In a parallel universe, there are awesome geeky movies that you’d kill, or at least maim, to watch. Sadly, we live in this universe where these films never got made. But if you somehow get your hands on these screenplays you’ll at least be able to get a sense of what we’re missing. Here in no particular order, are the top 10 must reads for any serious movie dork.
William Gibson’s Alien 3
That’s right, the writer for Neuromancer and one of the grandfathers of cyberpunk wrote a script for Alien 3. This version has no prison planet and very little Ripley because at the time, Weaver wasn’t sure she wanted to do Alien 3.
What we get instead is Hicks running around on a space station, Ripley in a coma, and a pathogen that infects humans turning them into aliens underneath their skin who then rip off said skin revealing a human looking alien. Basically, the Alien equivalent of being bitten by a zombie.
Seriously, Alien as kind of a zombie movie. How cool is that?
The producer were unhappy with the script and wanted Gibson to rewrite it which he declined. Eventually the screenplay went through many many writers to bring us the mediocre Alien 3 we eventually got.
This would have been a CG film which would have expanded on the original series first episode of the crash landing on Third Earth. Notable changes are Wiley Kit and Wiley Kat are young adults and no mention of Snarf, as well as a love interest for Lion-O. While this movie would have been more true to the original than the new cartoon series, it’s also not as epic as the new series.
Want to see what we almost got? Here’s some test footage of the film that leaked onto the intertubes a little while ago.
Justice League: Mortal
Ah the Justice League, the pinnacle of teamed up Superheroes! George Miller, the man behind Mad Max, was set to direct this film and everyone was curious how Bale’s Batman would work in context of the League. Except it turns out Batman would be recast, as would Superman. In fact, the JLA pretty much exist separate from all other DC properties with the same characters. So what would have happened?
Nanobots. Nanobots that attack our heroes weaknesses. And how does bad guy Maxwell Lord find these weaknesses? He steals a Waynecorp satellite that Batman was using to catalogue his friends weaknesses. Way to go bats.
There’s a very big budget yet 90’s made for TV vibe through the whole project. Do I want my JLA, hell yea! Do I want this version… um, no.
Here’s a screenplay where the story behind it is even better than the screenplay itself. Kevin Smith was attached to rewrite a screenplay where Superman dies and is reborn by trashing the previous script. It deserved to be trashed, it was pretty awful.
Then producer John Peters had some… interesting… ideas of what should be in the script.: no blue and red costume, he shouldn’t fly and he has to fight a giant spider in the third act. Hear Smith talk about it in his own words:
That’s right, Superman fights Doomsday, dies and is reborn. Brainiac fights some polar bears and Superman wears an exoskeleton because his powers haven’t returned.
And then fights a giant spider.
I have to give it to Smith, with those bizarre constraints imposed on him, he wrote a pretty kick ass Superman movie!
Eventually Tim Burton brought on his own writers and brought on Nic Cage to play the man in the cape, so really, everything went from bad to worse (see above image).
Eventually the whole production collapsed from the sheer amount of money thrown at Superman and we ended up with Bryan Singer’s Superman who stalks old girlfriends and has a kid.
John Peters eventually got his giant spider in the Wild Wild West though.
Grayskull: The Masters of the Universe
Currently, there’s a new He-Man film being developed from scratch, but Justin Marks’ scrapped version is just flipping awesome! This takes place on Eternia where magic and technology exist together. It’s a nice origin story for He-Man as he searches for Castle Grayskull and the Sword of Power. And yes, Adam does say “By the power of Grayskull, I have the power”. Although he reads that off of the floor of Castle Grayskull.
Also, Orco, the Jar-Jar of He-Man, is nowhere to be seen.
It actually had a lot of interesting mythology built into it with sword being created from the melding of sword of light and the sword of darkness by King Grayskull who brought peace to Eternia. When the king dies the sword was separated and hidden bu the Master of the Universe, 6 fearsome warriors. Keldor find the sword of darkness and it erodes his skin turning him into Skeletor.
Mattel and producer Joel Silver parted ways over creative differences on how to proceed with the film and a new draft of the screenplay is underway from scratch. I’m hoping we don’t get some He-Man set on earth, we know how well that went last time.
Indiana Jones and the City of the Gods
This is the rejected Frank Darabont (the man behind The Walking Dead and The Shawshank Redemption) script for what eventually became Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull. It follows the Crystal Skull plot more or less except that it was good, really good.
Did I mention Lucas rejected the script from the guy who wrote and directed The Shawshank Redemption?
There’s no Indy Junior dressed as Danny Zuko and Marion punches Indy like she always should. This is Marion we’re talking about people. Also the aliens are pretty terrifying and an aerial dog fight that must be read to be believed! It had Indy MacGuivering a biplane wing with his whip, jumping onto a second plane, beating up the bad guys, which the gets show at and starts billowing fire so he has to grab onto the wheel of first plane all while bantering with Marion. This is Indiana Jones, Lucas.
They still nuke the fridge though. I said it was really good, not perfect.
King Conan: Crown of Iron
Instead of the lame movie we eventually got, this would have had the Governator back in the saddle, er… throne, as Conan! I mean, if that isn’t reason enough to read this I don’t know what is. Basically, Conan adopts a kid, becomes king which is then disposed and leads a rebellion against his former kingdom. I mean, it couldn’t have been any worse than Conan the Destroyer right? Oh, and we get estranged Conan Junior who takes up the throne and has to decide whether to fight his father.
It’s pretty epic as the film covers something like a 25 year span and would have been classic Ahnold Conan even with the addition of a son who would have been apparently played by either Vin Diesel or The Rock, er, Dwayne Johnson…whatever we’re calling him these day.
This sequel is what would have been best in life.
Justin Marks appears on this list again with another geektastic screenplay (how the hell does he get attached to awesome properties?) of Voltron! And yes, another origin story. In it, Earth is under attack by RoBeasts because thousands of years ago, the 5 keys needed to power Voltron were left on Earth. They are found by a Allura (who’s an alien living secret and looks human) who hires Keith and Lance to get her down to Mexico.
Why? Well it turns out Mexico is where aliens are building the Lionbots.
From scrap metal.
Um, it reads much better than it sounds.
There’s no camp anywhere in the script and while a lot of liberties were taken with the characters and setting, it’s still a fantastic read. Keith is kind of prick, but in that Han Solo kind of way,
Joss Whedon’s Wonder Woman
No one knows how to do women who kick-ass quite like Whedon so when it was announced he was going to do Wonder Woman, we all took notice. Instead that stalled and we got a Wonder Woman TV series pilot that was so bad it was cancelled before it ever aired. Whedon’s screenplay had the Amazonian island, Diana made of clay and brought to life, political intrigue, a war brewing on Earth and a war between the Gods.
Seriously, they traded that for a Wonder Woman as a CEO.
Word is that Wonder Woman is still under development, but they had Whedon and let him go. Good thing Marvel picked him up to direct The Avengers.
The Star Wars
The screenplay I read was dated July 1974 and very different than what we’re used to. The Jedi are called the Dai, the force doesn’t really do anything, Luke Skywalker is more of an Obi-Wan figure and he has an apprentice named Justin Valor (who has sex in a closet with some secretary). But the more you read it, the more you start getting this sinking feeling like you’ve seen parts of this movie somewhere other than the original trilogy… and you’d be right. That movie is called Star Wars: The Phantom Menace.
You can make out elements that would eventually end up in the prequels, including the plot that the Empire needs Princess Zara (eventually renamed Leia) alive so they can control the planet Townowi. Like TPM, the whole story revolves capturing the princess/queen. And the Death Star doesn’t blow up planets, it’s just a giant spacefaring fortress.
Lucas abandoning this terrible screenplay for what eventually became Star Wars was probably the second smartest thing he has ever done… next to retaining merchandising and sequel rights to Star Wars. But reading this screenplay is by far the most interesting because we get to see very early and different ideas that would become the trilogy we love and the prequels we love to loath. And yet watch anyway. Because it’s Star Wars.
Have any unproduced screenplays you think should have been on this list, leave them in the comments below!
*EDITORS NOTE: Special thanks to Nerd Bastards contributor Danny F. Santos for showing us what could have been. For more on Danny you can check him out on at www.fmlftw.com or follow him on Twitter @dannyfsantos