Mark Millar and Matthew Vaughn are slowly, surely building a shared filmography that is absolutely positively comic book crazy, and it looks like little by little, they’re taking over 20th Century Fox’s entire superhero agenda.
When I first talked to Vaughn about Millar’s work in the days leading up to his decision to option the rights to “Kick-Ass,” it was obvious that Vaughn responded to Millar’s storytelling on an almost chemical level. It’s not just which stories Millar was telling, but his voice. Vaughn loves to throw a shot to the ribs of propriety whenever he can, and in Millar, he seems to have found a fellow provocateur.
What I respect about Vaughn is the way he’s built a very loyal crew that works for him not only when he’s directing but also when he’s producing. When I was on the set for “Kick-Ass 2,” it may have been a Jeff Wadlow film, but I saw the same familiar faces in many of the key technical positions that I’ve seen on “Stardust” and “Kick-Ass” and “X-Men: First Class.” His collaboration with Jane Goldman has been incredibly important to the overall voice of his films, and I would imagine Jane will be part of everything moving forward as long as Hollywood doesn’t finally figure out that she’s awesome and work her so hard that she’s no longer got time to be part of each of Matthew’s movies.
And now, with Mark Millar, Vaughn seems to be teaming up on more and more things, and in particular, he’s in the mix as Millar spearheads an effort to turn Fox’s superhero films into some sort of shared world, or at least a unified approach. “Kick-Ass 2” is coming later this year, and one of the reasons that Vaughn decided against directing the upcoming “X-Men: Days Of Future Past” is because he and Millar are worried that someone’s going to make something that might ruin their ability to shoot “Secret Service.” They want to get started on that sooner rather than later, and last I heard, that was Vaughn’s first priority as a director.
He’s still involved as a producer on “X-Men: Days Of Future Past,” and now it looks like he’s also going to be producing “Fantastic Four,” which Josh Trank will be directing. Trank directing “Chronicle,” which I think nicely established what sensibility he’ll be bringing to the Marvel universe, and Jeremy Slater is set to write the film. You may not be familiar with Slater yet, but his script “Man Of Tomorrow” was about as strong a qualification as anyone could have offered for this particular job, and I know that Slater is a rabid Fantastic Four fan. He loves these characters, and it sounds to me like there’s a very strong creative team in place.
With Vaughn and Millar both taking larger and larger roles in Fox’s overall superhero plan, it sounds like they’re going to be a major part of figuring out how to create an overlapping reality that not only encompasses all of the Marvel properties that Fox owns, but that leaves room for what has become the holy grail for all of the studios in town right now, figuring out a way to cross their properties over into the world of “The Avengers.” I would love to be in a room and hear the discussions about how Sony and Fox and anyone else holding a Marvel character plan to make the most of that in the very near future.
For now, though, Fox just wants to make sure that the things they still own all work, and that audiences genuinely want to see as ongoing series. Sure, they managed to make two “Fantastic Four” films, but they both felt like contractual obligations, without a hint of the wit or the life that are certainly possible with the characters. It seems to me that “Fantastic Four” should be an even bigger, poppier, right down the middle mainstream entertainment than the “Spider-Man” films. I have always felt like “Fantastic Four” should be fun, and I didn’t think the two films that Tim Story made were fun in any way.
Finding a way to make a “Fantastic Four” that sets its own tone and somehow also will manage to connect to the world that Bryan Singer’s “X-Men: Days Of Future Past” sounds like it is creating won’t be easy, and I doubt it’ll be that direct. I can’t imagine they’re going to spend a lot of energy making the connections explicit right off the bat. What it sounds like they’re doing is making sure there is an overall integrity and reality that will sign these as Fox’s movies, and Vaughn is part of that creative team that’s going to be defining what that means.
Right now, “Fantastic Four” is set for release on March 6, 2015, and I think it’s going to be one of the most interesting of the superhero films currently in development. I am positively desperate to see the first image of the team, of the Thing, of the world itself, because I have faith we’re going to see something new, and I hope worth the wait.