In JFK, Oliver Stone’s 1991 ode to conspiracy theorists everywhere, a secret informant going by the name “X” (Donald Sutherland) meets with Prosecutor Jim Garrison (Kevin Costner) on a Washington park bench to reveal just how high up the attorney should look in his investigation of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. It was all orchestrated by the Pentagon and CIA to stop Kennedy from pulling the country out of Vietnam, or so “X” says. Eventually, Garrison drinks the Kool-Aid, and when later recounting the theory he informs his audience, “We’re through the looking glass here, people. White is black and black is white.” In other word, everything you thought you knew about the world is wrong.
That’s how it feels every time a new headline pops up indicating Fox still might move forward with a Fantastic Four 2 sequel due out in 2017. Fox planted its Fantastic Four 2 flag in the 2017 ground before Fantastic Four tranked so hard it will likely lose around $60 million for the studio when all is said and done, according to an analyst quoted by The Hollywood Reporter [for the record, FF’s worldwide gross is currently $160m, against a $120m production budget]. After the opening weekend, the studio’s distribution chief did his job and put a positive spin on things, telling THR, “While we’re disappointed, we remain committed to these characters and we have a lot to look forward to in our Marvel universe.” However, he declined to comment specifically on Fantastic Four 2. Then various websites ran with rumors they were hearing that Fox was not merely being coy. They reportedly remain committed to making the next Fantastic Four movie happen.
Why not, right? All the actors are under contract. Josh Trank unwittingly gave them a scapegoat meaning they can blame everything on him. Fantastic Four 2 can be their do-over (even though this whole thing is already a do-over of the FF movies which stalled after 2 installments last decade). Kate Mara has no idea if they’ll ever make another one (she hasn’t even worked up the nerve to watch the first one even though she’s in it!), but co-screenwriter and producer Simon Kinberg recently told MTV:
Every time you make a movie, you want to make a great movie. It’s a ton of time and effort you put in. We made that movie in the sweltering heat of summer in Baton Rouge and I was there every day of photography. You’re waking up every morning being like, I want to go make a great movie. It was an opportunity to do that. I do believe there is a great ‘Fantastic Four’ movie that we’ve made with that cast. So I’m gonna figure out what that is.
… We’re figuring out what that [sequel] movie would be. I’d like that to happen.
That doesn’t really sound like someone who’s positive that a sequel will happen, more like someone who appears hopeful about it. At this point, the body’s not even cold yet when it comes to Josh Trank’s Fantastic Four. It actually just opened this weekend in Italy, and it will make its way to Japan next month. China remains a possibility at some point down the road. Even though Josh Trank badmouthed his own movie on Twitter on opening weekend, the rule of thumb is that you don’t bury this thing until it is truly dead. For as long as Fantastic Four has some earning potential left, it does Simon Kinberg (and Fox) no good to bury it and move on.
But, come on, we’re truly through the looking glass here if this is really a world in which Fantastic Four could lose $60 million for the studio and still get a sequel. Movies that lose that much money don’t get sequels. They just don’t. When the 2011 Conan the Barbarian reboot lost $65 million they took their lumps and went home, despite how much Arnold Schwarzenegger insists they’ll make another one but with him in it this time. Green Lantern lost $90 million and drove Ryan Reynolds to mock the movie in the Deadpool trailer. Jack the Giant Slayer, R.I.P.D., The Lone Ranger and John Carter all could have had sequels if they hadn’t each lost over $100 million for their respective studios.
JFK may have tried to flip the world on its side, turning black to white and vice versa, but we’re still in the real world where a $60 million loss on a movie is still a $60 million loss, regardless of how nifty Hollywood accounting will soften the impact. It’s a vote of no confidence, the consumer telling the content producer that it should move onto something else at this point. The only example I can think of where an enormous box office bomb still scored a sequel is how The Chronicles of Riddick lost as much as $72 million in 2004 and finally delivered the lower budget, back-to-basics Riddick 9 years later, driven forward considerably by the not-so-little engine that is Vin Diesel. It had become a passion project for Diesel. Is Fantastic Four 2 really a passion project for anyone at Fox? Or is this all about them not wanting to lose the franchise rights back to Marvel?
So, let’s get real – There’s no way Fox is really making Fantastic Four 2, right? At least not anytime soon.