Who should be on Christopher Nolan’s ‘Superman’ shortlist?

Posted by · 10:22 am · September 24th, 2010

My RSS feed was absolutely stuffed to the brim with the clamoring re-reporting of the geek press’s favorite story of the week yesterday: OMG! Christopher Nolan is meeting with a shortlist of potential “Superman” directors!

Except the list is all wrong. The names: Tony Scott, Matt Reeves, Jonathan Liebsman, Duncan Jones and Zack Snyder.  Now, I love Reeves and Jones (the two getting most people excited) as much as the next guy. But they don’t feel thematically right for this material. And Superman boasts a scope that these directors, however talented on a smaller scale, have yet to prove capable of navigating.

Liebsman, meanwhile, is the intriguing up-and-comer pick, and though I haven’t seen “Battle: Los Angeles,” I feel like this is just a way to insert some in-house cross-promoting potential (“from the director of ‘Clash of the Titans 2,’” you know?). And Snyder, well, I wouldn’t be entirely against it, but I’d know from the start that it would be a stylistic divergence unsuitable to the character.

Scott is really the most interesting pick of the bunch, and if this were pre-frenetic filmmaking Scott (i.e. pre-“Enemy of the State”), I’d be all about it. I’d say the guy who copped Scott’s early style would be a better pick…

That’s right, Michael Bay (who has been on this shortlist in the past). Say what you want about the guy, I think his sense of scope and the Americana that has found its way into stuff like “Armageddon” and “Pearl Harbor” would work wonderfully for this character. After all, if it’s a great script, it should be clear sailing.  Let’s start there for a change.

Not working for you? Okay, how about dusting off Kerry Conran and his brother’s career, suiting them back up for a throwback style that would be incredibly unique for the character?

Still not working? Alright, a few other ideas:

Ben Affleck. No, seriously. He proved with “The Town” that he can handle action just fine and he’s quite serious as a filmmaker these days. We all know it’s about “what have you done for me lately,” after all.

Philip Noyce. I think it’s clear with Tony Scott’s presence on the list that all involved are looking to outside-the-box people along the lines of Joe Johnston, Kenneth Branagh, Gavin Hood and Martin Campbell, each tackling their own superhero franchises as of late. This would lack stylistic flourishes but it would be a controlled auctioneer from a seasoned helmet.

J.J. Abrams. He’s probably over the Man of Steel at this point (following screenplay involvement years ago). But is there any doubt he wouldn’t nail it?

Roland Emmerich. You want scope? I got yer scope.

Those are just a few off the top of my head, but any of them would be a better choice, in this humble geek viewer’s opinion, than the handful Nolan is combing over at this very moment.

What say you? And while we’re at it, let’s dust off the sidebar poll. Vote on which of the shortlist you’d rather see tackle the Son of Krypton.

[Photo: DC Comics]




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68 responses so far

  • 1 9-25-2010 at 12:15 am

    Will said...

    Please, don’t even think of handing the reins to Zack “The Visionary Director” Snyder.

    And NO to Michael Bay as well. Nolan may be a fan of his, but I don’t think he’s that big a fan that he’ll select Bay to direct DC’s other linchpin superhero (It would be like Nolan being a fan of McDonalds, but in no way will he take a woman there for a date).

  • 2 9-25-2010 at 11:12 am

    drbenway said...

    “I don’t really think there’s anything about Jones’s (admittedly small sampling) work so far to suggest he has the thematic stroke that dovetails with Superman”

    I don’t know that that’s true, Kris. You have the usual identity crisis issues but, more interesting than that, Moon captures a mood of intense, interplanetary loneliness. It is about a foreigner who cannot go home. Emotionally, I think it’s right on the money for a Superman treatment.

  • 3 9-25-2010 at 11:15 am

    drbenway said...

    One also imagines the baggage of being the son of David Bowie would bring with it feelings of profound alienation.

    There also exists already more than one Bowie-Nolan connections, a shared love of Ridley Scott films, and similar cultural and professional backgrounds.

    To me, this all adds up.

  • 4 9-25-2010 at 11:17 am

    drbenway said...

    So, sorry, one more:

    AND there are major thematic parallels between Moon and Nolan’s work, mainly centered on the idea of the double and its inherent paradoxes and existential anxieties. There is also something vaguely noir about Moon, in that it is about a man whose life has been deeply influenced by forces beyond his control. Robot Kevin Spacey would be the “femme fatale”, in this case.

  • 5 9-25-2010 at 11:46 am

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    I don’t think there is an “identity crisis” theme in Superman. At all. Nothing that goes deeper than the surface, anyway.

  • 6 9-25-2010 at 1:13 pm

    mono no aware said...

    Interesting ideas floating around here. Funny no one’s mentioned Carl Eric Rinsch – though I know he’s yet to prove himself – or Joseph Kosinski.
    To make it interesting, it’d have to be a new visionary. I’d put my money on Duncan Jones, though Neil Blomkamp would be interesting as well.
    Also surprised there’s no mention of Darren Aronofsky. He knows the craft and would no doubt have an interesting existential perspective.
    Other visionaries: Mark Romanek or Chan Wook Park.

  • 7 9-25-2010 at 2:08 pm

    drbenway said...

    Yes, Kristopher, which is why I kind of glossed over it. There is the MATTER of identity, let’s say. Anyway, it’s not the key issue, which I think my comment was clear about.

    Though perhaps I concede too easily. I’m not an expert on the character, but I’m under the impression that Superman has indeed dealt with major identity issues revolving around him being a member of NEITHER race or society (human/Kryptonian), or a member of BOTH. I think there’s typically been a great deal of tension there, previous movies included.

  • 8 9-25-2010 at 2:15 pm

    drbenway said...

    Also, my name is Michael, in case you’d like to adopt a condescending, pedantic tone with me, also. I was actually just trying to identify who I was speaking to.

  • 9 9-25-2010 at 4:08 pm

    Alex said...

    WB should take a look at Source Code. If it is great, they should give it to Duncan Jones.

  • 10 9-25-2010 at 5:29 pm

    Jacob S. said...

    @56: Joseph Kosinski is pretty tied to Disney right now. He’s become very loyal to them so he wouldn’t do a Warners project. Besides, he’s super busy with a second TRON sequel already ready for the fast track, Oblivion, and Black Hole.

  • 11 9-26-2010 at 8:59 am

    ninja said...

    I`m with Kris on Bay. He can shoot Americana like nobody`s business and with strong script by Team Nolan, it should be clear sailing indeed.

    Plus Nolan loves Bay movies, as noted already, and the two are good freinds.

    Plus HeadGeek posted in AICN thread that he`s hear off hand that none of those names is really considered. And than he sighed. As in “sigh because director hated on AICN is going to direct”. Can we Bay supporters hope it`s Bay? After all, Bay did say transformers 3 is the last for him. So maybe he` s clearing his schedule for something else?

    If not Bay, Abrams would be amazing. Star Trek was absolutely adorable and charming and that`s what Sup[erman movie should be, no emo crap.

    Brad Bird would be very cool but he`s wasting his talent on MI4…does anyone really want more of those movies?

  • 12 9-26-2010 at 9:38 am

    Chad Hartigan said...

    ninja- I’d much rather see another Mission: Impossible than another Superman

  • 13 9-26-2010 at 3:03 pm

    Lev Lewis said...

    The whole project seems ridiculously unnecessary, however Joe Wright is by far the best option I’ve heard. “Hanna” will be the test, I suppose.

  • 14 9-26-2010 at 3:43 pm

    ninja said...

    But Joe Wright makes boring movies! SR was boring enough, no need for another. And he would cast Ronan as Lois Lane or something. He casts her in everything.

    Chad – I`d see MI4 only if Renner is the lead and Cruise is hardly in it. I don`t dislike him but I totlaly adore Renner and want him to be a big star.

  • 15 9-26-2010 at 3:58 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    Saoirse Ronan was so good in “Pride and Prejudice” and “The Soloist.” She never gets enough credit for those performances.

  • 16 9-27-2010 at 11:22 am

    Jason said...

    Actually Kris,

    I disagree with both list of choices but not whole heatedly.
    From your list:
    Noyce is a solid journeyman director but I fear his Supes would be too generic.
    Bay is a very, very bad choice and given his track record, I surprised that you even mentioned him.
    Abrams wouldn’t do it at this point.
    Emmerich is a disaster film maker, let’s leave him at that.
    Affleck is interesting I just can’t see it.
    As for Nolan’s “List”:
    Liebesman is just plain wrong. Sure Battle: Los Angeles sounds cool but we don’t know yet. Plus, he directed Darkness Fall and Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Begining. Terrible films.
    Scott is too busy over editing his films so, I feel at this point his Supes would be frenectic and lacking focus.
    Snyder, who I admire, is too much of a visual stylist for the Superman material. Let him continue in his own direction.

    These are who I feel would definately be up for the task:
    Kevin Conran. Sky Captain has some stylish visuals, yes. But that film really captures they type of spirit needed for Supes. Not to mention, those large scale robots look alot like the robots Superman battled it the animated Fleischer shorts of the ’40’s
    Matt Reeves. Let Me In is already getting alot of great buzz and Cloverfield shows that he has a large heaping of imagination and technical directing skill.
    Spike Jonze. You wanna talk outta the box Kris?
    This guy gave us to very original comedies that were director showcases and then managed to WTWTA to the screen. That alone should garner him consideration.
    Duncan Jones is an interesting choice. I loved Moon. It show’s a director doing so much with nothing. Give him a huge budget and he could probably fly.
    Neill Blomkamp. I’m surprised that he wasn’t mentioned. After all, if you can make 30Mill movie look like that, give him a bigger budget and he may shock the world.
    Brad Bird. 3 brilliant animated classics. Plus he’s switching over to live action. The Incredibles alone shows that he is capable of hitting just the right tone between action and story. Too bad he’s doing M:I 4. He would have been perfect.
    Alfonso Cuaron. Talk about perfect. A director of considerable range. In fact his last 2 films, Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban (still the best) and Children Of Men show that this man can balance the scope, technical wizardry, humor and thematic element in to a cohisive whole.

  • 17 9-27-2010 at 8:09 pm

    Loyal said...

    Add Darren Aronofsky to the list

    http://herocomplex.latimes.com/2010/09/27/darren-aronofsky-among-superman-director-candidates/

  • 18 9-28-2010 at 12:07 am

    mono no aware said...

    I did suggest Aronofsky a couple of days ago, but at the same time I’d be disappointed if he’d end up doing it. I’d much rather see him do his own thing…