Details surrounding the original screenplay for Josh Trank’s superhero slump Fantastic Four have emerged, revealing a very different vision for the franchise reboot.
Speaking to Screen Crush (via Collider), original screenwriter Jeremy Slater spoke about him writing 10-15 drafts of the screenplay that differed greatly in tone and structure. Slater liked the stuff with “lots of humor, lots of heart, lots of spectacle,” whilst director Tank preferred the “grounded and gritty” approach.
Only one line of Slater’s screenplay made it into the final cut, which was Reed Richards saying: “Don’t blow up.” Slater’s screenplay also explained the Baxter Foundation more clearly “as a sort of Hogwarts for nerds: a school filled with young geniuses zipping around on prototype hoverboards and experimenting with anti-gravity and teleportation and artificial lifeforms.”
Slater also went on to talk about what happened in The Negative Zone in his script, as opposed to the Planet Zero of the finished film:
[The Negative Zone is] where they would have fought Annihilus (described by Slater as “a pissed-off cybernetic T-Rex”). Annihilus appears to kill Victor, and the rest get zapped with radiation on their return home. giving them their powers. Later, Victor returns from the Negative Zone, “having killed Annihilus and reshaped his Control Rod into a sort of living body armor.”
Fantastic Four had a very anticlimactic and rushed final third, but Slater describes his draft as having a drastically different conclusion filled with nods to the comics.
“In addition to Annihilus and the Negative Zone, we had Doctor Doom declaring war against the civilized world, the Mole Man unleashing a 60 foot genetically-engineered monster in downtown Manhattan, a commando raid on the Baxter Foundation, a Saving Private Ryan-style finale pitting our heroes against an army of Doombots in war-torn Latveria, and a post-credit teaser featuring Galactus and the Silver Surfer destroying an entire planet. We had monsters and aliens and Fantasticars and a cute spherical H.E.R.B.I.E. robot that was basically BB-8 two years before BB-8 ever existed. And if you think all of that sounds great…well, yeah, we did, too. The problem was, it would have also been massively, MASSIVELY expensive.”
It was that expense and the compromise the studio took to reduce the overall cost that Slater believes hurt the final film. However, he “understands” the economic decisions studios have to make. Fantastic Four grossed $168 million at the box-office. For comparative purposes, Suicide Squad has made around $384 million since its August 5 release. There’s no denying Fantastic Four was an absolute flop, riddled with production issues that led to the worst superhero film released for quite some time. However, Slater’s original drafts sound very promising which makes the final outcome that much more sour.
Image: 20th Century Fox