believed for a second that Streep and Kline had ever been married in any previous lifetime; let alone had three children together.
    Ironic that three-time Tony winner Audra MacDonald has a non-singing role whereas the adequate-at-best “singer” Streep barrels through at least a dozen tunes.
    Gee, I wonder if Rick Springfield ever thought back in 1984 when he was top- lining “Hard to Hold” (the ’80s equivalent to “Glitter”) that he’d someday be costarring in a movie w/ La Meryl, lol.

  13. EtGuild2 says:

    @Geoff Fox relies more disproportionately on international than even Marvel Studios, and given the drunken projections on Marvel films in these parts, you might want to hold off on ANT-MAN comps until that movie opens in South Korea, Japan and China. Surpassing KINGSMAN by $100 million worldwide is definitely a possibility.

    KINGSMAN was undoubtedly a nice payoff for Fox. It also doesn’t really have anything to do with their superhero universe, which involves a franchise about to lose its draw (Wolverine), a production which appears troubled before shooting has commenced (Gambit), a production fronted by one of the biggest box office losers in Hollywood (Deadpool) and a production that will be cancelled in the next month or two (F4 2) Thank God for Bryan Singer, eh?

    Still, I don’t think anyone is villifying Fox, because this wasn’t a movie that had been clamored for, expectations were low from the get-go, and rumors about the director’s ego issues were brought up by RIVAL studios before the movie was released.

  14. Geoff says:

    EtGuild2, you make some good points about how dicey the future is for Wolverine and possibly Gambit movies, but I highly doubt that if not for the success of Kingsman (a hard R rated comic book adaptation released in February), then we would not be seeing such a push for Deadpool – that $400 million worldwide gross is the baseline now, though it seems like there’s a lower threshold for profitability for Deadpool.

    And nobody’s saying that Ant-Man won’t make profit – it will likely break that $400 million worldwide threshold, but it’s not going to be as profitable as Kingsman.

  15. Hallick says:

    “Just gotta say there’s a reason Shaun the Sheep is at 99%. It’s a completely adorable film. Amazing that you feel so much for the characters in a dialogue-free movie.”

    It would have been nice if the critics had put all of their energy into building this one up instead of tearing into the DOA Fantastic Four this last week.

  16. martin says:

    EtGuild, you’re right Kingsman has no bearing on the Marvel properties via marketing, but developmentally, it’s the third braid intertwined with X-Men and FF.

    http://deadline.com/2013/03/fox-wins-rights-to-matthew-vaughns-next-pic-the-secret-service-462599/

    No Kingsman, no Vaughn, no Millar, no FF Reboot, no Trank, no megabomb.

  17. pat says:

    If Jason can meet Freddy in the movies, I don’t see any reason why FOX can’t link up their X-men and Kingsman franchises.

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