Marvel’s Cinematic Universe is gearing up to introduce its First Family, the Fantastic Four, and with Hollywood getting back on its feet, director Matt Shakman has offered an exciting update about the film. The waning actors’ strike, combined with Marvel’s trademark secrecy, is keeping Shakman from getting too specific, but casting is apparently locked and ready to go, as is a script that will deliver a story “unlike anything at Marvel you’ve seen before.”
“It’s different in so many ways,” Shakman recently told Collider. “I wish I could say more. But we are doing things very differently from a story standpoint, from an approach to the filmmaking standpoint, that really fits the material.”
Despite Marvel’s ongoing battle with superhero fatigue, Shakman’s enthusiasm is contagious. The director cites the work of John Byrne and Jack Kirby as inspiration, and while this isn’t the first MCU film drawing influence from Kirby’s work — Chloe Zhao’s Eternals was meant to do just that — seeing Byrne’s name in the mix is a great sign. Byrne is a legend in the comics world: his Fantastic Four run brought the characters back to basics in the ‘80s, and he wasn’t afraid to lean into the cosmic side of things. If Shakman is studying his work closely, that could open a whole new door for the MCU and Marvel’s most famous team.
Marvel has been leaning cosmic for some time now. Not all of its efforts have worked, but those that have shared a similar tone. Guardians of the Galaxy paved the way for the new branch of the MCU, and for better or worse it’s become a blueprint for Marvel’s space-faring adventures. That gonzo tone doesn’t translate perfectly to every movie: it worked for Thor: Ragnarok, but not so much for Love and Thunder. The films that do try something different, like Eternals or Captain Marvel, still struggle to create their own identity. Hopefully, Fantastic Four can learn from their mistakes — and the many mistakes of past Fantastic Four adaptations — to tell this story anew.
With the big beats of Marvel’s cosmic branch more or less established through Doctor Strange and Captain Marvel, Shakman may be free to get a bit weirder than previous Fantastic Four films have been able to. That could manifest in a proper period film, which rumors have suggested will take place in the ‘60s. This wouldn’t be the first time the MCU turned back the clock for an origin story, but period pieces are still pretty rare for Marvel. Combine a fresh setting with some of Kirby’s influence, and Shakman really could be going in a different direction.
The director has been working “non-stop” with VFX companies to develop the film faithfully. “Some things that work beautifully in John Byrne and Jack Kirby are a little tougher when you’re filming them,” Shakman said. “How do you make sure that things are exciting but also grounded in a scientific thing, which is also part of the Fantastic Four that I love? There’s some stuff I’m super excited about.”
Though the ongoing negotiations between actors and producers prevent any concrete announcements, the director confirmed the four principal roles have been cast. “I know that the internet is very excited to find out, and I’m excited to share it. I just can’t do it yet,” the director told Collider. “I’m keeping my fingers crossed that [the actors’ guild] get a great deal really soon and we can go back. Then, once that’s resolved, there’ll be a plan at that point.”
Fantastic Four has been one of Marvel’s most anticipated projects, but it’s faced its fair share of delays since it was announced in 2020. We’re still a long way from the film’s 2025 release date, but Marvel finally seems like it’s finding its groove again, or at least looking for it very hard.