Fans were ecstatic to learn that not only was a Fantastic Four reboot officially in development at Marvel Studios, but that Jon Watts would be directing it too. Excitement for the project only grew after Spider-Man: No Way Home was released to both critical and fan acclaim for its massive change of status-quo for Tom Holland's Peter Parker and the New York around him.
Things looked promising when it appeared that Marvel Studios' Fantastic Four would be Watts' next film on his slate and that filming for the reboot would begin in 2023. Although, since his announcement and the prospect of filming beginning next year, there hasn't been a peep about any casting of Marvel's first family.
Although, it's perhaps a good thing that casting hasn't begun yet, as Watts has suddenly vacated the director's chair.
Jon Watts Leaves Director Chair Vacant
According to Deadline, Jon Watts, who directed the three MCU Spider-Man movies, including Spider-Man: No Way Home, has exited Marvel Studios' Fantastic Four. He was announced as the reboot's director by Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige at Disney's December 2020 Investor Day presentation.
As far as Deadline's sources could confirm, there was "nothing sinister here" and Watts simply "needs a break" from the superhero genre after finishing the recent Spider-Man trilogy.
In a joint statement from Kevin Feige and Marvel Studios Co-President Louis D’Esposito, they said that while they were "looking forward to continuing our work with [Watts]," they also "understand and are supportive" of him leaving, but are "optimistic" about working with him in the future:
“Collaborating with Jon on the Spider-Man films has been a true pleasure. We were looking forward to continuing our work with him to bring the Fantastic Four into the MCU but understand and are supportive of his reasons for stepping away. We are optimistic that we will have the opportunity to work together again at some point down the road."
Watts shared the following comments on his departure, noting that he's "hopeful" that he'll work within the Marvel Cinematic Universe again in the future:
“Making three Spider-Man films was an incredible and life changing experience for me. I’m eternally grateful to have been a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe for seven years. I’m hopeful we’ll work together again and I can’t wait to see the amazing vision for Fantastic Four brought to life.”
Down But Not Out
It's expected that Watts could still be set to direct Sony's fourth MCU Spider-Man film with Holland and Zendaya. Plus, considering that it's still at least a few years away before Disney and Sony settle on another contract for a new trilogy, the director should have enough time to cool off from big-budget superhero romps.
However, that still leaves the question of who will fill the Spider-Man filmmaker's empty seat. Will Marvel Studios recruit a new director or use someone closer to home? One of the more obvious options is for Ant-Man director Peyton Reed to take the reins, since he's been pushing to direct a Fantastic Four movie for years, even pitching it as a period piece at one point for Fox in the 2000s.
Reed would also be hot off the heels of Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, whose villain, Kang, the Conqueror, could potentially be linked to the MCU's Fantastic Four. So, having Reed be the director for his descendant makes a lot of sense, especially if he were to contribute to the casting of Mr. Fantastic to better match Jonathan Majors' Kang.