Posted on Tuesday, January 31st, 2017 by Jacob Hall
Yesterday, Ben Affleck stepped down from directing The Batman. One day, someone is going to write a book explaining exactly what was going on behind-the-scenes at Warner Bros. that led to this revolving door of filmmakers on all of their projects. We’ll surely know someday. But not today.
So today is a day of speculation. As Matt Reeves and Mat Ross emerge as apparent frontrunners, it’s time to do that thing where we make a list of people who should direct the next Batman movie. Some of these names are totally plausible. Some are wishful thinking. Others are here just because the thought of them directing a big-budget superhero movie makes me giggle uncontrollably. Most of all, this an excuse for us to just goof off and daydream while Warner Bros. figures everything out.
The Obvious Choices
Look, the director of Black Swan, The Wrestler, and Requiem For a Dream taking on a comic book movie sounds nutty until you remember that he almost made two of them. Before James Mangold took over, he was going to direct Hugh Jackman in The Wolverine. Before Christopher Nolan showed up with Batman Begins, he was going to take on Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One. The wildly under-appreciated Noah showcased a blockbuster confidence that his smaller thrillers, dramas and horror movies don’t always utilize. So you know what? Give Darren Aronofksy the goddamned Batman.
After the unpleasant gloominess of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, how do you go about making the Dark Knight fun again? Simple: you hire one of the most fun directors working at the moment. Shane Black proved his superhero chops with Iron Man 3, but Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang and The Nice Guys showcase his ability to craft an engaging action mystery where the banter is as thrilling as the gun battles.
There’s a reason Ava DuVernay ends up on every single director wishlist you read on the internet these days: she’s the real deal. Selma is an incredible film, a passionate and beautifully made drama about real heroes and since she’s currently filming the adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time, she’s certainly not above genre material. However, the news that she turned down Marvel’s Black Panther is a sign that she may not have an interest in capes and tights. But let’s be honest here: it’s about time Batman was explored by a storyteller who wasn’t a white man.
F. Gary Gray
Let’s talk about a realistic choice for a moment. F. Gary Gray isn’t going to top any nerd’s dream wish list, but he’s a realistic choice. While his earlier work (including The Italian Job and Law Abiding Citizen) aren’t going to win him a big superhero gig, his more recent work certainly might. Straight Outta Compton was a critical and financial hit, which secured him the job of directing The Fate of the Furious. And the last person to take control of the Fast and Furious series got himself a job directing Aquaman. So watch this space.
Last year, we heard that Doug Liman was going to direct Justice League Dark, a movie that would assemble the DC universe’s weirder characters for a more mystical adventure. We haven’t heard anything since then, so why not consider him for the Batman job? While he’s seen his fair share of lows (Jumper, anyone?), the director of The Bourne Identity and the excellent Edge of Tomorrow has showcased a command of action and character that a great Batman movie will require. It’s hard to imagine Liman making a Batman movie that breaks the mold, but it’s easy to imagine him making one that pushes all of the right buttons in the most satisfying way possible.
It’s strange that Neil Marshall went from being a director of spirited, low-budget genre movies like Dog Soldiers, The Descent and Doomsday to one of the film industry’s go-to guys for expensive, glossy genre television shows like Game of Thrones, Westworld, and Hannibal. It’s time for Marshall, a director with a penchant for both atmosphere and action, to ascend to the comic book blockbuster throne.
Chad Stahelski and David Leitch
The directors of John Wick don’t have to be considered as a pair. After all, Chad Stahelski helmed the upcoming John Wick: Chapter 2 solo and David Leitch is off to direct Deadpool 2. But we’re going to group them together just in case they decided to team up again. Because let’s be honest here: at his best, Batman is the John Wick of superheroes, the terrifying legend that everyone whispers about in the minutes before he bursts out of the shadows to crack some skulls. Most importantly, Stahelski and Leitch managed to infuse John Wick with humor and character on top of the marvelously choreographed action.
Considering all of the behind-the-scenes drama that has seen directors shuffling on and off various DC comic book movies, it would make sense for Warner Bros. to just stick with the people they know. And when it comes to filmmakers already working in this particular stable, I’d much rather see James Wan (who is set to helm Aquaman) take on Batman than Zack Snyder or David Ayer. His horror background is ideal for a superhero who instills fear in his enemies and Furious 7 made it very clear that he knows how to blow things up really well.