Superhero cinema is dominated by bland visuals from boring directors. Why are studios so afraid to step outside the box? No one is opposed to more daring superhero movies, right? Then again, do we really want interesting filmmakers to get stuck in a franchise machine? The following post is free of such dilemmas. These come from an ideal world.
Kathryn Bigelow’s Black Widow
She’s already made one great movie about a globe-hopping intelligence agent on the hunt for bad guys, why not another? This movie needs to distinguish itself dramatically from the rest of its universe. Her visuals have an unpredictability and an edge, a far cry from the glossy digital laminate of Marvel Studios films, but they don’t swing too far to the ugly Zack Snyder end of the spectrum either. Hers is a directorial voice that’s sorely needed in superhero cinema, and Black Widow deserves a feature-length treatment. They’re perfect for each other.
Cary Fukunaga’s Doctor Strange
I know that Scott Derrickson is directing this one, but I doubt his version could be more interesting than a hypothetical Fukunaga version. Fukunaga’s work on True Detective showcases a Lovecraftian “cosmic unknown” integrated seamlessly into a dusty Deep South suburb. It’s a fascinating combination, and it’s the kind of vague mystery that I want to see in a superhero movie. It would do a disservice to Doctor Strange’s interactions with cosmic entities if they were depicted with bland, workmanlike direction. I’m not saying that Derrickson will do this, but Fukunaga has already proven his skill with this visual motif.
David Slade’s Sandman
See above. Slade’s work on Hannibal is nightmarish and cold, with a strong focus on blurring the lines between dreams and reality. To be fair, every director on that series does the same thing, but only Slade and Vincenzo Natali have experience with feature film. Natali is great, but his films lean more towards body horror, so Slade it is. Sandman is perfectly suited to his talents.
Michelle MacLaren’s Hawkeye
This is the Matt Fraction Hawkeye, specifically. MacLaren’s Breaking Bad episodes all feature action sequences that feel big despite their small scale. Hawkeye’s adventures mostly operate on the same level. MacLaren could bring out an urban aesthetic with stylization that doesn’t rely on grit and shadow. She shoots TV with cinema-quality elegance and care, so there’s no need to worry about her being unable to create filmic visuals. I’m surprised she hasn’t broken out already, to be honest.
M. Night Shyamalan’s Batman
Shyamalan is a fantastic director and a terrible screenwriter. I admire a lot of his visual impulses, but they can seem goofy when surrounded by such awful writing. I feel bad for the guy. Imagine a Batman movie with a slowly creeping camera and unnervingly balanced frames. Batman is supposed to be all about fear, right? Make him scary! We don’t need another movie where Batman punches people, we’ve got plenty of those. In any case, Shyamalan’s style would make a great antidote to the incomprehensible chaos of so many superhero films.
Darren Aronofsky’s Hulk
I’ll admit to having a lot of respect for Ang Lee’s version of this character, but that film gave way to nonsense pretty quickly. A Hulk film needs to be about duality at its core, both in Bruce Banner’s dual personalities and in his conflicting feelings towards his other half. Aronofsky’s Black Swan contrasts normalcy and madness to disturbing effect, and I have a feeling he’d be intrigued by the metaphorical significance of Banner’s condition. Maybe we can finally get a Hulk movie that isn’t insane and/or boring.
Kanye West’s Superman
I am dead serious about this. West’s directorial output is limited, and he has yet to take on a feature, but his 30-minute short film Runaway displayed a visual acuity one might not expect from a musician. It’s not a perfect film, or even a great one, but West’s artistic vision is apparent throughout. Now, that film was inspired by his album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, so is there any indication that he would work well with a character he didn’t create? Maybe not, but West’s recent musical output has touched on themes of power and hubris that no prior Superman film has. What if Superman was forced to reckon with the consequences of his actions? What if instead he decided to take a lot of molly and forget his pain? That would be the best superhero movie ever made and you know it.