Ah, “what could have been” – in the realm of cinema, it’s a question asked by fans, studio executives, and creative types alike when a movie massively underperforms. In most situations (but not all), movies tank simply because they’re bad, but other factors can come into play as well, including bad advance press, dislike for certain celebrities/directors/etc., and too much studio tinkering with a director’s original vision.
With 2015’s ‘Fantastic Four’ reboot, we seemed to have a combination of all of the above factors coming into play to create the perfect storm of Bad News for the film. But the question remains: just how could things have been different? Jeremy Slater, the first screenwriter hired to create a ‘Fantastic Four’ story, spoke at length in a recent interview with Screen Crush about his original draft and what was changed, by input from both studio 20th Century Fox and director Josh Trank.
One of the most confusing aspects of the film early on was deciphering exactly what kind of organization The Baxter Foundation was supposed to be; Reed Richards seemed to reference it as some sort of science school, but on-screen it came across as another generic “big brother” type of government agency. According to Slater, The Baxter Foundation “was envisioned 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.” The original version contained scenes where Reed would strike up a friendship with Victor von Doom, a “damaged young Latverian scientist [who] slowly seduced Reed into bending the rules,” and seriously impacting his friendship with Ben in the process.
As for the work shown on-screen for the characters to open the portal to “Planet Zero,” Slater tells us that this section originally started as a way to access the well-known Marvel-comic-book area known as The Negative Zone. Once the foursome went to the otherworldly area, things would have happened differently as well:
“…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.”
What else could have been different: Slater really didn’t hold back, offering a ton of other things; as he himself mentions at the end of the next paragraph, this all combined was probably way too much for one film, but boy, would it have been fun to see at least half of this stuff:
“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. Would you spend $300 million on [making] a ‘Fantastic Four’ film? Particularly after the previous two films left a fairly bad taste in audiences’ mouths? … It’s understandable that everyone involved would take steps to minimize their risk as much as possible. Unfortunately, those steps probably compromised the film to a fatal degree.”
Tony Schaab mixed up all this fake puke at home and then he went to this movie theater, hid the puke in his jacket, climbed up to the balcony, and then he made a noise like this: hua-hua-hua-huaaaaaaa… and then he dumped it over the side, all over the people in the audience. And then – this was horrible – all the people started getting sick and throwing up all over each other… and he never felt so bad in his entire life! A lover of most things sci-fi and horror, Tony is an author by day and a DJ by night. Come hang out with Tony on Facebook and Twitter to hear him spew semi-funny nonsense and get your opportunity to finally put him in his place.