Why are fans still defending Josh Trank?
Fantastic Four (2015) has come out and is considered one of the worst superhero films ever… again. I wish I could say I’m surprised but I’ve been saying it looked terrible from the first couple of released set photos. Most of the time this would all fall on the director, and a lot of the information seems to suggest that’s the case here, but online it really seems to depend who you ask. It is fascinating how much some people want to defend Director Josh Trank. “He’s the next David Fincher, this is just his “Alien 3.” So my main question would be why? And more importantly, why this filmmaker? Why do people want to defend Josh Trank?
I mean he’s made one other movie (“Chronicle”) which had fairly positive reviews but that hardly seems like enough reason to think he MUST be the next big thing. Having seen the film myself I thought it was okay but I can see how for some it seemed to promise real potential. First of all, it’s a found footage movie. I personally don’t hate the style like some people do but I do agree 90% of the time that it’s just a way to hide how low budget the film is and most would be better if told in a normal style. “Chronicle” was that for me but the makers did manage to come up with a clever idea to allow for a more cinematic look. Because the characters gain telekinesis powers and thus are able to have the camera hover around them in the 3rd person. Regardless of how much you may hate the film, you have to admit that’s kinda clever even though some shots were very unclear as to where the footage was coming from. However, again speaking for myself, it was undone by the same problems of before like the old “why are you still filming this?!!!!” I think I even yelled that out at the end with the girlfriend character and her own camera. I could see Dane DeHaan‘s character doing that but the entire time I couldn’t figure out what her deal was. Speaking of which, telling the story from the villain’s perspective was another interesting thing with the film. Although I’m not sure why I wasn’t as invested in his journey. So that was “Chronicle” in a nutshell for me. Some clever ideas but not executed as well as they could have been. But that was the first film of Director Josh Trank’s and it’s not a terrible first outing. Like I said, earlier the film did get a number of very good reviews. Maybe others were so focused on the potential and that overwhelmed most of the film’s shortcomings or maybe something about the film just spoke to a lot of people. I remember there were critics predicting that Trank would be offered the directing job to all of the big comic book movies in development and they were all in favor of it. Boy, how things change.
I forced myself to watch “Fant4stic” as the internet’s been calling it and it was just a bad as I thought it would be. The main problem I had with it was that it was so clear that the filmmakers didn’t get the property they were adapting. In a long in-depth interview with Kevin Smith for his podcast, “Fatman on Batman,” Josh Trank repeatedly says he worked with writers who love all of the Fantastic Four lore from the comics to help him never get too far away from the core concept. It was hard for me not to run my car off the road while listening to that. In some ways you can say Fox studios are to blame. They did indeed green-lit the film after hearing Josh Trank say something like, “I wanna do a gritty version of the Fantastic Four, my influences are David Cronenberg body horror films.” Fox’s reaction should have been, “okay, clearly you’re not the right fit for this project,” and parted ways then and there. But when you have a film that needs to be made before you lose the rights, then maybe you really don’t care about an obviously bad idea for an adaptation or maybe you are so desperate to “discover” new talent that you miss the warning signs. This is of course before taking account of all the on the set stories of Josh Trank being a horrible director to work with, unable to communicate his ideas to the cast and crew (i.e. job #1 as a director), being belligerent to the actors, destroying the house rented for him by the studio, etc. Some might point out that there aren’t any stories like this on the making of “Chronicle” but remember that film was a low-budget project made mostly in South Africa and far away from big studios. Low budget filmmaking is very different than studio filmmaking and all of this stinks of someone who was not ready for all of the added pressure of directing for a major studio.
So as far as the David Fincher comparison goes, let’s examine it. For those who don’t know, legendary filmmaker David Fincher started his career in music videos before getting to direct “Alien 3” and the resulting film is not highly thought of. Being completely honest there are some parallels. Fox studios was once again trying to rush out a film and quality be damned. There was a lot of drama behind the scenes and some reported studio interference. As a result Fincher had to essentially start over again with “Se7en” and he quickly became known as one of our best living directors. However, even after all these years there are no stories of Fincher sucking at his job as a director. It’s often remarked on how well he did his job despite all the hurdles. Problems aside he still did his job and everyone could see he was professional. He didn’t even talk much about the experience until many years later (unlike a “certain” filmmaker tweeting about a certain film we’ve been talking about). We don’t know what all the reasons are for Josh Trank being let go from directing one of the “Star Wars” spinoff films but it’s not a good sign. This brings us to the original question, “why are so many people still standing by Josh Trank?” After all of this reflecting and watching two movies (that I was in no hurry to watch on my own) I’m still not sure. The internet does love underdog stories and we all get disappointed to hear of studio meddling getting in the way of an artist’s vision. However, as filmmakers that’s just a fact about the business. It happens, some rise above it, some don’t, and it’s not always contingent on talent. Again, maybe the fans defending Trank just can’t give up on the potential talent they saw in “Chronicle.” Some may accuse me of doing the same with M. Night Shyamalan but even if you LOVED “Chronicle,” that was still just ONE movie. Shyamalan had anywhere from 3 to 4 generally considered good movies before he took a huge dip in quality. He showed that even if his earlier films were flukes then he had some amazing luck in the beginning. After just “Fant4stic,” Josh Trank hasn’t shown any hints of more potential. Maybe filming in the found footage style really did do its job and hide its problems so well people projected greatness on its director.
So could I be wrong and years from now Josh Trank’s next film will prove this whole article was a waste of time? Sure, it’s possible and it will take years because after the tweet, the behind the scene stories, and the simple awfulness of “Fant4stic,” it will take years for him to get someone else to trust him to make a movie. I’m sure they’ll downplay his involvement in the advertising. But he’s got one film people liked and one film people HATED, and “Fant4stic” is not something people are going to forget or forgive anytime soon. Although there is a “theory” (in quotations for the number of holes in said theory) that Josh Trank intentionally made “Fant4stic” so bad that Marvel/Disney could get the film rights back. And if that’s the case, then I love him, haha.