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The Fantastic Four have had a rough history being adapted for movies, but 2015 was especially brutal to them. After an eight year absence from the big screen, Marvel’s First Family was rebooted, but it fared significantly worse than its predecessors, receiving almost universally negative reviews. The superhero team’s cinematic future is now in question, but in the meantime, Fantastic Four’s producer, Simon Kinberg, has gone on record saying that they definitely got one thing wrong with the movie: its tone.
During his appearance on the Happy Sad Confused podcast, Kinberg didn’t place entire blame on a singe reason for why the Fantastic Four reboot failed, but he did say that the movie’s tone definitely didn’t match the spirit of the team’s original stories. As he put it:
I don’t think that there is, in any movie that doesn’t work, a single decision that is the reason that that movie doesn’t work. I think that there were many decisions we made along the way that led to a movie that people didn’t like and to a movie that I would do differently next time. I think the biggest takeaway for me [is that] the tone of the movie, while really interesting and ambitious, ran counter to the DNA of the source material. I think the source material of Fantastic Four is bright, optimistic, poppy in tone. There’s a sort of plucky spirit to those characters, and we made a darker, sort of body-horror kind of version of Fantastic Four, which again, as I say it now, sounds really interesting and cerebrally ambitious, but isn’t necessarily Fantastic Four.
Simon Kinberg hit the nail on the head when he says that Fantastic Four "ran counter" to the source material. Although it delved more heavily into the science fiction elements, the movie was way too gritty than any Fantastic Four story has a right to be. While other superhero reboots, like Batman Begins, may benefit from darker stories, the Fantastic Four are traditionally lighter and more optimistic. Say what you will about 2005 and 2007’s Fantastic Four movies, but at least they captured that aspect well.
On top of the tone issues, Fantastic Four reportedly suffered from a number of other problems, be it a disjointed script or drama that reportedly went down behind the scenes. Days before the movie was released, director Josh Trank even tweeted (and subsequently deleted) that the movie people would see in theaters wasn’t his fully-realized vision. Whatever the reasons, Fantastic Four underperformed critically and commercially last summer. Months after the movie came out, 20th Century Fox pulled Fantastic Four 2 from its July 2017 release date, though it hasn’t been officially cancelled.
At least there’s one silver lining here: if Fantastic Four 2 still ends up being made, at least Kinberg is aware that the sequel can’t have a dark tone. That said, there are still plenty of other things from the first movie that need to be properly adjusted if the sequel is to have any hope of success.