On March 24th the new Power Rangers movie comes out, making us all wonder if we fell asleep and magically woke up twenty years in the past when the franchise was still relevant. While it's usually fun to take a nostalgic trip down memory lane, the trailers aren't exactly giving us a lot of hope that the movie will be the kind of campy insanity that we loved about the television show. Also, for some reason these Power Rangers are neither Mighty NOR Morphin', two of our favorite adjectives!
While we wait for the release date, all we are left with is wild speculation of what it could be. One thing we're sure it won't be is the leaked Max Landis Power Rangers script, which is actually...pretty good. He plays a little fast and loose with some of the characters but it feels like a fun, over-the-top homage to the original. We'll have to see how it stacks up with the actual film, but it got us thinking about other movies that could have been much, much better with an earlier version of the screenplay which was lost to the churning machinations of Hollywood development hell.
Let's be real: literally any screenplay would make this notorious turd of a movie better. Two hours of Bob Hoskins and John Leguizamo slurping down big plates of spaghetti would be a better movie. An instructional video of actual plumbers plunging actual clogged toilets would be a better movie. The film inexplicably throws out nearly everything from the game to create some bizarre otherworld that at no point makes any sense as a Super Mario Bros. movie, nor as a movie in general.
Now, maybe it is impossible to create an honest adaptation of a video game that features brightly-colored mushroom monsters and turtle-dragons that live in castles, especially within the constraints of early 90s-era CGI. But there was an early draft of the script that at least attempted to create some faithful adaptation of the video game. Written in 1991 by Jim Jennewein and Tom S. Parker, the scribes of the equally perplexing live-action Flintstones film, the script has a lot of elements from the game. While focusing on two Brooklyn brothers who run a plumbing business together, they eventually travel through a tube while trying to save Luigi's girlfriend (a princess) who was captured by Koopa (Bowser). Piranha plants, Toad and Yoshi appear and Koopa gets around in a giant floating pirate ship; the connections to the game are obvious.
Does that mean it would have been any good? Not necessarily, but at least we would have seen something that made a little more sense for the franchise, and hopefully would have avoided the insane technoverse that's run by dinosaurs.
Similar to Super Mario Bros., here's another failure that is supposed to be based on an audience's pre-existing knowledge of something: the Hollywood action movie. What we wound up with is an absolute blockbuster bomb whose screenplay is attributed to one of the most famous and popular screenwriters around, Shane Black, who blew up with the Lethal Weapon franchise. It's wild that a screenwriter of one of the most iconic 80s action films could turn out a miserable fascimilie that is supposed to parody some of his own work. Also, Black is not entirely to blame for this one, as studio missteps and Arnold Schwarzenegger's supposed involvement in character revisions plunged this deeper into guaranteed disaster.
The original screenplay, written by two first time screenwriters Zak Penn and Adam Leff, seems to have much more potential. Originally titled Extremely Violent, the film was exactly that: a lot more R-rated violence, a direct lift from the action films that had crowded the box office for the previous decade. In addition to the violence, the parody tone is much more evident; the lead kid Danny is at every turn cognizant of the action movie tropes, calling them out and aiding the hero in his struggles for justice. He calls out moments that are usually lost on the two-dimensional action movie hero, whose shoot-first tactics create a lot of collateral damage. It's far more fun and interesting than the mess we wound up getting.
As we bask in the destructive, radioactive glow of the sixth Resident Evil film - Resident Evil: The Final Chapter - that was released last month, we're left to ponder how in the world we have gotten so far with this extremely mediocre, mostly bad franchise. In terms of both action movies and zombie movies, the franchise is pretty laughable, and it is all thanks to the unfortunate misfire of the first film that was ultimately left in the hands of Paul W. S. Anderson, far from an auteurfilm director.
However, prior to his involvement, there was another director attached to the project with loads of style and horror movie experience: George A. Romero, creative genius behind the most iconic zombie movies of all time and credited with creating the undead genre. Romero wrote a script in 1998 that showed a lot of promise. The script follows the video game, focusing more on Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine and mainly taking place in the Spencer mansion, as opposed to creating a character (Alice) out of thin air. There are even appearances of mutant sharks and man-eating plants! It does take a few liberties with the characters: Redfield is a Native American and he has a relationship with Valentine. More importantly though, the script has a lot of actual horror moments much like the game did, instead of bad, Matrix-ripoff action sequences.
On top of all this, it's George freaking Romero! The guy is a horror master and undoubtedly would have produced a scary, gory, and highly effective movie. But that was all abandoned, like a lot of good ideas in Hollywood, by some producer who "didn't get it," and then handed the reins over to the guy who made Mortal Kombat. Really great idea.
What is probably the most "what could have been" movie in recent memory, Prometheus had a lot of expectations, both as a new addition to the Alien franchise and as Ridley Scott's return to the series. With so much build up, perhaps it was bound to be a disappointment. And while it does have its fans, no one can deny that the film has its fair share of perplexing plot points and character mishaps. Not to mention the fact that there are really no xenomorphs in the film!
Well, a lot of that was different in a very early draft of the film written by John Spaihts called Alien: Engineers. While there are still some similarities between this draft and what wound up on screen, there also seem to be a lot of key character moments and a more direct tie to the franchise, including both the famous facehugger, chestburster and xenomorph aliens in the film and with less focus on the engineers. Weyland appears at the beginning of the film and then is done, focused more on economic gain than some quixotic search for immortality. David also is far more sinister in this script; there's a scene where he impregnates the Noomi Rapace character with a facehugger that is truly disturbing. Oh, and there's no more black alien goo!
Overall, it reads as a cohesive story with a more direct connection to the beloved franchise, instead of the Damon Lindelof, "mystery island that travels through time and also it's heaven? idk" mish-mash that we would up with. Though to be fair to Lindelof, pressure from the studio to make this film stand on its own, plus Scott's strange additions, may have doomed it from the start. We have our fingers crossed that Alien: Covenant will be a return to greatness for the Alien films.
From one flawed Alien film to another, Alien 3 has a long, prolific history of failure. The first major feature for David Fincher, he has famously disowned the film, citing overwhelming studio influence and impossible deadlines during the production. In addition, the film started shooting without even having a finished script in place, so it was doomed to fail. Since it didn't really have a script to start, literally any of the completed screenplays might have made a better film, and there were a lot of them.
First script was turned out by famous sci-fi writer William Gibson, well known for his cyberpunk masterpiece Neuromancer. His first draft is pretty action-oriented with a lot of interesting elements, almost none of which made it into the final product. The story brings back Hicks and Bishop as their escape ship is found by a research spacestation. Xenomorph material is transported to this spacestation through Bishop's torn up body and once it is experimented on, all hell breaks loose. It's not perfect, but there is a basis of something here that would be far more interesting what Alien 3 became.
Another, and perhaps the most exciting of all the early screenplays, was one written by Vincent Ward and John Fasano, whose version wound up having some semblance of what made it to the screen. However, the setting is far better than the generic space prison: a wooden planet that's home to a Luddite monastery that's ultimately overrun by the xenomorphs. Here, Ripley is the protagonist as she finds herself on this artificial planet with no weapons, being hunted by a ruthless xenomorph kill machine. This is a supremely high-concept science fiction setting, and with some tweaks this script could have been a truly inspired addition to the franchise.
And here comes another Ridley Scott movie! Look, it's not like in 2010 the general public was breaking down Hollywood's door for another Robin Hood movie, a tale that has been brought to the silver screen a thousand times already. But if you are going to drag this dead horse through the box office again, at least do something to bring new life and excitement to it; Hood's posse is called the Merry Men for Peter's sake! You certainly don't make a gritty, mirthless, entirely-no-fun-whatsoever origin story, which is exactly what Scott did.
In hindsight, it's easy to chalk this film up as another bland Hollywood cash grab based on a pre-established entity. However, while also looking back at the history of this film's development, we can see what could have been something far more original. The initial script that was bought by the studio was called Nottingham. Written by Ethan Reiff and Cyrus Voris, the script follows the perspective of the Sheriff of Nottingham as he tries to track down Robin Hood, reading more like a mystery than an action-adventure romp. It also makes Robin Hood a far more ambiguous character; his maxim "rob from the rich to give to the poor" usually clouds the fact that he still is a thief, no matter how noble his cause.
This script is a compelling take on a stale story, and it's a shame that it got smashed into a mundane snoozefest where Russell Crowe was barely awake on screen.
This list would not be complete without a comic book movie, so why not include one of the most abysmal, head-smacking failures of a comic book movie in recent memory. Similarly to Alien 3, the Fantastic Four movie was plagued with production issues, with reports of director Josh Trank nearly getting in fights with star Miles Teller and then subsequently disowning the film, citing too much studio interference and budgetary constraints. Several times during the production, Trank would cite the body horror films of David Cronenberg and other 80s sci-fi as inspiration for the film. However, the final product looked more like his inspiration was a loaf of white bread and a glass of lukewarm water.
While it seems like a big combination of things happened to crank out this mess, one of the earliest missteps was throwing out the first version of the script. Written by Jeremy Slater (a breakdown of the script can be found here), this version feels much more like a Marvel movie romp than the DOA version we got. It starts off similarly: our four heroes and Victor Von Doom find themselves at the Baxter Building and take a trip to the Negative Zone. However when they get there, they are confronted by the biggest bad in the whole Marvel universe: Galactus. He blasts them with dark matter, giving them their powers, and killing Doom. But he is not dead - he becomes Galactus' herald! Doom's connection to Latveria is also stronger, ultimately making him the leader of the country and setting up a big showdown between him and F4 once he returns from The Negative Zone. Oh, also Mole Man is in there, because why not?
There is a lot of stuff in here, perhaps too much. But, end of the day, this is a high-action, well-planned Fantastic Four movie that treats the characters with the respect they deserve. It certainly is not a story that mostly takes place with the characters stuck in jail cells for most of the film and one bit of inexplicable action at the end.
Freddy Krueger is a horror movie icon and got that way by being in one truly scary movie, A Nightmare on Elm Street, and then a series of sequels that devolved into a schlocky parody of its progenitor. By the time a 6th Elm Street movie was being produced, the popularity of the series was in serious decline. What we wound up with, Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare (and far from the 'final' it was) is an incoherent mess that plays more as a comedy, rather unintentionally, than an actual horror movie. It is, in fact, quite rare that a horror franchise would consistently churn out quality sequels, so the exercise of analyzing their missteps is often a futile one.
It is only intriguing in this case due to the pedigree of the person who almost wrote the sixth Freddy Krueger movie: Peter Jackson. In the late 80s, the now-famous "Hobbit King" was merely a Kiwi splatter director with movies like Bad Taste and Meet the Feebles under his belt. Along with his co-writer Danny Mulheron, Jackson produced a draft called Nightmare on Elm Street 6: The Dream Lover. The synopsis of the plot sounds very cool: as teens stop believing in the power of Freddy Krueger, he has devolved into a sad old man stuck in the dream world. The kids who were once tortured and killed by him now take sleeping pills to enter the dream world and kick Freddy's sad, old ass. It isn't until a police officer goes into a coma, becoming trapped in the dream world, that Freddy regains his old powers and starts killing again.
The script is difficult to find, so there can be no true comparison between it and Freddy's Dead. But considering Jackson's roots in wild, over-the-top horror, the thought of his involvement in this iconic franchise is delightful.
The origin of the production of Child's Play is yet another dream Hollywood story: Don Mancini, a college student at UCLA, writes a screenplay called Bloody Buddy that gets purchased by a major studio, ultimately making his career and launching one of the most iconic horror movie franchises of all time. And while the franchise has turned into a grotesque parody of itself in the later installments, the first film is a solid slasher that just happens to have a doll as the killer (every film needs their hook).
And as Chucky has become a ubiquitous pop culture phenomenom, a lot of people seem to forget the actual premise of the franchise: a serial killer who just so happens to KNOW VOODOO transmutes his soul into the body of a doll. While this is a premise that is acceptable in the horror genre and it generated an effective film, when compared to the potential of the original script's premise, it seems quite bland. Mancini, in many interviews since the franchise's explosion in popularity, has described the plot of his original script: the Blood Buddy doll is a doll that bleeds (similar to a doll that pees) and you can buy special bandaids for it. The main child in the film makes a blood pact with the doll, which brings the doll to life as a representation of the child's id. The doll kills based on the whims of this kid's sub-conscious turmoil. His mother, some kind of marketing executive, is part of the team that brings the doll to the marketplace and she ultimately becomes target of her own child' subconscious hatred vis-a-vis the doll.
An equally complex premise, but one that seems full of opportunity to make a bigger social critique about consumerism and mental health that is just lacking in what we actually got; Mancini has also said these topics were his direct inspirations when writing. It's hard to say "what if" without seeing the script, but the baseline premise seems to incorporate legitimate scares with a larger message and that is often where the horror genre truly shines.