We have spent our fair share of time sifting through the ashes of the new Fantastic Four movie, desperately trying to figure out exactly what happened here. Call it a morbid fascination. Call it professional curiosity. All we know is that the finished movie is not what anyone involved set out to make. Now we have another item of interest – a glimpse at an early screenplay for the film and it couldn’t be more different than the final film.

Although writer Jeremy Slater is credited on Fantastic Four, he has confirmed on Twitter that the bulk of his work outside of his first act was scrapped. Now that Birth Movies Death has examined his first pass at the screenplay, we can appreciate just how much the film evolved from its original conception.

The basic set-up is still the same, but character relationships (namely the friendship between Ben Grimm and Reed Richards) are more clearly defined. Victor Von Doom is a spy for his home nation of Latveria. Dr. Harvey Elder, aka the Mole Man, plays a huge part. There is no fatherly Dr. Storm, but there is a Fantasticar. [Ed. note: The Fantasticar looks like it was filmed, but eventually scrapped from the movie. See the below GIF.]

Oh, and Galactus, the all-powerful, planet-devouring super-baddie from the comics, is involved. Interestingly, that sudden time jump is still there, but it‘s much bigger and handled differently:

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.

Yes, this draft finds time for H.E.R.B.I.E. (Humanoid Experimental Robot, B-type, Integrated Electronics), the character who joined the team in one of its cartoon incarnations since the Human Torch was locked away due to rights issues. That’s nuts.

This draft of the script ultimately brought the team together for a big fight in the streets of New York City, where they would battle Doctor Doom’s soldiers and a giant monster (a nod to the first issue of Fantastic Four from 1961):

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.

The third act would then take the team to Latveria, where Doom has usurped the government and has constructed a powerful weapon. It all sounds very ambitious and very expensive, which is almost certainly why this version of the film never came to pass.

This take on the Fantastic Four sounds more in line with the comic itself – big, silly, nerdy, and downright weird. We don’t know who shot down this particular tone. It could’ve been 20th Century Fox, wanting something that wouldn’t cost a bajillion dollars. It could’ve been director Josh Trank, who wanted a darker, more down-to-earth approach to these characters. It’s a little foolhardy to say that this screenplay would have resulted in a better movie, but we can say for sure that it would have resulted in a very different movie. A writer, a studio, and a filmmaker all had very different ideas about what this film should have been.

Now that we have a beginning and an end to this whole ordeal, we just need to suss out the middle. How did this screenplay transform into the final movie? That’s what Hollywood detectives are going to be delving into for some time yet.