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Why Is Fox Hiding The Fantastic Four?

Bob "MovieBob" Chipman | 22 Aug 2014 16:00
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But not only is it likely you didn't hear that Fantastic Four was nearly finished, it's entirely possible you weren't aware it was being made at all outside of a by now safe assumption that every drop of ink ever typed or scrawled by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby is probably "in development" at one stage or another somewhere.

So what's the deal?

It's not as though rebooting The Fantastic Four is a small deal for Fox. It represents a chance for a second bite at the once-again juicy X-Men apple, with another globetrotting superhero team this time comprised of younger, less-expensive stars. It represents a plum merchandising opportunity (The Thing is famously popular with children). And more than anything, it means keeping rival Disney/Marvel (the two studios are infamously intense in their respective dislike) from getting their hands on another bi-annual money-printing franchise to muscle Fox (and others) out of the multiplex.

And it's certainly not like the project holds no obvious interest in its own right: a rising-star indie director most-recently know for a deconstructionist superhero drama getting called up to the majors to do the real thing? That's the same backstory as Guardians of The Galaxy, a "risky bet" that's now on its way to being one of the biggest hits of the year. The cast is a who's-who of hot up and coming talent: Miles Teller, Jamie Bell, Michael B. Jordan and Kate Mara? Is this a superhero movie or the nominees for the next Spirit Awards?

So why does Fox, apparently, not want you to know it exists?

It's possible that they've been scared cautious. Despite gargantuan hits like Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Transformers: Age of Extinction and Guardians holding up the tent, 2014 has been a year of costly disappointments. Expendables 3? A dud. Hercules? Decidedly mortal. Even a sure bet like Amazing Spider-Man 2 underperformed, and while it (eventually) turned a small profit and will likely be solid on video the optics of its stumble (a presumed multi-week smash that everyone else had cleared the deck for getting curb-stomped a week later by a http://www.escapistmagazine.com/news/view/134398-Friday-Box-Office-Amazing-Spider-Man-2-Drops-Big-in-Second-Weekend " title="" target="_blank">cheap fratboy comedy) were terrible. So, sure, maybe Fox is playing for caution -- trying not to create an "overhyped" backlash on release.

It's equally possible that they'd hide it for the old-fashioned reason: They don't think it's any good. With the film already mostly shot, the film's producers likely have a good idea of how it's coming together. Perhaps they don't like what they see? If so, going with a soft rollout and an "Oh, sure. It's good. Yup. Uh-huh." straight-faced grin-and-bear-it pitch is probably the best play: A delay tells the press there's blood in the water, to say nothing of rival studios who -- after the Spider-Man vs. Neighbors debacle -- will be looking for any sign of weakness in comic blockbusters to score a counterprogramming hit.

And remember: Fox is less concerned with building a strong franchise here than they are with depriving a box-office rival of material for another Guardians-sized hit. So they lose comparatively little by having a so-so to awful Fantastic Four film come out and do middling business, secure their license on the property for another cycle and announce a "soft reboot" (aka "the sequel will go in a new direction") shortly thereafter. That's more-or-less what's reputed to have happened with Sony midway through production on the first Amazing Spider-Man -- they decided the original "smaller-scale Twilight-style teen romance but for superheroes" angle wasn't working, so huge amounts of that film got retooled to fix with "fixes" already being planned for a sequel.

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