Was Fantastic Four A Public Relations Scandal Doomed To Fail?

9:34 AM Joseph Aberl 0 Comments

Well, while I still haven’t seen the new Fantastic Four, or Fant4stick as some jokingly call it, it seems to be falling apart critically with an even lower percentage of 10% on Rotten Tomatoes than the original Fantastic Four films ten years ago.[1] Now writing that just made me feel old, but it is rather disturbing that a film focused on these characters would actually end up being critically panned with a director such as Josh Tank at the helm, who has proven to be a great director with Chronicles. Yet, I have a feeling that the hatred towards this film might also be the fact that it was a Public Relations disaster, even worse than back when Marvel Studios came under heavy criticism when Edgar Wright left the Ant-Man project.

Strong Accusations Towards Trank?
First off, it started with some messages being spread online on a LSU message board known as Tiger Droppings when in November a user named “stegs_81” suddenly started posting information regarding the director Josh Trank, as supposedly a friend of his worked on the crew. It seems that some people stated that Trank arrived on the set high and for some days didn’t even show up. There were more rumors going viral, such as him trashing a house that was given to him and lead to him supposedly being fired after the film was wrapped.[2] The worst problem came when A Fox spokesperson stated that “there were definitely some bumps in the road,” which doesn’t deny any of the allegations.[3]

It certainly didn’t help his case that on one side 20th Century Fox didn’t react at all to the allegations and then shortly after he got fired from directing an upcoming Star Wars spinoff film, or even exited the project himself. At first, there was no direct word voiced regarding his exit from the project until a little later it seemed as if some worries came to the executives of Lucasfilms as these rumors kept spreading.[4] The worst part came when suddenly information leaked that massive reshoots were being planned for the film, which also does not help the situation that some believe that Fox was not satisfied with the results of Trank’s work.[5]

A Critical Disaster And Backlash
So, with what one could describe as a pretty hefty PR scandal involving not only Fox, but also the director Josh Trank. The lack of any public information regarding the film and not helping its case is that Fox would only lift the review embargo the day before the official release. This commonly is not a good sign as either the company has no trust in the project or they are trying to keep something a secret.[6] The critical response shortly after the release certainly does not help its case, but one could also point out that just maybe it is a combination of the bad press, some still lingering negative look at the superhero genre and that the film suffers from the production companies influence on the film.

While there still has been no official word by Fox regarding the critical reception or even the box office success of the film so far, which should be between $40 to $50 million for the opening weekend as long as the negative buzz does not strongly influence the film, as it did with Pixels a little while back.[7] Josh Trank has officially made a statement, which was deleted shortly after, saying that “A year ago I had a fantastic version of this. And it would’ve received great reviews. You’ll probably never see it. That’s reality though” This is certainly a move to maybe save his own personal integrity in the industry, as Fox has proven to make some bizarre decisions with their Marvel franchises, when some remember the portrayal of Deadpool in X-Men Origins: Wolverine.[8]

Did Fox Handle It Correctly?
Now after all that, Fox is still staying very quiet on the matter. While I am certainly no Public Relations expert, I have to say this is probably the only choice they have. The issue though is that this shows how unique Film PR really is, as not only are you representing a company, but also the actors, directors and anyone involved in the making of the project. As much as companies love using the buzzword “Viral Marketing”, some still have issues trying to utilize Social Media-PR and the virality of such claims. It would have been nice for Fox to have a public statement releasing Trank from the bad press thrown at him, which even if there is bad blood, is what is mandatory to keep a good press on both sides.

If the allegations are true, which I am certainly stating that they are, Fox should have handled this similar to political PR, as they also represent the director no matter what happens. We don’t know any of the details behind the scenes, something we probably will never know, but it is sad that the usage of silence simply spread the word faster and did cement distrust in the minds of many. You cannot stop anything that goes viral even if it isn’t true, but letting it sit without stating a single thing not only makes the director look bad, but your company as well. No matter the bad blood, do not forget that they represent your company and you represent them.

No matter what truly happened, I do hope that Josh Trank certainly gets another chance to prove himself as a director, as Chronicles was a fantastic film. Furthermore, it is a waste of a fantastic cast if this film would not receive a sequel, or the rumored X-Men crossover. So, for now I wish all the people involved the best and I am sure they have enough future projects heading in their direction.

What are your thoughts on the matter? Besides what may or may not have happened, did it influence your decision to watch the film? Leave a comment below!

[1] Cf. Rotten Tomatoes (2015): http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/fantastic_four_2015/, Dated: 07.08.2015.