Nicole Sobon on Deborah Chow
My pick to helm Marvel Studios’ Fantastic Four film would be Deborah Chow. While someone like Peyton Reed, who has expressed his interest in helming a Fantastic Four film, would seem like a more ideal choice, Chow’s star has rightfully been on the rise in recent years. The director earned her first credit thanks to a short titled Daypass in 2002. She then followed it up with a short titled The Hill in 2004, followed by her first feature with 2010’s The High Cost of Living. It wasn’t until she stepped in to direct an episode of Copper that Chow truly launched her career in television. Like most, she built her resume by directing episodes of multiple CW shows, but once she stepped into the Marvel universe – courtesy of Netflix – Chow really proved that she had the ability to deliver something impressive. One has to imagine it was her work on shows like Jessica Jones and Iron Fist that ultimately led to her being hired to helm episodes on The Mandalorian before landing Obi-Wan Kenobi. Giving Chow the chance to shine on a big feature film such as Fantastic Four would be a pretty fantastic move. Obi-Wan proved Chow has the chops to play in a larger playground, it’s just a matter of giving her the chance to shine on a big-budget feature.
Jared Kirschenbaum on Justin Lin
The Fantastic Four can be defined by a single word: family. And if anyone is qualified for the task of ushering Marvel’s first family into the MCU, it’s Justin Lin – the director who made The Fast and the Furious into the massive franchise it is today. Lin helmed 5 Fast and Furious films (The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, Fast and Furious, Fast Five, Fast and Furious 6, and F9: The Fast Saga), so he knows his way around a big-studio blockbuster. However, it was Lin’s vision for the Fast and Furious films that transformed them from a streetcar racing movie series to a high-stakes global adventure series centered on a multicultural found family. Additionally, if a director’s time on the show Community is any indication of how well they’d do in the MCU, then Justin Lin should have no trouble directing Fantastic Four. Like the Russo Brothers, who are responsible for some of the all time greatest MCU films, Lin found great success on Community. Lin directed 3 episodes of the show, including the first paintball-centric episode “Modern Warfare”, one of the show’s best. With all of that, combined with his work on Star Trek Beyond, which had a vast ensemble acting as a surrogate family and reintroduced the series to its 60’s sci-fi roots of exploration and adventure, Justin Lin almost seems tailor-made to direct Fantastic Four.
Hunter Radesi on The Daniels
The Fantastic Four aren’t your average superheroes, and they deserve a pair of directors who aren’t so average either. The Daniels shocked the world this year with the release of their hit film Everything, Everywhere All at Once, crafting an incredibly entertaining tale about a family surviving their way through the unpredictable unknown. This is more or less exactly what a good Fantastic Four adaptation needs to be. Previous attempts at bringing Marvel’s First Family to life have failed in understanding the group thrives more on adventure than they do super heroics. The best tales typically involve Reed, Sue, Ben, and Johnny exploring the far reaches of space and time on some sort of wacky mission, not fighting thugs on the streets of New York. Kevin Feige and company would be smart to hedge their bets on an indie duo with a mastery in mixing outright weird with downright emotional.
João Pinto on Alex Garland
The upcoming Fantastic Four feature film will undoubtedly shape the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) for years to come. Marvel Studios seems to be taking its time when it comes to the introduction of Marvel’s First Family and that alone shows us just how pivotal the project is set to become. Another aspect differentiating this project from most other recent MCU offerings is that the director’s chair is likely to be given to a more established director within the industry.
With the sheer volume of MCU projects that Marvel Studios is putting out each year, it comes with little surprise how Kevin Feige doesn’t want to have to oversee a shoot of this magnitude himself, thus allowing him to pay more attention to several other, smaller scale, projects.
This shortens the list of possible directors, as many big names might not want to focus their energies on a sci-fi franchise, and those who would might not be the most accomplished of the bunch. One name that does come to mind, with an impeccable track record both in terms of writing and directing as well as being immensely versed in high-concept sci-fi, is that of British writer and filmmaker Alex Garland.
Garland, known for his work in Ex-Machina, Annihilation, and the fantastic miniseries Devs (as well as his contributions to 28 Days Later, 28 Weeks Later, Sunshine and Dredd) would surely bring the inventiveness of his approach to science fiction into the MCU, something a Fantastic Four feature film feels like the perfect vehicle for. He has the track record within the industry to be able to lead such a project and the creative freedom Feige is willing to give whoever ends up with the job could perhaps sit well with Garland, that is known to enjoy being in almost complete creative control of his directorial endeavors as he has written all five of them.
Charles Murphy on Steven Spielberg
As they’ve expanded from 3 movies per year to 4 movies and 3-4 streaming projects per year, Marvel Studios has had to learn on the fly. As it should be, learning is continuous and one lesson learned by Kevin Feige over the last year is that unlike Evelyn Quan Wang (now you see why this one falls in line after Hunter’s!), he cannot be EVERYWHERE all at once. Feige learned that lesson by finding someone he felt comfortable relinquishing some day-to-day control to on set in Sam Raimi. And that discovery has emboldened Feige to shoot for the stars as he looks to replace Jon Watts on Fantastic Four. If Feige is looking for a seasoned, successful person to usher the First Family into the MCU, he need look no further than Steven Spielberg. Spielberg can wear all the hats required to keep a production up and running, has proven his mastery of the sci-fi, action and humanistic genres and is comfortable working with any mix of practical effects and CGI.
Spielberg is a big fan of superhero films, with Marvel Studios Guardians of the Galaxy apparently at the top of of list (at least at one time). He was keen on working with DC on an adaptation of Blackhawk, but while the project is reportedly still alive, Spielberg’s attachment to it is now unclear. Imagine a high-concept sci-fi film (Minority Report) that captures a sense of adventure (Raiders of the Lost Ark) and explores the unknown (Close Encoutners of the Third Kind) while keeping the focus on family (The Goonies) and you have what a true Fantastic Four film should be. And if you don’t think big name actors won’t be lining up to work with Spielberg on a Marvel Studios project, you aren’t paying attention.
MTF III on Rian Johnson
In Rian Johnson, Marvel wouldn’t just be getting a director with an art house sensibility who has experience within a mega-franchise, were they to choose him for Fantastic Four. The Star Wars: The Last Jedi director has demonstrated both the sci-fi bona fides (see Looper) and the ability to juggle a large ensemble with a wide range of character types (see Knives Out and its forthcoming sequel). And while we don’t know yet who will be cast to play Reed Richards, Johnson’s previous work with Joseph Gordon-Levitt (one of my top choices) shows that he can offer audiences a more cerebral protagonist than the standard wise-cracking square-jawed lead.
His Fantastic Four would have a smart, brisk script, visual flourishes (who could forget the Holdo Maneuver shot or the salt planet battle in The Last Jedi), and emotional depth, while still slipping in physical and situational humor. Admittedly, it wouldn’t be saccharine and sweet, as Johnson is always aware of and in dialogue with the genres he employs. He wouldn’t replicate the 1960’s-style exploratory science fiction of a Lost in Space or Doctor Who without also infusing it with self-awareness and recognition of how their familiar tropes have been employed, so that he can subvert them. And in my opinion, the key to a truly great Fantastic Four project in the 2020s will be a willingness to interrogate and subvert well-worn and traditional archetypes, so that modern audiences can engage with them on a deeper level. Johnson has shown the ability to do that, all while still making crowd-pleasing blockbusters.
Torbjorn Frazier on Peyton Reed
Something to consider for the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Fantastic Four is that Kevin Feige and co. may want to play it safe with what could become the MCU’s flagship franchise and go with a more conventional take on the team for the first film. And with that in mind, Peyton Reed would be a logical choice to direct. First and foremost, it is known that Reed was involved with the creation of a Fantastic Four film in the early 2000s that never made it past development hell, so he at minimum has some sort of vision for these characters. Before discussing his involvement with Marvel Studios already, Reed’s direction of the season two finale of The Mandalorian showed that he has the ability to showcase characters and moments with great pathos that resonates greatly with audiences. And when it comes to the Ant-Man films, Reed has shown the ability to create relatable family dynamics that rank among the best in the MCU. Above everything else, Fantastic Four needs to establish the team as Marvel’s First Family, and I fully trust Peyton Reed to do that. And with Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania releasing in less than a year, we will finally get to see what Reed can do in a high-scope and high-concept project that could be critical for the future of the MCU. While not the most appealing to fans at first blush, I truly believe that Peyton Reed would be a serviceable pick for the first Marvel Studios-produced Fantastic Four film.