Fantastic Four Screenwriter Talks the Film That Could Have Been

Those responsible for 20th Century Fox‘s disastrous Fantastic Four reboot — including director Josh Trank and producer/co-writer Simon Kinberg — have taken quite a beating in the press since the film was released a year ago. Kinberg bluntly told Den of Geek “We didn’t make a good movie,” but now a new voice has chimed in: credited co-writer Jeremy Slater, who penned the original drafts that were used as the skeleton of the story by Trank and Kinberg. While Slater has moved on to FOX’s upcoming “The Exorcist” series and Netflix’s Death Note movie, he spoke to ScreenCrush about what happened during his tenure on the ill-fated project, for which he wrote “10-15 drafts over a six month period” before being replaced.

Slater describes his script as having “lots of humor, lots of heart, lots of spectacle,” a tone which didn’t jibe with Trank’s vision of a Fantastic Four that was, “grounded, gritty, and as realistic as possible.” It began — like the film — with Reed and Ben as kids, although when Reed arrives at the Baxter Building, it was originally 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,” as opposed to the cold, sterile, Cronenberg-ian lab it is in the film. Reed would have struck up a friendship with Victor, a “damaged young Latverian scientist who slowly seduced Reed into bending the rules.” A battle in the “Negative Zone” with Annihilus (“a pissed-off cybernetic T-Rex”) would have left Victor for dead and given the rest of the team its powers.

So far not unlike the movie itself… except it went on for another 90 pages or so, containing a lot more fun (and expensive) set pieces.

“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,” Slater added. “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.”

Unfortunately for audiences, Fantastic Four was rewritten and reshot into oblivion, with only one line of Slater’s dialogue (“Don’t blow up.”) left in the finished cut. We may or may not have read a version of Slater’s draft ourselves, and can confirm that it had a much more lively, almost ’80s-era Amblin feel to it that fans would have appreciated, right down to a cinematic recreation of Jack Kirby’s original “Fantastic Four” #1 cover. 

Despite the bad reception, another FF movie is likely in the cards, as Fox will have to make one within the next few years in order to maintain the rights, which is how the 2015 film came about. The studio seems unwilling to let these valuable assets revert back to Marvel Studios, which already supposedly has a contingency plan in place should the characters fall into their hands ala Spider-Man.

Loosely based on Marvel’s “Ultimate Fantastic Four” comic series, the film was mired in controversy from the start, including a controversial tweet from director Josh Trank sent the day the film opened, lamenting the quality of the final cut.

Fantastic Four stars Miles Teller as Reed Richards (Mr. Fantastic), Kate Mara as Sue Storm (The Invisible Woman), Michael B. Jordan as Johnny Storm (The Human Torch), Jamie Bell as Ben Grimm (The Thing), Toby Kebbell as Victor Von Doom, Reg E. Cathey (“The Wire”) as Dr. Franklin Storm, and Tim Blake Nelson.

The film went on to gross just $56 million at the domestic box office with a global total of $167 million. It reportedly cost about $120 million to make.

Would you want to see another Fantastic Four film with this cast, or would you rather see the rights lapse and revert back to Marvel Studios? Let us know in the comments below!