Many factors contribute to why studios alter scripts, but script changes can also alter the entire vision of a movie. This is crucial at times when some alterations are grounded on the basis of making a script more like another film. Why is this crucial? Because when a screenwriter has a different vision than the director, and the director wants to pull from another source completely, then disaster is inevitable, creatively. This was the case with 2015’s Fantastic Four.
Jeremy Slater's Original Script
While screenwriter Jeremy Slater hoped for a grand Fantastic Four story involving Galactus and fan-favorite villain Annihilus, director Josh Trank wanted the movie to have the same aesthetic and feel as his breakthrough film Chronicle. While Chronicle was met with great praise due to Trank’s unorthodox approach to the superhero cliche, just because the format worked once, does it mean it will work again? No, and Fantastic Four is the evidence.
We can’t blame Josh Trank for approaching Fantastic Four as he did with Chronicle, since the success of that movie was one factor that once again brought Trank to the interest of 20th Century Fox (Chronicle was a Fox film). Regardless, while Chronicle was a success and I personally loved it, you can’t bring a format and directly apply it to a movie that originally had something else envisioned, even more if the original vision was truly fantastic. In a recent talk with Screen Crush, Jeremy Slater revealed his original plans:
“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.”
The number one reason why this didn’t go forth was because as grand as it sounds, it would have been even more expensive to produce. Slater continued,
“If you think all of that sounds great...well, yeah, we did, too. The problem was, it would have also been massively, MASSIVELY expensive.”
When Budget Is Not The Problem
I agree it would have been massively expensive, but completely changing the base idea that Slater created, to what we ultimately saw in theaters, is not something simply related to budget. Part of Chronicle’s success was in part because that superhero movie was essentially something new; a new face of heroes in a genre predominantly ruled by Marvel and DC films. A story based on three teenagers who accidentally receive superhuman powers, Chronicle approaches the superhero story differently by first ruling out the “hero” part. It perfectly describes what three average teens would do when given the power to fly and move things with their mind. The “with great power, comes great responsibility” aspect comes later in the film as one of them goes "over the limit." Tone-wise, the movie is like a mix of Cloverfield (without the shakiness) and Project Almanac, and essentially, it shares many of the same aspects that made those two movies good movies.
While all of this is great, applying that format relatively to a story that takes a very different direction and has a totally different atmosphere, can result in a story fairly decent at best. The damage is more heavily felt when that format virtually replaces the main core elements of a story, as was the case with Fantastic Four.
The Problem Revolves Around The Script Itself
The problem is not that the movie followed Chronicle's approach, but that it did after more than 15 drafts of the original script were developed by Jeremy Slater. 2015’s Fantastic Four could’ve been a fantastic movie from the start if its script hadn’t been completely changed almost at the last minute, even if the original idea had been to keep it as grounded as Chronicle was. Scripts change all the time, but drastically wiping out the central theme of a story is not called “changing or editing a script,” rather, “writing a new one.” We can take for example Avengers: Infinity War and Untitled Avengers writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, who earlier this month said via SlashFilm:
“We’re on the third draft of movie one and the second draft of movie two. [We’re writing them in tandem] as much as we can. On any given day, you’re only working on one but that doesn’t mean that next week, you aren’t working on the other one. And certainly, notes are coming in and all sorts of production stuff is coming in, like for instance, ‘that thing over there is now a window not a door so adjust that.’ Or, ‘we’re not going to this town now, we’re going to this town.’ That kind of stuff happens constantly and will continue to happen for the next few months.”
The script for the two Avengers movies are in constant-change mode, meaning, that today we might have a character dying in the first act, but tomorrow that character doesn’t die at all. That is not bad for a script though, simply because it’s a matter of what flows best to make a movie great. Now, imagine that after 15 drafts of the script are created, Kevin Feige or the Russo brothers order a completely new story. With production having a set schedule on when things are supposed to be done, Markus and McFeely would be in an immeasurable amount of stress to complete a new script that doesn’t center on what they had originally planned. Hopefully and as it’s certainly looking to be, this won’t be the case for Marvel’s epic Phase 3 finale. Unfortunately, this was one of the factors that eventually led to Fantastic Four's doom, and one of the many reasons why it won't receive a sequel... by Fox.
Would you had rather seen some form of Jeremy Slater's original script play out in Fantastic Four? Leave your thoughts in the comments!
[Header Image: EW]
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