The “Fantastic Four”has a long and tumultuous history as a superhero franchise. Hollywood has tried three times to get it. Although I love the Tim Story film, none of the films have been viewed as a total success. However, Marvel Studios recently acquired the rights back for the iconic team as part of Disney/Fox’s merger. Might we finally get a good adaptation?
In December of 2020, Marvel Studios chief Kevin Feige announced the reboot. At that time Spider-Man homecoming trilogy director Jon Watts was announced as the director.
I thought Watts was a good choice, though sadly the director would leave the project in April 2022 needing “a break from superheroes” – while still leaving open a return for another project.
This began the search for a new director for the highly anticipated reboot. Though names like Steven Speilberg were considered, Matt Shakman was selected as the replacement director on August 26th, 2022. If that name sounds familiar it’s because he is the sole director of the Disney+ series WandaVision. He has also directed episodes of Game Of Thrones, The Boys and Fargo. But what makes him the right person for this project when other recent MCU projects have stumbled? Especially since he doesn’t have any feature film experience other than Cut Bank. The A24 film starring John Malkovich and Liam Hemsworth that nobody seemed to care about.
Well, in terms of this choice, there are several reasons to be optimistic.
Based on his prior work with the studio, Shakman has shown an ability to produce a good Marvel project. WandaVision’s 23 Emmy nominations show Shakman can fit into the Marvel structure and still display his creative style. There is a tendency to underestimate this, particularly when it comes to superhero films. Some directors have shown they are able to utilize Marvel Studios’ structure to create all-time classics. However at times even talented directors have struggled; a recurring issue with the studio.
such as the Russo Brothers, Ryan Coogler, James Gunn, and Daniel Destin Cretton could utilize the Marvel studios’ structure in their favor to create all-time classics. However, directors like Chole Zhao, Bassam Tariq and Edgar Wright weren’t exactly able to use the MCU structure to their best advantage, even though they were talented, which has been something of a recurring issue with the studio.
A crucial ingredient to making a superhero team like the Fantastic Four work on screen is managing an ensemble cast. This is something at which Matt Shakman excels. In addition to Game of Thrones, which has a huge cast, Shakman was director of perhaps the best season of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. He always strives to provide each character with the screen time they deserve in a satisfying way. This is not easy to do on TV, particularly with so many character arcs to juggle. Even in WandaVision, he demonstrated this by intertwining both Wanda and Vision arcs in an emotionally and visually engaging manner.
That brings me to my final reason for choosing Matt Shakman to direct The Fantastic Four. Another aspect of the WandaVision series that was lauded is the 60’s aesthetic of the sitcom segments of the shows. This setup is perfect for an old-fashioned superhero property such as the Fantastic Four. From the outside the Fantastic Four are a science fiction super hero team – Star Trek. The leader, Reed Richard, and his studies sit at it’s core. Sue and Johnny Storm, along with Ben Grimm, help create a 60’s style family drama. Separately they are four misfits but they work to settle any differences and together make discoveries that are, well Fantastic. .
Some might be skeptical of this choice since he is a TV director and not a movie director. I personally believe that he has all the right tools to finally deliver a decent “Fantastic Four” movie, set to premiere in 2/14/25.