There are a number of similarities between the changes made to Justice League and those made to Josh Trank's Fantastic Four, but the reasons behind them are entirely different. Zack Snyder stepped down from directing duties on Justice League in the aftermath of a family tragedy, with the film undergoing major reshoots in his absence. DC fans have spent the nearly two years since the theatrical release of Justice League tirelessly lobbying Warner Bros. to release the "Snyder Cut" of the film, an aim increasingly supported by the cast and crew, most notably Jason Momoa, who has been particularly vocal in his support of its release.
What is notable about the Justice League situation is how much it runs parallel to that of 20th Century Fox's 2015 Fantastic Four reboot. Following the studio's dissatisfaction with director Josh Trank's original cut, that film also underwent a major studio overhaul, with the version that arrived in theaters a stark departure from what its director had originally intended. Indeed, the similarities between the changes implemented to both films is something that Trank himself has obliquely addressed on social media.
Of course, there are just as many differences between the rejiggering that was done to Justice League and Fantastic Four, along with the aftermath of the release of each. Nevertheless, with the campaign for the Snyder Cut continuing on with no end in sight, it is fascinating to see how the two movies reflect each other, along with how they diverge. Here are the similarities and differences between the changes made to Justice League and those made to Fantastic Four.
Justice League vs. Fantastic Four: Development & Production
The effort to make a Justice League movie began long before the beginnings of the DCEU with George Miller's unrealized Justice League: Mortal film, but it was ultimately Zack Snyder's 2013 Superman reboot Man of Steel that managed to finally get the ball rolling. Under Snyder's direction, Justice League was conceived as part of a five-movie arc that was to see its second chapter in 2016's Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. However, the divisive response the film saw upon its release led Snyder and screenwriter Chris Terrio to do a rewrite on the Justice League script that excised certain darker elements from the story, most notably Darkseid murdering Lois Lane in the Batcave.
By contrast, Fantastic Four marked the fourth effort to bring Marvel's First Family to the big screen. The property had seen several previous film adaptations, including 1994's low budget The Fantastic Four, only available today as a bootleg and legendary for ostensibly being made with no intention of actually being released. Though 20th Century Fox had already produced 2005's Fantastic Four along with its 2007 sequel Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, the studio ultimately elected to reboot the property in the film that would become the 2015 Fantastic Four. Per Fox's contractual stewardship of the characters, the studio needed to have a new Fantastic Four movie in production within a certain time frame or else the film rights would revert back to Marvel. Director Josh Trank boarded the project on the heels of his 2012 feature film directorial debut Chronicle, and the movie was positioned as being cut from same tonal cloth. However, that wouldn't be the end of the story for 20th Century Fox's latest attempt at a Fantastic Four movie.
Justice League and Fantastic Four Both Lost Their Directors
After completing principal photography and finishing a significant amount of post-production work on Justice League, Zack Snyder officially stepped down from directing duties in May of 2017, following the tragic loss of his daughter. However, rumors began to emerge that Warner Bros. had been heavily dissatisfied with Snyder's cut of the film, with studio executives alleged to have referred to it as "unwatchable". This would be further compounded when Joss Whedon was brought aboard to oversee reshoots. While the studio maintained that these were the usual pickups most major tentpole movies undergo, rumors continued to swirl that the reshoots were much more significant than Warner Bros. was letting on, to point of essentially reshaping the entire film. Following the release of the film, rumors would also later arise that Snyder's departure may have effectively amounted to a firing by Warner Bros.
If the production of Justice League was a troubled one, the making of Fantastic Four was downright disastrous. Josh Trank was reported to have clashed heavily with the studio, specifically after three major action sequences planned for the film were axed before production commenced. There were also said to be significant on-set conflicts between Trank and the cast and crew, particularly Miles Teller and Kate Mara, among numerous other controversies relating to the film. Trank's unexpected departure from the Star Wars anthology film he was lined up to direct Fantastic Four (which Simon Kinberg was also producing) was taken as implicit confirmation. The buzz would get even worse for the film when rumors began to circulate of Fox scheduling extensive reshoots after being dismayed with Trank's initial cut of the film, though these rumors were similarly denied as the film's August 2015 release neared.
How Reshoots Changed Both Justice League and Fantastic Four
Upon its release in November 2017, fans quickly came to realize that the reshoots on Justice League had taken the film drastically off course from what Snyder had intended. A large swath of characters, including DC's supreme villain Darkseid, had been removed from the film completely, while many others had seen their roles either truncated, reshaped, or both. This was especially the case for Cyborg, previously described by Snyder as the "heart" of the film, who we now know had a far more central role in the Snyder Cut in comparison to the theatrical version. The extent of the changes made to the movie were further evidenced in the poor removal of the mustache Henry Cavill grew for his character in Mission Impossible: Fallout, which overlapped with the Justice League reshoots, resulting in the vast majority of Superman's scenes coming from the additional photography. These would prove to be the initial smoking gun signaling just how much Justice League was altered in Snyder's absence.
While a great deal has been revealed about Zack Snyder's original version of Justice League, far less is publicly known about Josh Trank's original cut of Fantastic Four, making it much more difficult to make a direct comparison to the theatrical version. However, there have been a few glimpses at what the film originally started out as, including behind-the-scenes footage showing a version of the Fantasticar. Additionally, Fantastic Four would similarly have a hair-based giveaway of which scenes are Trank's and which came from the reshoots in the form of the blonde wig worn by Kate Mara. These clues offer clear confirmation that the version of Fantastic Four released into theaters was not the one originally intended by Trank, but with a comparative dearth of footage and still images from his cut, it is far more of a mystery as to what the "Trank Cut" of Fantastic Four consisted of.
Justice League vs. Fantastic Four: Reception
The theatrical version of Justice League received mixed reviews and was a significant commercial disappointment, and the wake of its release saw DC fans swiftly begin lobbying Warner Bros. with a Change.org petition to release Snyder's original cut of the film. This would prove to just be the beginning for the campaign for the Snyder Cut, with DC fans launching an ongoing series of initiatives aimed at the studio, while also raising tens of thousands of dollars for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention in honor of Snyder's daughter. Meanwhile, Snyder himself would begin to offer a good deal of implied support for the endeavor by releasing images and storyboards from his cut of the film on social media, highlighting the differences between the two versions. Snyder would eventually publicly confirm the existence of his cut earlier this year, while the cast and crew of the film would steadily begin to voice their support for its release, as well. Arguably the loudest voice of support has come from Jason Momoa, who openly called for the release of the Snyder Cut during the Aquaman press tour, and later stated that he has been shown the cut by Snyder.
Meanwhile, the months of rumors and bad buzz that had preceded the release of Fantastic Four would finally culminate in Josh Trank publicly disowning the film on Twitter. Fantastic Four subsequently proved to be the worst reviewed movie based on a Marvel property to date. Its commercial prospects would prove equally dire, with the film seeing a dreadful opening weekend. This left the film's planned sequel in major doubt, and it had been removed from Fox's release slate by November. In the years since the release of Fantastic Four, members of the cast and crew have occasionally given interviews expressing their disappointment in how the film turned out, and although there's been no notable push for the release of the original version of the film, Doctor Doom actor Toby Kebbell has spoken positively of Trank's cut. Ultimately, the future of the Fantastic Four on film would be sealed when Disney became the new owners of 20th Century Fox earlier this year, with Marvel's First Family along with all other previously Fox-owned Marvel properties now assured to be integrated into the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
In the time since the theatrical release of Justice League, Zack Snyder has lined up his next project with the streaming-giant Netflix in the form of the currently in-production zombie heist film Army of the Dead. Josh Trank, meanwhile, has returned to the director's chair himself for the upcoming Al Capone biopic Fonzo. When looking at the situation around both Justice League and Fantastic Four, there are undeniable parallels between the making of each, while an equal number of differences can be seen between the revamping both movies underwent. Ultimately, as the campaign for the Snyder Cut of Justice League continues on, the points of comparison between it and the final Fox-produced adventure of Marvel's First Family may end up being its most curious footnote.