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In Defense Of Movie Studio Executives

Since the disastrous debut of the Fantastic Four reboot, two competing narratives have surfaced that attempt explain what when so wrong.

One is that direct Josh Trank couldn’t hack it and just crumbled under the pressure of his first big budget movie.

The other is the classic story of studio executives meddling with the production over fears that the movie won’t hit revenue goals, demanding script changes and reshoots.

Studio executives are easy targets. They’re not artists; they care more about making a lot of money than making a good film.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean they are in the wrong to interfere with a director.

Regardless of what really was the cause of the Fantastic Four to be so thoroughly rejected by critics and audience, I don’t have a whole lot of sympathy for Trank.

He wasn’t making a film, or even a movie — he was making a franchise.

Films like the Fantastic Four are intended to be cash machines for studios. They’re not only hoping for many top-grossing sequels, but these movies are vehicles for all kinds of ancillary revenue, such as toys, video games, theme parks, clothing, etc. If all goes well, it will produce billions of dollars over the next decade.

And if there is any doubt about just how much this is all about money, let’s not forget that Bernd Eichinger, who owned the movie rights to the Fantastic Four (he died in 2011), burned $1 million dollars to have Roger Corman make version never intended for release just so he could hold on to his option.

Image courtesy of Chris Gore / Film Threat

Trank is nothing more than an employee, no different than a grip or electrician. It’s his job to make sure their dreams of “Fantastic Four: The Roller-Coaster” and action figures come to fruition. If the studio thinks he’s somehow endangering their chance to make billions of dollars they’re of course going to step in.

Maybe the studio should have been more trusting and maybe they did make things a whole lot worse, but I can’t fault them for wanting to protect their investment. That’s what any responsible businessman does.

It certainly sucks for Trank to find himself in such an awkward position where the fortunes of a studio are resting on his shoulders, but he got paid.

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