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Plenty of movies go through several different versions before they're released. Han Solo almost died at the end of Return Of The Jedi (cough). Ghostbusters almost had time travel, John Belushi, and Eddie Murphy. The dinosaurs in Jurassic Park were nearly stop-motion. But whereas all of those changes were undeniably made for the better, there are some movies that started out as ideas that were pretty close to perfect before countless behind-the-scenes changes doomed them to forgettable mediocrity.

Guillermo Del Toro's The Hobbit Would Have Looked Amazing

Warner Bros.

It's well known that the path to The Hobbit's director's chair was paved with deep scratches in the floor, left by Peter Jackson as he desperately tried to claw his way to freedom. After spending nearly seven years filming the Lord Of The Rings trilogy, Jackson quite reasonably wanted a break from Middle-earth, and agreed to help out with The Hobbit only on the condition that they get someone else to direct it. That someone was Guillermo del Toro, who proceeded to do two years of work on the films before ultimately quitting the project after he realized that New Line Cinema was content to take its sweet-ass time greenlighting production on his version. Judging by his preproduction work, del Toro's version would have been infinitely better.

Following in the footsteps of LOTR, del Toro wanted to do practical effects whenever possible and build needlessly complex backstories and characterization into things like orc armor, because that kind of attention to detail pays off in the finished product, and also del Toro is crazy:

New Line Cinema
Del Toro, pictured right.

He even went so far as to actually build the costume, despite the fact that he hadn't received the go-ahead from any higher-ups:

New Line Cinema
"Eh, if they don't want it I can always sell it to Gwar."

For reference, this is what that character wound up looking like in the finished film:

New Line Cinema
Like a "faces of meth" Panthro.

So, rather than del Toro's trademark visceral style of bone-gore monsters, we were given the most antiseptic version of a cartoon fantasy creature that somehow looked worse than any single orc in the original Lord Of The Rings trilogy.

Del Toro set the bar as high as he possibly could for Smaug, the villainous dragon that was originally the climax of The Hobbit until the movie inexplicably decided to make it about a dwarf war. He declared that Smaug would be the first character they'd start designing and the last one to be approved. Del Toro reasoned that the dragon's design should reflect its ability to speak -- its mouth should be able to make the sounds that human mouths do. That style of dramatically outside-the-box thinking resulted in a weirdly awesome beast that was truly unlike any dragon that had ever appeared in a movie before:

New Line Cinema
But somehow still looking kind of like Benedict Cumberbatch.

Again, compare del Toro's design to what wound up in the finished film -- in this case, a very traditional dragon improbably speaking with the voice of Benedict Cumberbatch, complete with weirdly incongruous lip movements that del Toro decided would be the make-or-break line for audience believability:

New Line Cinema
"His mouth is all wrong! No one is going to believe that dragon can talk!" -Guillermo del Toro

What's more, Guillermo was prepared to bring some of his Hellboy cast with him, namely Doug Jones and Ron Perlman. Del Toro never got around to officially casting Jones, but Perlman was all set to play Beorn, the werewolf/bear (bearwolf?) skinchanger.

In short, The Hobbit was almost a weird, offbeat, 1980s-style fantasy movie, instead of the nine-hour cartoon it wound up becoming after del Toro left the project and dumped it in Peter Jackson's lap like a drowned cat.

There Was Almost An Insanely Dark Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Sequel

Paramount Pictures

Whether you like it or not, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a legitimate film franchise once again. But one thing that every Ninja Turtles fan can agree on is that we went a super long time without any Turtles movies. The original trilogy of films, which involved champion martial artists doing impressive karate stunts while wearing 50 pounds of Jim Henson Muppet armor, came to a close in 1993, despite the best efforts of Vanilla Ice. There was an animated film in 2007, a full 14 years later, and then another seven-year dry spell before Michael Bay's reboot.

But what you probably didn't know was that during that first decade-and-a-half-long hiatus, there were two efforts to make another live-action TMNT movie. The first was to be a direct sequel to the third film, called The Next Mutation, that was going to be based heavily on the comics that none of us read as children. The main premise revolved around the turtles continuing to mutate and gaining new powers: Leonardo gained the ability to turn into a T-1000, Donatello became telekinetic at the cost of his sight, Michelangelo would be able to Jedi-mind-trick people into believing he was human, Raphael turned into a demon crocodile monster, and Splinter turned into a werewolf on HGH. Check out some concept art by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird, the original Turtles creators:

Paramount Pictures
And their co-creator, peyote.

There was also going to be a fifth turtle named Kirby, after famed Italian Renaissance artist Giovanni Kirby, who was essentially Slash from the original cartoon series and action figures:

Paramount Pictures
But with tiger stripes for some reason.

Wait, there's more! The mutations affect Casey Jones (who gets Taser hands) and April (who gets giant breasts that apparently turn her evil). Also, the Foot Clan would finally start carrying guns and stop trying to beat a quartet of giant monsters with traditional ninja weaponry:

Paramount Pictures
Ripped from the pages of every 12-year-old boy's sketchbook in the 1990s.

The Next Mutation movie didn't get past this early conceptual stage, which is a shame, because it clearly would've been the most uncomfortable Ninja Turtles film to watch with children. Another attempt at a Turtles sequel was made in 2001, which also would've followed a darker, comic-inspired storyline:

Paramount Pictures

It's unclear what exactly these different pitches were going for, but that last one was directly based on a piece of art from the comics in which the Shredder is killed and Raphael takes his place as the knife-suited ruler of the criminal underworld:

Image Comics
And destroyer of waterbeds.

So, yeah -- there was a time when Hollywood was considering making a Turtles movie where Raphael was Shredder. As crazy as that idea may sound, transport yourself back to 2001 and imagine someone telling you that Michael Bay was going to make a Turtles film starring Johnny Knoxville as Leonardo, and realize that "crazy" is occasionally just a matter of dates.

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The Justice League Movie Was Almost Made By The Director Of Mad Max: Fury Road

DC Comics

Before George Miller made the greatest action movie of all time in Mad Max: Fury Road, he was tagged to direct a Justice League film. Had he been allowed to make the movie, it would at the very least have resulted in a trailer that was good for more than just being made fun of on Twitter.

Right around the time Marvel started making approximately all the money, two writers turned in a Justice League script that threw all that "origin story" nonsense to the wind and instead dropped us right in on an already-formed Justice League. The movie opens with a funeral before backtracking an unspecified amount of time to Wonder Woman addressing the U.N. and Alfred telling Batman that Gotham's crime has been reduced to "nuisance" levels, which is probably "depression-era Chicago during a heat wave" to everyone who isn't Batman. We ultimately discover that Bruce Wayne is currently in a relationship with a woman who is secretly working with the government and a supervillain to unleash some skullduggerous plot upon the Earth, and the Justice League has to pull together to save the day. The Flash is killed in the process, and the movie ends with his funeral, which is the same one we saw in the very beginning. Um, spoilers, we guess.

And instead of going with the dark, gritty designs favored by most superhero movies, the Justice League concept art portrayed the Justice League like Greek Gods, because that's basically what they are:

Warner Bros.
He was eight years ahead on the "make Aquaman look cool" thing.

But before Miller could get things going, the Writers Guild strike permanently derailed the movie. There's actually a documentary in the works about it ... which is currently experiencing production problems. Given this evidence, we are not convinced that the writers strike wasn't enacted as part of a plot to keep this movie from being made -- judging by Fury Road, a Justice League film directed by George Miller would've likely been so awesome that the entire world would've simply imploded around it.

Warner Bros.
From the scene where Wonder Woman huffs silver spray paint to enter Themyscira.

The Planet Of The Apes Prequels Were Originally Much Crazier

20th Century Fox

Since the original film series, there have been two separate attempts to reboot the Planet Of The Apes franchise. The first was an aggressively forgettable Tim Burton film from 2001, and the second was the surprise hit prequel Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes, which starred James Franco but owes absolutely none of its success to that fact.

The movie ends with a bunch of genetically enhanced apes retreating to a forest near San Francisco where they can live in peace as humanity meets a rapid and horrifying demise. The original script for Rise, however, ended a bit differently:

20th Century Fox
Still better than Aperaham Lincoln.

Far from peacefully standing by while humans obliterate themselves, the original ending had a full-on revolution between apes and humans, with the chimpanzee Caesar gazing dispassionately upon the apocalypse he had wrought from the ruptured skull of the Statute of Liberty, because we apparently cannot have a Planet Of The Apes film that doesn't reference that giant piece of copper.

Obviously, that ending would've led to an entirely different Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes (the sequel released two years later), which was originally supposed to take place nearly a century into the future with fully evolved apes who spoke English, partied, smoked cigarettes, and listened to rock 'n' roll while still beating the shit out of each other with bone clubs, 2001-style:

20th Century Fox
*Play For Full Effect*

However, a few weeks before shooting, the director decided that 100 years was too much of a jump and that it would be way more exciting to see the apes slowly building a society and learning to speak conversationally (Note: It is not). So the original concept was scrapped in favor of a more straightforward "humans versus apes" storyline, and a more open-ended climax involving the apes all hanging off the Golden Gate Bridge watching human warships approaching was replaced with the subtlety-destroying ending wherein Caesar just tells his fellow monkeys to expect a war with the humans. In the movie's defense, this has never been a series renowned for its subtlety.

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The Original Fantastic Four Script Was Much Truer To The Comics

20th Century Fox

After a lackluster pair of films in the mid-2000s and the 1994 unreleased movie that plays in an infinite loop in Hell's waiting room, Fantastic Four was given another chance at the box office in 2015, and screenwriter Jeremy Slater promised fans that the movie was going to be pretty awesome. And, in his defense, Slater's script was awesome. But, as the few people who actually saw Fantastic Four can tell you, the finished movie was about as awesome as someone reading a list of irritating people they saw at the grocery store for two hours.

Even though Slater got the main screenwriting credit, he claims that the final movie only vaguely resembles his initial draft, with the first act of his screenplay being stretched to last two hours, completely cutting two-thirds of his material. Slater's version featured a lot more in-depth exploration of the F4 universe (you can read an in-depth summary here), including the planet-eating giant Galactus (and not some bullshit smoke cloud or vague, fiery silhouette, but an actual giant man in a ridiculous Masters Of The Universe helmet).

Also to be featured was HERBIE, the gang's robot sidekick, who would've been a fun inclusion for longtime Fantastic Four fans:

20th Century Fox
"I want it to look like if BB-8 knocked up Johnny 5 and Wheatley ..."

Slater's draft also featured the cleverly named Fantasticar, the group's flying sedan, because sometimes superheroes don't want to bother with Expedia, and Johnny Storm doesn't want to always have to flame on just to go to New Jersey:

20th Century Fox
"... and if Megatron fucked a Mercury Grand Marquis."

There's actually unfinished green-screen footage of the car that was never rendered, meaning that the car survived several script rewrites and wasn't actually cut from the movie until filming:

20th Century Fox
Pictured: a physical representation of trudging through this godforsaken movie.

Luckily, all of those fun additions from the comics were removed in favor of a bunch of frowning 20-somethings standing dejectedly in a bunker for the entirety of the film's runtime.

Jack Nicholson Was Almost In The Expendables 3 (And So Was Nearly Everyone Else You Can Think Of)

Lionsgate Films

The Expendables 3 had so many recognizable actors and actresses in it that two-thirds of the movie's poster is just a list of names. And yet, it was still underwhelming, possibly because the filmmakers inexplicably edited two hours of shootin', stabbin', and 'splodin' into a PG-13 movie. But there's a slim chance that the cast might have been to blame, because the lineup for Expendables 3 was almost way more insane.

The villain of Expendables 3 is Mel Gibson, which seems like a logical choice given his perpetual status as the most-hated person in any room he happens to be standing in. However, several other actors were considered for the role, namely Steven Seagal. Given his rich past of alleged sexual misconduct and supernatural lack of self-awareness, he seems like an amazing choice for a hateable villain, but Seagal claims "politics" (he and the producer don't get along) kept him from being in the movie.

But Sylvester Stallone's first choice for the lead antagonist was Jack Nicholson. Stallone hesitated to approach Nicholson, assuming that the legendary actor wouldn't be interested, because let's be honest, why the hell would he? But, as it turns out, Nicholson was interested in joining the cast of an old guys explosion fest. Despite the fact that this might well have resulted in the most spectacularly insane 120 minutes of film ever recorded, they weren't able to work out a deal in time, but there's always The Expendables 4: Jack Does Cocaine In A Helicopter.

Warner Bros.
This, but not snow.

Another obvious choice for the ever-expanding cast is Jackie Chan, who has been trying to jump on board ever since The Expendables 2 but unfortunately hasn't been able to make it work due to scheduling conflicts or possibly because his brand of hypersonic stunts doesn't mesh well with hulking, antique bodybuilders. And because he is never far from earshot when ridiculous decisions are being made, Nicolas Cage was in "advanced negotiations" to appear in the film at one point, but the deal fell through, presumably because Cage took whatever prop weapon they gave him for rehearsals and ran off to find sunken treasure somewhere in the Pacific.

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The Original Script Of World War Z Was An Epic Horror/Drama

Paramount Pictures

The book World War Z discusses the geopolitical and social effects of a zombie apocalypse on a global scale. This is admittedly difficult to condense into a single cohesive narrative for a film, but the movie World War Z attempted to incorporate as many elements from the book as it could. At least, until it was rewritten and all of those parts were taken out to make a more straightforward, mainstream Brad Pitt movie.

For instance, in the book the Battle of Yonkers is humanity's Waterloo, the turning point where zombies unseat humans as the dominant species on the planet and where humans realize that most modern weaponry rapidly loses its effectiveness against an enemy that has no self-preservation instinct. Also, it's where a bunch of shit gets blown the fuck up, as depicted by this thoroughly bitchin' preproduction art:

Paramount Pictures
Because what's the point of filming an apocalypse without fucking up a bridge at some point?

If you don't remember any of this from the movie, it's OK -- it was that part where Brad Pitt ran around for a bit before getting in a helicopter. It was easy to miss.

The original script was written by accomplished screenwriter and author J. Michael Straczynski, who was a writer on Thor and wrote a bunch of Twilight Zone episodes. It followed a U.N. investigator collecting interviews from various survivors of the zombie wars from around the world to try to determine how the different government infrastructures failed, giving us a film that's essentially survivors telling horrifying stories of how they managed to stay alive. Then, in typical Hollywood fashion, it was passed through a series of rewrites to turn it into a more palatable summer blockbuster about Brad Pitt running through cities and saving the human race completely by chance (the ending was even reshot after test audiences decided it was too bleak). According to Ain't It Cool News, the original draft might have been best picture material.

Although Ain't It Cool has been known to exaggerate.

When he isn't doing cameos for The Expendables, Chris writes for his website and tweets.

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