This summer’s “Fantastic Four” isn’t the blockbuster franchise-starter its studio might have been hoping for. Instead, it is a fascinating failure, one that has everyone who did see it (or caught wind of the nasty behind-the-scenes drama) wondering what could have been.
The movie viewers saw was a slow-burn science fiction story largely set inside of labs and in boring CGI wastelands with a sudden, rushed climax that was wholly unsatisfying.
Its plot, in summary, followed a young genius Reed Richards, who was recruited into a government think tank in order to develop a teleportation device that leads to another dimension. He’s joined by Susan Storm, her brother Johnny, his best friend Ben, and the misanthropic Victor Von Doom when an experiment to travel to the other dimension goes awry thanks to a spur-of-the-moment, unofficial test. They all gain superpowers, which the military is interested in exploiting, until Doom (who was presumed dead) shows up and tries to end the world, for some reason.
They fight him, and the movie ends. That’s it. But it appears the movie wasn’t always like this.
Over at Birth.Movies.Death, writer Devin Faraci has written up a summary of one of the movie’s earliest drafts, written in 2012 and credited to writer Jeremy Slater (Slater still has a story credit on the finished film, but executive producer Simon Kinberg was brought on to rework the story as a last-ditch effort to save the movie during all of its development turmoil).
According to Faraci, the script is entirely different from the movie audiences saw, straying far from the pensive science-fiction vibe of the finished film in favour of full-on crazy cosmic adventure, complete with alien civilizations, the Mole Man, and a certain Devourer of Worlds.
In short, it sounds like a real Fantastic Four story.
Here’s the basic gist:
- Instead of a barren wasteland, the Negative Zone (Planet Zero in the finished film) the group heads to is an entire abandoned alien city.
- In this city, they find a giant, powerful being named Galactus, the Devourer of Worlds. He’s what causes their experiment to go wrong, appearing to kill Doom and nearly destroying the Gate as they return, initiating the accident that begins their transformation.
- In the finished film, there’s a time jump after we learn about their powers. That time jump is here too, but it’s longer — four years instead of one.
- In the middle of the script, there’s an encounter with a secondary villain, Mole Man — a direct homage to the very first Fantastic Four comic.
- During the whole time, Doom is actually alive, working in the shadows to take over his native country of Latveria. His endgame is to build his own teleportation device, the Quantum Gate, in order to destroy Galactus.
- The final confrontation is between the Fantastic Four and Doom, but with the threat of Galactus looming large. Because of this, the script ends with Reed and the FF kickstarting a school for young geniuses who will help them come up with a way to beat Galactus before he comes to devour Earth.
You can read more on the early script over at BMD here.
As Faraci says, the script is definitely overstuffed, with a lot going on — but when the finished film doesn’t have enough going on, it makes this sound much more delightful.
What’s more, it has Galactus! A real Galactus, not anamorphous cloud-thing that we saw in 2007’s “Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer.”
In comparison, the real Galactus looks like this:
Having Galactus would have been a big deal — mostly because he’s emblematic of everything big and crazy about superhero comic books, the biggest, proudest icon of the boundless imagination of creators like Jack Kirby who were inventing things no one had ever seen before on a daily basis. If Marvel Comics truly began with the birth of the Fantastic Four, then the arrival of Galactus within the pages of their titular comic signalled the moment when the publisher was at the absolute peak of their game — a peak that would carry on for a shockingly long time.
“Fantastic Four” still might have failed with this script, but at least it would have had one of the biggest aspects of the source material intact: its ridiculous, crazy, ambitious imagination.
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