Fantastic choice

Matt Shakman is the only director who can save Marvel's Fantastic Four movie

He’s got his work cut out for him.

Originally Published: 
ANAHEIM, CALIFORNIA - AUGUST 23: Director Matt Shakman of 'WandaVision' took part today in the Disne...
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Matt Shakman is an unsung but reliable director. Starting as a journeyman on shows like Ugly Betty and House, he’s moved on to some of the most prestigious and popular series of recent years, including Game of Thrones, Succession, and WandaVision. Now he’s making a big move to film, having been announced as the director of the next Star Trek flick.

But that was thrown out the window when rumors of Shakman talking with Marvel started swirling. He’s departed the Star Trek movie, and is all but confirmed to be directing Marvel’s upcoming Fantastic Four. Is he a good choice for the job? When you examine the circumstances, he’s not only the obvious choice, but maybe even the only director who could successfully launch such an essential part of the MCU.

Fantastic Four is a highly anticipated movie that’s under a lot of pressure to succeed. Aside from the sheer number of times the super squad has appeared in flop films, they’re one of the few notable Marvel Comics teams who haven’t had their time in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (not counting the X-Men, who have always flirted with canonization).

It’s a tall task for any director to tackle an important team with a troubled history, but it’s not an unfamiliar challenge for Shakman. Cast your mind back to 2019, when Marvel announced it would release canonical Marvel series on Disney+. It seemed like a challenge to move the MCU's high stakes and big budgets to the small screen, but Shakman, together with head writer Jac Schaeffer, guided WandaVision to critical acclaim and proved Marvel TV was here to stay.

Matt Shakman’s direction brought a classic feel to WandaVision’s meta plot.

WandaVision didn’t try to recreate the Marvel movie experience in smaller chunks. It used the medium of television as a foundation for a fantasy world influenced by old sitcoms, simultaneously creating a love letter to television comedy and a haunting tale of denial and grief. It set the tone for the rest of Marvel’s Disney+ shows, and its influence can be seen in She-Hulk: Attorney at Law’s sitcom and court drama pastiches.

Fantastic Four isn’t an episode of television, but there are more parallels between the two than you might think. In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, characters aren’t just used in one movie; they’re usually established, then brought back for TV shows, sequels, crossovers, and whatever else the franchise requires. Fantastic Four isn’t just a blockbuster movie, but a pilot for the characters, however they’re used in the future.

Matt Shakman, Jac Schaeffer, and Kevin Feige at D23 2019.

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Marvel may be a cinematic universe, but treating it like an endless TV series has succeeded so far, so why not promote one of the best TV directors Marvel’s worked with to the big leagues? After well over a decade of MCU films, Marvel needs directors who can try new things. Matt Shakman has proven that he’s up for the challenge, whether he’s on the set of WandaVision or It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. If anyone can make a Fantastic Four movie that’s actually watchable, he can.

WandaVision is now streaming on Disney+.

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