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Box Office: 4 Reasons 'Fantastic Four' Flamed Out

Image courtesy of 20th Century Fox

Well, the results are in and the news is “grimm.” 20th Century Fox’s much-discussedFantastic Four arrived this weekend not with a bang but with a horrifying whimper, opening with just $26.2 million for the weekend. There isn’t much precedent for a major comic book superhero movie opening this poorly in modern times, especially not one with locked-in sequel dates and big-scale franchise aspirations. Frankly it is almost refreshing to see audiences not automatically flock towards the preordained big movie on a given weekend in at least numbers great enough to generate a vaguely okay opening weekend. I feel for those involved, but it’s rare that audiences so resoundly say “No, thank you.” in this manner. It’s genuinely shocking. This is a movie that opened on par with Battleship and Jack the Giant Slayer, more expensive films to be sure but ones with less obvious and important franchise hopes and (at least with Battleship) more promising overseas prospects.

At the moment, with the caveat that we’re only three days out, the best case scenario in America is a $75 million domestic total and an over/under $200m worldwide cume. A worst case scenario is a $60m domestic total and noticeably less than double that overseas, which would not only put it under the $65m gross of Chronicle but well below the total tickets sold for both Fantastic Four in 2005 and Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer in 2007 on their respective opening weekends alone. But even with the potential of overseas riches, it’s a misfire in the broad scheme of things. Its poor reception and poor domestic debut jeopardizes plans for a new Fantastic Four franchise as well as hopes of an X-Men crossover. Without further ado, let’s dive into what didn’t go right, beyond merely whether or not Josh Trank got rolled over by the studios as he claims (and as seems to be in evidence with the final cut regardless of the he said/he said currently being played out online). As befitting the title, this will be a list of four.

1. No movie stars:

Now I know what you’re thinking. Yes, Thor starred a complete unknown in Chris Hemsworth and the X-Men films were launched on the back of the likes of Hugh Jackman, James Marsden, and Anna Paquin. But even the superhero movies of the last decade or so that had a relative unknown as the lead had something resembling star support or at least some prestige media-friendly talent. Thor had Natalie Portman, Anthony Hopkins, and Rene Russo to offer credibility, X-Men had Patrick Stewart, Halle Berry, and Ian McKellen to lend a hand. Batman Begins cast cult favorite Christian Bale as the Dark Knight but surrounded him with trusted names like Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, and Liam Neeson.

It’s the classic Superman equation: If you cast Christopher Reeves as Clark Kent, you sure as heck better surrounded him with the likes of Marlon Brando and Gene Hackman. Or swap that out for Henry Cavill surrounded by Diane Lane, Kevin Costner, Amy Adams, and Russell Crowe and you get the idea. The featured players in Fantastic Four are all rather talented actors. But they are not remotely media-friendly movie stars. Miles Teller is known for a supporting role in the Divergent series and Whiplash, a movie that made less than $14 million worldwide last year despite a bunch of Oscar nominations and a high-profile win for J.K. Simmons. Kate Mara is at-best known for a supporting role in House of Cards.

Michael B. Jordan is “that guy who would totally be a movie star if he was a white guy.” That there was any controversy over him being cast as Johnny Storm is really pathetic, but the fact remains that the average moviegoer didn’t race out to see Fruitvale Station nor did they devour Jordan’s That Awkward Moment or Teller’s 21 and Up. The rest of the cast is fine, but box office...