It's no secret that Marvel's first family has become the black sheep out of all its comic book characters. Somewhere between 2005's campy debut film and the disappointing follow-up, Mr. Fantastic and Co. lost the respect of their fans - at least, when it came to seeing the heroes on the big screen. This became all too clear when Twentieth Century Fox first announced its plans to reboot the franchise with Fantastic Four, immediately drawing fire from particularly intense skeptics and critics.
Thanks to solid marketing efforts by the studio - which have revealed impressively realistic special effects (read: no orange rubber suits), stressed a darker, science fiction-esque approach, and ultimately, made a clear distinction between the original films and the new one - that fire has at least been pacified. That said, as with any series relaunch, the distinction between old and new may be unclear to more casual viewers not attuned to the ebb and flow of the entertainment and comic industries.
Thus, to avert any possible confusion among viewers, Fox has removed all traces of Jessica Alba and Chris Evan's Fantastic Four films from digital platforms - specifically iTunes and Amazon - as the studio prepares to release its reboot in August. According to THR, both online services list Fantastic Four and its sequel Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer as "currently unavailable" when searched.
A source of the outlet confirms the disappearing act is only temporary, though, with the intention to remove distractions from the relaunched franchise, seeking to "establish a different tone than the previous releases." Unlike fellow reboots Batman Begins and The Amazing Spider-Man - both of which adopted new, different titles that helped separate them from their predecessors - Josh Trank's Fantastic Four does not use its title to differentiate its story.
Overall, removing the previous movies may seem reminiscent of Marvel canceling the "Fantastic Four" comic - a result of the strained Fox-Marvel relationship - but this decision seems driven by smart business and a creative preference, rather than any petty hostility or spite. That said, the older films should be made available near the end of the year, once new viewers have seen the revamped iteration (and may want to watch the dated ones for comparison).
Speaking of comparison, the removal also ironically draws attention to the older films - which grossed $330.6 million and $289 million worldwide, respectively - and consequently, pits them against the upcoming reboot. But with a much larger audience for superhero films today compared to 2005, Trank's film should have no problem surpassing the box office success of the two before it, even with the still-lingering negativity surrounding it.
Fantastic Four – starring Miles Teller, Kate Mara, Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Bell – opens in U.S. theaters August 7, 2015.