The new Fantastic Four casting seems to prove the movie is set in a different MCU

The casting of Julia Garner as the Silver Surfer in the Fantastic Four seems to prove the new movie takes place in a different reality than the MCU we know!
Ozark. Julia Garner as Ruth Langmore in episode 401 of Ozark. Cr. Steve Dietl/Netflix © 2021
Ozark. Julia Garner as Ruth Langmore in episode 401 of Ozark. Cr. Steve Dietl/Netflix © 2021 /

As the new casting of Julia Garner for the MCU Fantastic Four movie comes, so does the apparent confirmation that this film is not going to be set in the main MCU we know. If anything, it points to how Marvel is laying the groundwork for a grand multiverse saga still to come. 

Marvel has been building up for a while for the Fantastic Four. It never made sense for the MCU not to have the characters who started the entire Marvel Comics label back in 1961, but Disney was held back by Fox, who owned the rights to the characters. 

It’s finally going to happen with the cast announced with Pedro Pascal as Reed Richards (aka Mr. Fantastic), Vanessa Kirby asSue Storm (aka the Invisible Woman), Joseph Quinn as Johnny Storm (aka the Human Torch) and Ebon Moss-Bachrach as Ben Grimm (aka the Thing).

Now comes the surprising news that Julia Garner, best known for her multiple Emmy-winning role in the Netflix drama Ozark, is joining as the Silver Surfer. It’s a casting that’s a bit…well, complicated. 

The history of the Silver Surfer

In the now-classic Fantastic Four Vol 1 #48-50, the FF had to defend Earth from Galactus, a monstrous cosmic being who feasts on the energies of entire planets. He was aided by the Silver Surfer, who…well, was a cosmically-powered being of pure silver riding a surfboard through space. 

According to Stan Lee, it was artist Jack Kirby who created the Surfer, arguing that Galactus should have someone scouting planets for him. The surfboard was “because I’m tired of drawing spaceships!”

Seeing the good in humanity, the Surfer turned on Galactus, which led to him being exiled to Earth for years. He gained an origin as Norrin Radd, a scientist from the peaceful world of Zenn-La. When Galactus showed up to make it his next meal, Norrin begged his world to be spared. Impressed by his courage, Galactus offered a Faustian bargain: He would spare Zenn-La if Norrin became his herald to find other planets to feast on. Norrin agreed and was transformed into the Surfer.

Eventually, Norrin broke free of his exile to be a popular figure in Marvel Comics. He would reunite with his love, Shalla-Bal, who, in one of the many alternate realities of Marvel Comics, became the Surfer herself. 

The character was used in 2005’s Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer and various attempts at a solo movie over the years. Which makes the casting of Garner in the role interesting. 

How this different Silver Surfer sets up a different FF and MCU 

Deadline broke the news of Garner’s casting, emphasizing this is Shalla-Bal as the Surfer, not a gender-flipped Norrin. Naturally, some comic book purists are a bit upset, while others think that jumping right to Galactus may be a bit much. Surely, an FF movie should be using Doctor Doom as the key villain, and Galactus should be saved for a later film. But this may actually be part of Marvel’s overall plan, not just for the Surfer but the entire MCU. 

It took a while, but the MCU has finally been playing on how it’s part of a wider multiverse of other Marvel worlds. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness used it with John Krasinski making a cameo as an alternate Reed Richards. The animated What If? series puts a huge focus on various different realities. 

This comes alongside the word that the movie is set in the 1960s. Which means either it’s a strange prequel to the MCU we know and somehow the Fantastic Four have never been mentioned or there’s some sort of shenanigans. One fan theory is the movie ends with the FF traveling through time to find themselves in the present and somehow the world has forgotten about them. That would be a cool idea of them adjusting to this new period even if it retreads the same ground as Captain America.  

Far more likely, this isn’t the same MCU reality. This whole thing can be a setup for the planned Secret Wars movie that will likely involve several realities clashing. The Marvels already set up the idea that the 2000s X-Men movies exist in another reality, so this would make more sense. 

In other words, in this universe, Shalla-Bal, not Norrin, was the one who volunteered to become Galactus’ herald while Norrin was serving Galactus in the main MCU. That could lead to the cool moment of the two Surfers meeting, not unlike how Spider-Man: No Way Home had three Peter Parkers teaming up. 

It’s still early yet as Marvel has yet to comment on the casting. However, before comic book fans get too upset, it seems more likely that rather than a gender flip, casting Garner as the Silver Surfer shows that the MCU is about to go into a wildly cosmic direction for a fantastic new spark. 

The Fantastic Four premieres in theaters July 25, 2025.