Last year's Fantastic Four will most certainly go down as one of the most notorious box office flops in recent history, earning just $56.1 million domestically and $167.9 million worldwide, from a $120 million budget. To put that number into perspective even more, that worldwide tally was bested in one weekend this summer by Marvel's Captain America: Civil War, whose $179.1 million domestic opening is the highest debut this year. Today we have details about earlier versions of the script, which could have lead to a much different, and much bigger movie, with multiple villains. There will be SPOILERS if you haven't seen Fantastic Four, so read on at your own risk.
Screen Crush caught up with Jeremy Slater, who was the first screenwriter brought on board back in 2012, just days after Josh Trank came aboard to direct. The writer revealed he spent six months on the script, turning in between 10 and 15 drafts during that time. While he is credited as one of the final writers, along with director Josh Trank and writer-producer Simon Kinberg, the writer revealed that his early drafts open much like the movie did, although his version of the Baxter Institute is described as, "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 writer also revealed that the villain was set to be Annihilus, described as "a pissed-off cybernetic T-Rex," and the movie also featured the Negative Zone from the Marvel Comics. Here's what the writer had to say below.
"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."
The writer adds that his initial draft featured Reed meeting Victor at Baxter, who "seduced" him into bending the rules, which jeopardized his friendship with Ben. The portal in this version sends the heroes into the Negative Zone, where Annihilus seemingly kills Victor Von Doom, while the others get "zapped by radiation" on their way back to Earth, giving them their powers. Victor eventually returns to Earth from the Negative Zone, after, "having killed Annihilus and reshaped his Control Rod into a sort of living body armor." Jeremy Slater added that he didn't blame the studio for discarding his draft, since it would have cost a fortune.
"Would you spend $300 million on 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."
Jeremy Slater also added that, aside from Annihilus and the Negative Zone, the "outline" is basically the same as the finished movie, although the big difference is in the tone. The writer revealed that he wanted "lots of humor, lots of heart, lots of spectacle," while director Josh Trank wanted to be as, "grounded, gritty, and as realistic as possible." The writer also admitted that he never had any contact with the director after his six months on the script had been complete. The director controversially tweeted, then deleted, that he had a "fantastic version" that the world would never see, a notion which was backed up by actor Toby Kebbell. 20th Century Fox had previously set up a sequel, but that doesn't seem likely to happen. There had been rumors that Marvel would re-acquire the rights, but that was also debunked, so we'll have to wait and see what's in store for the future of this franchise.