With yesterday’s unfortunate news that Ben Affleck will no longer sit in the director’s chair for The Batman, the search is on for a new filmmaker to take over WB’s biggest property. While the loss of Affleck is a definite disappointment, there are far too many talented directors out there for fans to fall into the trap of doom and gloom for the still novel DCEU. The trick will be finding a director who can bring a distinguishable style and visual flair to the film, while still working within the interlocked set-up of a cinematic universe. Directors David Fincher and Darren Aronofksy have been names that fans have tossed around for nearly every modern Batman iteration, with the latter even being attached to direct one before the project fell through and Christopher Nolan came on board. As great as those filmmakers are, and as much as I think they would make interesting Batman films, they’ve shown no inclination to do big-budget franchises, especially ones where they have fit in as part of a puzzle. Variety reported that Matt Reeves is currently on the short-list of directors the WB is interested in, and while there’s no doubt he’d make a fantastic Batman movie, we’re hoping that Planet of the Apes remains his franchise of choice, at least for the immediate future. And there’s always Zack Snyder, who I’d let tackle almost any DC project, but I also think we need this universe to showcase different visions. So with all of that in mind, we’ve narrowed it down to 10 directors, some young bloods and some experienced top-names, who seem to have the time, interest, and ability to deliver a hell of a Batman movie.
With Mendes seemingly finished with the Bond franchise, and his show, Penny Dreadful concluded, the future looks open for Mendes, who’s always been able to add a strong touch of class to more antiquated and pulpy properties. While he does have a couple projects in development, including a live-action adaptation of James and the Giant Peach, none of those projects seem far enough along that he couldn’t take the reins of The Batman. He’s already displays a talent for adapting a dark and crime-riddled comic property with Road to Perdition, and have a marvelous eye for compelling action scenes as evidenced by Skyfall and Spectre. Plus, all of his films show a keen ability to deliver startling psychological examinations about his characters. If he can re-team with Roger Deakins or Hoyte Van Hoytema for The Batman, then we’d have a very impressive look at Gotham City indeed. Also, how cool would it be if Mendes is handed the keys to the Batman franchise, while Nolan takes over Bond?
One of 2016’s hottest new talents, Trachtenberg impressed with 10 Cloverfield Lane and his Black Mirror episode “Playtest.” Surely this filmmaker has a long future of blockbusters ahead of him, and if WB moves quickly they can snatch him up before he signs on to do a Marvel or Star Wars film. He’s already be picked as a fan-favorite to direct The Flash, and while he’d likely to an impressive job with that, his work so far his leaned towards a certain darkness that really puts his characters through a psychological ringer. It’s hard not to imagine what he could do with Batman trapped in Arkham Asylum with his greatest enemies. Maybe he could lure John Goodman and Mary Elizabeth Winstead into The Batman as well. He may not have the same experience as some of the other filmmakers on this list, but modern blockbusters seem to be built on novice directors ready to make a name for themselves, and Trachtenberg is a standout among his peers.
After last year’s horror-thriller The Invitation, I’m intent on suggesting Kusama for as many blockbusters as seem fitting. She has a unique voice that Hollywood hasn’t taken notice of enough, or appreciated enough. While Aeon Flux was a failure that was seemingly beyond Kusama’s control, it stands out on her resume as evidence that she can handle a big-budget film and action sequences. If she’s allowed creative control and can bring the sense of spacing and maddening tension that made The Invitation one of the best films of 2016, then she can surely deliver a Batman film that’s unexpected and richly layered. Her name may not immediately send news sites and fans into a frenzy, but if WB really wants to say that they want the DCEU to be filmmaker driven, then they’ve got to take some chances on filmmakers that may not be on their lists of obvious choices but who have shown remarkable ability nonetheless.
Francis Lawrence has been one of our most consistent filmmakers when it comes to visually impressive films, even when those films don’t always live up to the source material. He has a long resume of big-budget action films (the last three Hunger Games films) and a relationship with WB (Constantine, I Am Legend). In fact, at one point Lawrence was attached to direct Batman vs Superman following I Am Legend, so he has a familiarity with the property and an interest in bringing these characters to life on the screen. He also seems to be a filmmaker who attaches himself to franchises for the long-haul when they work out, so there’s no issue believing that he’d stay on Batman for a trilogy given the success of the first. With the right screenplay, Lawrence could deliver the kind of well-received, global blockbuster that so many have been asking for. While Lawrence’s Batman may not change the visual language of the superhero film like Snyder, there’s no doubt that he would meet the expectations of what’s desired for a Batman film.
Gavin O’Connor already showed his hand at directing a Ben Affleck superhero movie of sorts with The Accountant. Between that film and 2011’s Warrior, O’Connor has displayed a knack for delivering the kind of bone-crunching action worthy of Ben Affleck’s Batman. While the stories that make up his film may be a bit more simplistic than what we want for a Batman film, that’s nothing that a solid script couldn’t change. Despite simple stories, O’Connor has always managed to bring an authenticity to the personal relationships that make up his films. If we’re going to see the Bat-family in The Batman (here’s hoping we do) then there’s no doubt that O’Connor will excel at exploring the relationship between Bruce Wayne and his adopted children, partners, and enemies. While “emotional Batman movie” may not sound like a good pitch on paper, O’Connor could do it and make it badass to match.
The man who could find haunting beauty in a charnel house, Hard Candy, 30 Days of Night and NBC’s Hannibal director, David Slade could certainly deliver a hellish Gotham stalked by a Batman that’s believable for criminals’ fear. While the fact that he directed Twilight: Eclipse may be a turn off from some comic fans unfamiliar with his work, rest assured that the quality of that film was due to the source material and not Slade’s direction. I’ve always been interested in seeing a Batman film done as a horror-detective film, and Slade is the obvious choice for that. He has an unflinching directorial eye, that may not make for the most family-friendly of Batman films, but it would certainly break the seeming genre constraints of the superhero film. While he’s busy directing episodes for the upcoming American Gods at the moment, it’s seems likely his schedule would clear up if a Batman film came his way.
One of the most talented screenwriters of the 21st century, Alex Garland also proved he’s one of our most exciting new filmmakers with the release of his directorial-debut, Ex Machina, in 2015. In that film he displayed a calculated sense of timing that used both theme and character emotion to create a slow drip of revelations that revealed key insights about humanity and the things we think we understand. While his second film, Annihilation isn’t set to be released until later this year, there’s little doubt that it will be as equally impressive as his debut, if not more so. Garland also have experience with comic book properties, having written 2012’s Dredd, and written a comic in Batman: Black and White, entitled “Sunrise.” Garland isn’t known for huge scale stories that utilize a lot of locations or set-pieces, but perhaps a concentrated time and space is what we need for a Batman film in order to differentiate it from what’s come before. If Garland directed, we’d be certain to have the most focused and intimate portrait of Batman.
With Out of the Furnace, Scott Cooper tapped into something deeply American and authentic in its drive and values. With Black Mass, Cooper also used those same American drives, this time to explore the story of a gangster in a film that took real figures and morphed them into characters who would fit just as easily in a comic book as they did in the streets of Gotham. Cooper seems very much tied to exploring modern America through music (Crazy Heart), through poverty (Out of the Furnace) and through the gangster archetype (Black Mass) in what has amounted to a collection of modern fables. It only seems fitting that he would eventually tackle America through the lens of the American comic book. It would be fascinating if Cooper delivered a wider view of Gotham, exploring how poverty creates crimes and how and why Gotham’s richest man decides he can do the most good to combat this situation by dressing up like a bat. While Deborah Snyder supposed that audiences didn’t want to see deconstructions of superheroes after the response of BvS, we need that deconstruction. A Batman film that examines poverty, privilege, addiction, and how ordinary people react to these legendary figures may not deliver the supposed blockbuster elements, it’s just as important a take on mythos as Nolan’s use of our post 9/11 world was.
While MacLaren was already attached to a DCEU project, Wonder Woman, before leaving due to creative differences, we’re hoping that her relationship with the WB wasn’t soured. Evidenced by her television work, including one of the best directed episodes of last year with her episode of Westworld, MacLaren is arguably one of the most talented directors today who hasn’t found the right fit for a blockbuster film. She has a name that fans know, and a catalogue of episodes that show not only a unique voice but a keen eye for character-driven action. She can take a strong script and make visual magic happen, and really what more could we want from a Batman film. Her ideas are bold and sometimes strange, as evidenced by her reported desires for Wonder Woman. These ideas don’t always gel with desires of a studio to bring a character to life on screen for the first time. But Batman is different. We’ve seen numerous Batman incarnations, so if she wants to mess around with supposed fixtures, and go with some of those bold ideas, then we think should do so. After all, Batman is perhaps the comic character most able to bend to new ideas, as evidenced by his history.
This is the big one, the golden goose, and the thing that could really show WB means business. Children of Men director, Alfonso Cuaron has had a great and fruitful relationship with the WB, and as evidenced by his desire to do another Harry Potter film if the opportunity arose, he’s not opposed to working in a big-budget franchise again. With David Yates set to direct every Harry Potter-related film until the end of time, Cuaron will have to get his franchise fix in within another part of WB’s catalogue and The Batman is anything but a step down. Cuaron not only has the aesthetic for a Batman film but he has the technical expertise to take the character to next level. Just imagine the tracking shot he could achieve with Batman. But the most exciting thing about Cuaron is that he’s never one to repeat himself. While I wasn’t the biggest fan of Gravity’s narrative, it’s inarguable that Cuaron really pushes the limits of what film is capable of capturing and delivering in a believable way. The best part of bringing Cuaron on board to The Batman is that we wouldn’t know exactly what to expect, but we’d know it would change the game in some way. That’s what I want from the DCEU most of all, regardless of critics or box office, I want these film to change the game.
Featured Image: Warner Bros. Pictures