I know it's a huge bummer that Iron Man director Jon Favreau told MTV that he's not going to be directing The Avengers, Marvel's forthcoming superhero omnibus film that'll feature the likes of The Hulk, Nick Fury, Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, and whoever else the now Disney-owned studio wants to create a new action figure for. Favreau would love to do it, and he'll executive produce, but logistically he is just not going to be available to direct. Obviously that's not going to stop Marvel from moving forward with the guaranteed moneymaker, so here are five humble suggestions for replacement.
Before we let the fanboy inside us explode at the possibilities, let's keep things a bit grounded. They've got to be directors who could tackle something in the fantasy-action realm and they have to be available; so even though I'd be game for them, busy A-listers like Christopher Nolan or J.J. Abrams just aren't practical.
Hot off the success of the critical and commercial surprise hit of the summer, District 9, Neill Blomkamp is already hard at work scripting his untitled new project that takes place entirely on an alien world. Production is set to begin in January, 2010, which means that he'd be a relatively free to begin work on The Avengers some time in the second half of 2010, film in 2011 for the film's release in 2012.
Now there are a few advantages to going the Blomkamp route. First, he used to be a visual effects specialist, which means he knows the ins and outs of the post-production world. Second, he knows how to squeeze his money's worth out of every penny, as evidenced by the fact that his $30million aliens-on-earth film looks better than $175million G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. Third, he already has geek credibility, so fans will be kind to the transition. Fourth, he's a new talent so he'll probably be cheaper than most Hollywood regulars.
Now the disadvantage is that a Blomkamp-led Avengers film is probably going to have a more in-the-trenches, hand-held look than audiences are accustomed to seeing in their big-budget, superhero blockbusters. Personally, I think this could give the a film a gritty look that would set it apart from every other superhero film on the market, but I can see where the general public might not jive with that particular aesthetic.
Dark City, The Crow and Knowing director Alex Proyas is an underused talent in Hollywood, though I think that has a lot to do with the fact that Proyas was badly burned by the studio system when he worked with Fox on I, Robot. But if someone at Marvel can convince him that they're not a dumbed-down, suit-run studio like Fox, I think he might just be willing to take on a film as large as The Avengers surely will be.
What makes Proyas a perfect contender is how studious he is on the technical side, which always results in films that are nothing short of beautiful to look at. Even if the end result reeks of studio-intervention, I, Robot is a great looking, large-scale sci-fi film, and for what it's worth, I think Knowing is one of the best looking and sounding films of 2009.
So with Proyas, Marvel is bound to get one beautiful looking picture made by a creatively driven director who has already proven capable of making both niche sci-fi films and broad-appeal, box-office loving vehicles for A-list actors like Will Smith. The only problem is that Proyas might not be available in time, depending on how long his Tripods trilogy takes to make.
With only two released films under his belt, District B13 and Taken, Pierre Morel may be the long-shot on this list, but he does have a few things going for him. For starters, he was the cinematographer on several of The Incredible Hulk director Louis Leterrier's previous films (The Transporter and Danny the Dog), so he has a possible in with Marvel should Leterrier want to drop his name. And I don't see any reason he shouldn't, because in addition to being a great cinematographer, Pierre Morel also happens to be one hell of an action director.
Taken was a massive surprise hit at the American box office earlier this year, so Morel has proven capable of earning a nice chunk of change for a distributor. More important than money, however, is quality, and with Taken Morel made one of the best action films of the 2000s, which is mainly because he has all the sensibilities of a '90s director. He's huge on long takes and in-camera stunts (the recent infusion of parkour into Hollywood juggernauts like Casino Royale and Live Free or Die Hard is a direct result of Morel's use of it in District B13), which is something that also defines Jon Favreau's approach to Iron Man, which presumably would have carried over into his hypothetical Avengers film.
As with Blomkamp, Morel isn't a big name in Hollywood, so he'd be relatively cheap to bring aboard the project. And as far as I can tell, Morel doesn't have any huge projects lined up for the next two years, so of everyone on this list, he's also the most available.
Now this is my biggest indulgence on this list, mainly because I wish that Paul Verhoeven made every sci-fi, fantasy film that Hollywood had to offer. The Total Recall, RoboCop, and Starship Troopers director has spent the last few years working back in Europe, but I think it's high time he returned to the United States to make another film like the brilliant, effects-loving spectacles that helped define geekdom of the '80s and '90s.
As far as availability goes, I think Verhoeven's schedule is, for the most part, open at the moment. So that just means that the only obstacle to getting him on board is having someone at Marvel help him get over his disenchantment with Hollywood. Though I suppose another, rather large obstacle might be the fact that Paul Verhoeven almost exclusively makes R-rated films that deftly mix sex and violence in ways that no PG-13 superhero movie ever will.
Now that's not to say that Verhoeven is incapable of making a film without a few bare chests and a gallons upon gallons of blood, but Marvel may have to keep a close eye on the set. But with the right opportunities given, I believe that Verhoeven could deliver one hell of a superhero film that would do for the imagination of today's generation what RoboCop did for kids in the '80s.
While I would love to see an Avengers film made by any of the four directors above, of all the considerable talents on this list, Stardust and Layer Cake director Matthew Vaughn probably has the best shot. He was the original choice for X-Men 3 before he voluntarily walked off the project (as with Proyas, Fox's meddling was too much of a compromise) and went and made Stardust, the most under-appreciated fantasy film of the last decade. But my love for Stardust isn't what has me convinced he could tackle the superhero heavy requirements of The Avengers.
No, it's his work on his own breed of superhero film, Kick-Ass, that has me hoping Marvel lets him take over for Jon Favreau. And yet, I'll confess that I haven't even seen any footage from his high schoolers as superheroes film, I just know two things. One, Lionsgate liked the film so much they paid $50million dollars to acquire the distribution rights to it. Two, the buzz behind it is massive; the people who have seen glimpses of the final product say that Matthew Vaughn has delivered one of the most unique superhero films ever made, a film that is going to further launch and re-launch the careers of both its cast and its director.
I don't believe Vaughn has his name firmly attached to the director's chair of any films currently in production, so I imagine he is logistically free to unite Iron Man, Thor, Captain America and all the rest. It's only a matter of whether or not Marvel sees in him what Lionsgate saw in Kick-ass.