When Fantastic Four was released in 2015 and proved to be a critical and box office disaster, many fans were not surprised, as they considered the movie to be more or less dead on arrival. Still, others who saw the film and could see the kernel of something better, particularly those who had heard about some behind-the-scenes drama taking place on the set, wondered what exactly went wrong.
Not long after Fantastic Four released in theaters, a report emerged that claimed the film had a much different tone and shape before producer Simon Kinberg stepped in to rewrite Jeremy Slater’s script. According to the report, Slater’s vision for Fantastic Four was significantly more fantastic, in terms of tone, than that of director Josh Trank, who wanted something as grounded and gritty as his previous superhero movie, Chronicle. The Baxter Building was intended to be a science-based Hogwarts, and multiple villains were to appear, including Mole Man and Galactus.
Slater himself has now confirmed the report, saying that he turned in 15-20 different drafts of the script. He also revealed that the report missed one villain and that Annihilus was intended to be the first villain the Reed Richards and Victor Von Doom encountered in the Negative Zone. Here’s what Slater told Screen Crush:
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.
This differs somewhat from the original report, mostly in regards to Galactus, who was reported to be the entity Doom finds in the Negative, rather than Annihilus, as Slater says on his own account. However, Slater and the original report both hit on the key point of budget. Slater’s script sounds expensive even by superhero movie standards, and Fantastic Four didn’t have a proven track record as a film franchise even prior to 2015’s disappointment. It’s easy to understand why 20th Century Fox would want to hedge its bets, especially if the film was only put into production to ensure the rights to the characters did not revert back to Marvel, as some have suggested.
If there’s a positive spin to put on the story, it’s that this kind of Hollywood horror story should make superhero fans appreciate comic books – which essentially have an unlimited special effects budget – even more.
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