Before the grim and down-to-Earth take on the property that director/co-writer Josh Trank and producer/co-writer Simon Kinberg brought to the table, Fox’s Fantastic Four reboot began with an altogether different take on the material from initial screenwriter Jeremy Slater. While the final film still contains some of the basic beats of Slater’s script, hence the writer still having a writing credit, virtually all of the details have changed. What is left bears little resemblance to Slater’s original direction for the property. So what was Slater’s take? Birth.Movies.Death have published a detailed summary of Slater’s last unaltered draft. I won’t regurgitate it wholesale here, but if you’re curious, do yourself a favor and give it a read before you continue here.
Are you back yet? Good. It sounds exactly like a Fantastic Four film should, right? I agree with Faraci in his statement that it seems a bit overstuffed, but things were definitely heading in the right direction. Not only does it tell a singular story while also setting up the world of the titular quartet, but it also smartly lays groundwork for future entries. The introduction of Galactus as what likely would have eventually culminated in a trilogy-capper main antagonist role. The constant threat of Doctor Doom firmly established from the onset. Harvey Elder’s transformation into eventual villain The Mole Man. Even H.E.R.B.I.E and the FantastiCar! It’s all there.
The summary also points to a film tonally and adaptation-ally in line with what Fox has been doing with the more recent X-Men films and what Marvel Studios has been doing with their cinematic universe from Day One. Is that why Fox shied away from it? Was it an outright rejection or a gradual one? It’s not exactly known how many of the eventual changes came from Trank and/or Kinberg in their own rewrites that came after Slater’s drafts. The Latveria angle seems to have been dropped early on, with Victor instead becoming just a disgruntled student at the Baxter Building and also becoming Victor Domashev all the way up to the reshoots.
Yes folks, the hacktivist #Doom stuff was in the initial cut of the film, as was Tim Blake Nelson as Harvey Elder, instead of Harvey Allen in the final cut. Nelson originally survived Doom’s base attack and was left blinded and deformed by his cosmic powers, setting up Mole Man for a sequel. Those things were changed when well over a third of the film was reshot earlier this year. I’m not sure at what point Galactus was removed from the proceedings, but due to the sheer cost of the sequences described in Slater’s draft, I imagine he was cut early on to pare down the budget.
These revelations only further showcase how Fox really had no idea of what they wanted to accomplish with this film or the rebooted property in general. Regardless of the actual quality of his draft, which I have not read, it is clear that at least Jeremy Slater had his heart in the right place. That doesn’t mean his version would have been better, but it at least comes off as a coherent take on the source material. Instead of rallying behind his vision or behind Trank’s, however, Fox appeared to try and split the difference. As we know all too well, that rarely works and the results in this particular instance were less than desirable. Here’s hoping that Marvel has much better luck whenever they get their hands on the rights again, even if it takes over a decade for that to ultimately happen.