I think it’s fairly well established at this point that the new Fantastic Four flick is a bit of a mess. But out of all the offenses that director/co-writer Josh Trank and producer/co-writer Simon Kinberg commit during its rushed running time, the one I find the most criminal is just how they wasted such an amazing cast and the mind blowing storytelling potential of the great Jack Kirby and Stan Lee’s original comics. As much as I still appreciate the unexpectedly sombre sci-fi route taken by Trank for the film’s more promising first half, it’s undeniable that there was probably a much better, more appropriate way of telling this particular story.
Actually, scratch the “probably”: There was a better version, but we just never saw it! Watch the end credits and you’ll see that besides for Trank and Kinberg, Jeremy Slater also gets credited for the film’s screenplay. Before Kinberg turned in the film’s final draft (well, “final” until the studio started playing chop-chop with it in post-production), Slater had an original script that was vastly different except for the most basic skeletal structure. It was also, in my opinion, much better.
BMD‘s Devin Faraci has given a rundown of Slater’s script, and though not without its own concerns, this early version – which still makes use of several beats of “Ultimate Fantastic Four” for its inspiration – has a much better handle on certain aspects that the new movie either completely fumbles or just plain ignores to its detriment: Firmly establishing the friendship dynamic between Reed and Ben, and why he would take him into the Negative Zone aka Planet Zero; actively involving Sue in the story more, instead of just having her make clothes for the boys; having Tim Blake Nelson actually play Mole Man, the character he was hired to play, instead of Cliched Government Lackey #3; and a marked increase in the type of action beats you expect from a Fantastic Four story.
Slater’s draft does also make some of the same mistakes as Trank and Kinberg’s offering though, the biggest being that Doom’s origin is still tied to that of the heroes for no real reason (just stop this trend now please, Hollywood), and his classic character design and power set is once again completely fudged. But even with the false steps, we still get a script that seems to strike a way better balance between the more grounded, modern approach that the new movie was going for, while also honouring the crazy “explorers of the unknown” stories and big sci-fi ideas that Kirby and Lee used to make Fantastic Four the pioneering comic book title that it became.
It boast some massive iconic sequences and lots of moving parts – which may be the main reason why it was abandoned as Fox wanted to do this film on the cheap so badly that they slashed about 90% of the action scenes from the new film – but like Faraci says, this is the type of Fantastic Four movie you would expect Marvel Studios to make right now. That’s a description that should sting even more to disappointed fans who just want Fox to relinquish the movie rights.
Here’s Faraci’s full synopsis of the script. It’s a bit of a long read – and filled with minor spoilers if you haven’t seen the movie yet – but it’s also a rather fun one. Well, at least until you realize what we could have had.
Reed and Ben are young friends, working together on a project that teleports matter to… somewhere. In Slater’s draft the toy car that Reed first teleports shows back up when the team make it to the Negative Zone, a strange thing for the final film to leave out.
Slater’s draft is quicker than the final film, but it does take time to establish that Ben Grimm is Reed’s enforcer, keeping him safe from bullies. This aspect makes Reed’s decision to bring Ben along on the trip to the Negative Zone make more sense. In this version there is no elder Dr. Storm, and Sue calls her brother Johnny in to help at the last minute because they have no one else to turn to.
As in the final film Reed goes to the Baxter Building as part of a science scholarship; there he meets Sue and Victor Von Doom. Victor takes the nerdy Reed to parties, where he meets and falls for Sue, but Victor’s not actually picking up girls at these shindigs – he is secretly feeding Reed’s research to spies from his homeland of Latveria.
There’s more stuff happening in the Baxter Building. We meet Dr. Harvey Elder, who is creating artificial life in the biolab with Sue – the Moloids. Meanwhile Ben has become sad as Reed has stopped calling him, and he has made a choice – he’s skipping college and has enlisted in the army.
When the school refuses to allow Reed and Victor to use the Quantum Gate they have built to enter the Negative Zone the team chooses to use it under cover of night. Reed calls in Ben, the person he trusts the most, even if their relationship is strained. Sue is staying behind, Johnny helping her man the controls from this side of the portal. Ben gets promised that he’ll be the first human to step foot on the other side of the portal.
In the script the Quantum Gate is very much that – a rip in space through which a module is passed on a big hydraulic arm. When the team gets through to the Negative Zone Von Doom gotta Von Doom – he pushes Ben aside and puts the first footprint in the dust.
What they find is not the empty broken landscape of the film but rather an alien city. The city is full of skeletons, non-human things that have been killed in some cataclysm. As the team explores the ruins they come upon an amphitheater full of corpses and something else. Something huge, and something wearing battle armor with two blades coming out of either side of its helmet.
The huge thing – Galactus, for those not in the know – chases the three explorers. He shoots Dark Matter out of his hands, enveloping and seemingly killing Victor. Reed and Ben make it to the module but it’s not working; on the other side of the portal Sue is working feverishly to fix the circuitry that won’t allow the module to return home. Galactus nears as Sue finally fixes the machine, and he blasts the module with Dark Matter – but the Dark Matter hits the Quantum Gate and there’s a reaction and the entire team – the two in the module and the two in the lab – are pelted with some kind of cosmic madness.
The scene of the team waking up in the wreckage is similar here – Johnny on fire, screaming, Ben trapped in stone. Sue’s condition is more obvious in the script, with the skin on her face disappearing and showing her musculature.
The script jumps ahead four years. Johnny Storm is a reality show star, although his show is dipping in the ratings. Sue is still at the Baxter Building, and she’s using her invisibility powers to look inside of patients suffering from serious cancers. Dr. Elder wants her to come work on the Moloid program, but Sue won’t – she thinks it’ll be weaponized.
Ben Grimm has been weaponized, working with the military as a deadly asset. He is kept locked up at a military base between missions. Reed, meanwhile, is in hiding in Jakarta, taking the blame for the destruction wrought in the Baxter Building. He’s built himself a Herbie robot and he’s trying to sell his plans for the FantastiCar to Toyota. They think the idea is good, but that running it on a nuclear reactor shows no regard for safety – Reed’s hallmark.
As all of this is happening we cut to Latveria. Using the information Victor fed them, the Latverian government has created their own Quantum Gate. They send a team through and the module returns splattered in blood, containing only one occupant: a Victor Von Doom now made entirely of Dark Matter. He quickly dispatches everyone around him, using shape-changing abilities and shooting electrified razor wire from his hands. Within minutes he has slaughtered Latveria’s ruling elite and taken over the country.
Back in the US Sue and Ben meet for pizza. Ben’s hiding in a trench coat and a fedora, and he’s telling Sue that he’s basically made his peace with being a monster. What he hates is that Reed abandoned him. Sue, it turns out, has been staying at the Baxter Building because she has been trying to cure Ben, using her cancer research. It’s not working.
In Indonesia Reed is attacked by thugs armed with futuristic weapons, weapons based on his own designs. He understands that this has to be Victor, that somehow he survived and is after his old friends. Reed tries to call Sue to warn the others, but he can’t get her on the phone, so he whips out a FantastiCar prototype, loads up Herbie and begins a flight across the ocean.
At the same time thugs – called Shock Troopers in the script – assault the Baxter Building. Johnny happens to be there with a camera crew, trying to get Sue to join him on the show to spike ratings. In the chaos that ensues Dr. Elder gets Moloid juice on him and is transformed into Mole Man, while Shock Troopers inject a Moloid with Dark Matter.
Sue and Johnny stop the Shock Troopers – the script says that Sue is like an Amazonian warrior, just destroying dudes – when Reed shows up too late to warn them. But not too late to see that injected Moloid, now giant, burst out of the ground. Ben, who happens to be nearby looking at puppies in a pet shop window, hears the commotion and runs over. The team engage the giant Moloid, as seen on the cover of Fantastic Four number one, in a fight that is both exciting and humorous. Ben gets swallowed and tries to fight his way out; when he finally gets to the Moloids mouth he sees that Reed has slingshotted a bus at the creature and Johnny has set it on fire and it is heading right towards the mouth – and Ben.
You can see that the finished film has gone way away from this script. The time jump and the team being separated happens here, but everything else is different. The rest of the script has the team coming together to go to Latveria, now the center of an international incident because Victor has built a giant Dark Energy cannon. He intends to use it to destroy Galactus; it seems that Victor’s only chance at survival in the Negative Zone was to act as Galactus’ herald and help him find a new world to eat – Earth. But Von Doom intends to destroy the Destroyer before that can happen.
The team uses their powers in more ways in the script, and Sue especially gets a lot to do. She helps Reed escape from government captivity after the Moloid battle and she’s able to create a force shield that reduces wind resistance on the FantastiCar and allows it to reach incredible speeds. Reed uses his powers to become a living airbag in a crash, he survives a grenade attack, and in the end his biggest contribution to the final fight is Herbie.
The final battle is in Latveria, but it is revealed the shapeshifting Doom there is just a kind of Doombot; Victor is actually physically attached to the planet in the Negative Zone and has sent tendrils of his being to Earth. The film ends with him trapped in the Negative Zone, the FanFour telling the government Galactus is coming and the retooling of the Baxter Building as their home base and a school for smart kids who can help defeat the coming menace of Galactus.
So what do you guys think of that? Much better than the movie we got, or was there just too much happening for you? Personally, I do feel like this script is a bit overstuffed – getting the time management right would need superpowers – but I still think it’s a huge improvement over what we got.
While there are a few beats that could be left on the cutting room floor, the biggest thing I would actually outright change is just the Doom stuff. Have him construct his armour over in the Negative Zone to save himself from his injuries a la Tony Stark but instead of scrap parts, let him make his superior armour out of way more advanced stuff (Celestial armour, perhaps?) that he finds there. Maybe introduce his gypsy heritage and their supernatural teachings early, which he abandoned/dismissed as a child, so that in his desperation to find a way back from the Negative Zone, he discovers the magical realms (Hello, Doctor Strange!) and thus develops his natural affinity for the mystic arts, which he combines with the tech of his Celestial armour.
Other than that, I think making Galactus the origin of the Four’s powers actually makes enough sense, and the fact that he is actually a gigantic guy in armour instead of a pissed off space-cloud (yeah, I’m never forgiving you for that, Fantastic Four 2: Rise of the Silver Surfer) instantly gets a thumbs up from me. Essentially casting Doom as a substitute Silver Surfer doesn’t sit well with me though, I don’t care too much for the Herbie and Fantasticar sub-plots, and the whole “Dark Matter” angle can also bugger right off, but this is definitely a movie I would still love to see more than the disjointed wreck we currently have.
Last Updated: August 20, 2015