Last week, after the release of Fox’s Fantastic Four left many baffled as to how exactly this film went so far off the rails, we highlighted a number of scenes from the trailers that didn’t appear in the finished movie. These weren’t just alternate shots or brief cuts—they looked to reveal entire sequences and a very different third act that were wholly absent from the finished movie, speaking to the extent of the reshoots Fox underwent to try and “fix” the film.
Quite possibly the biggest difference from the trailers and the movie was a “money shot” set piece involving Jamie Bell’s The Thing dropping out of the sky and taking on a number of armed bad guys. This was used at the end of nearly every trailer and TV spot as a sort of exclamation point, promising audiences the action they expect from a big superhero movie, and yet it’s nowhere to be found in the finished film. At the time I surmised that it was part of a montage or action sequence in the middle of the film, meant to show how deeply Thing was involved with the military post-accident. But now it looks like we have full clarity on the sequence, as its original intention—and why it was removed—have been revealed.
Over at EW, Anthony Breznican did some digging and found out just exactly how this particular scene originally fit into the movie. Contrary to what some may believe, the report says the “One Year Later” jump was always a part of director Josh Trank’s vision for Fantastic Four:
That peculiar time-jump was always a part of the plan, and sources close to Trank say his idea was to race out of that disturbing accident scene and throw the audience into a major action sequence. Only after that would he play catch-up – explaining that the three were now unofficial super-soldiers working on behalf of the U.S. of A.
Per Breznican’s reporting, audiences would be thrust into a Chechen rebel camp filled with soldiers, where one by one crew members begin to look towards the sky as they hear a siren. An unknown object would explode onto the ground, then would slowly be revealed as The Thing, walking calmly towards the frightened soldiers through a hail of gunfire. When the soldiers realize gunfire can’t hurt the creature, they try to make a run for it as the camera reveals a bird’s-eye view of the camp, showing a team of Navy SEALS emerging from the surrounding forest. At this point audiences would still be unaware that The Thing and the government are in cahoots, and just as it looks like the soldiers may clash with the monster, he gives them a solemn nod and then lumbers past them, “almost sadly, a heartsick warrior.” The film would then cut to the conference room scene where Tim Blake Nelson’s Dr. Allen boasts about the military applications of this super-powered team.
So why was this no doubt costly sequence cut from the movie? Well reports conflict about the reasoning, though both sides appear to agree it was ultimately Trank’s decision.
Sources close to Fox say Trank was indecisive and went back and forth on whether the film needed this scene before ultimately deciding against it. Sources close to Trank, however, say the filmmaker was forced to cut the scene when the studio reduced the film’s budget at the start of production, despite Trank having put together a detailed previsualization of the scene. Then, during filming, Fox changed its mind:
Late in production, when Fox executives realized they had a comic-book movie in dire need of action, sources sympathetic to Trank say they agreed to finance the scene – but Trank was not allowed to participate in the filming. As a result, the crew returned with footage shot in documentary hand-held style – which didn’t match the previsualization, or the planned digital effects, and also clashed with the visual style of the rest of the movie.
At this point, those sources say Trank nixed the sequence entirely. And so goes yet another fascinating entry in the behind-the-scenes story of Fantastic Four. The more the curtain gets pulled back on exactly what went down during the planning and production of this film, the more it becomes clear that indecisiveness—both on the part of Trank and the studio—appears to have been the main culprit that bungled the film on its way to theaters.