Confirming what fans have suspected for a while now, Ben Affleck has announced that he won’t be directing The Batman (although he will remain on board as the star and producer of the film).
It’s a blow for fans who were looking forward to seeing what the director of Gone Baby Gone, The Town and Argo would do with a superhero movie – but it’s not like there’s any shortage of potential replacements.
Affleck has already said he’ll be working with the studio to find a director to collaborate with on the film, so we can assume he’ll continue to have a degree of creative control over the project.
Matt Reeves (Cloverfield, Let Me In, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) was named by ‘sources’ as the most likely pick in the same Variety article that exclusively announced Affleck’s departure, so there’s a good chance the job is his if he wants it.
He’d be a fine choice, too, especially if a little of his lifelong friend and colleague JJ Abrams’ franchise-reviving magic has rubbed off on him over the years.
But if, for whatever reason, Reeves doesn’t end up helming the film, here are 10 directors who could take on The Batman – including one name I think Warner Bros would be absolutely crazy not to bring on board.
The prospect of Dark Knight director Christopher Nolan making a James Bond film has tantalised fans for years – but what if Bond director Sam Mendes took charge of a Batman film?
Mendes took the Bond franchise to new heights of box office success with Skyfall. He knows his way around cars, gadgets and stunts, three important elements of any Batman movie, but – as the director of American Beauty, Revolutionary Road and a number of well-regarded stage productions – he also brings automatic prestige to any project he touches.
Mendes has admitted to taking inspiration from The Dark Knight for Skyfall (something that anyone who has seen both The Dark Knight and Skyfall could probably have told you already), and if he can bring either of his Bond cinematographers – Roger Deakins and Hoyte van Hoytema – with him to Gotham, he might be able to make a Batman film that looks even better than Nolan’s trilogy.
The downside is that Mendes’ late-career turn into blockbuster territory has already fallen prey to the law of diminishing returns – Spectre, his second Bond film, is not as good as Skyfall.
Oh, and as good as both of those films look, and as thoroughly as they tick all the Bond boxes, neither of them make very much sense at all. They’re kind of the Bond equivalents of Jeph Loeb’s overrated Batman stories, in that sense.
If there’s a Bond director I’d really want to see work with Affleck on The Batman, it’s Martin Campbell – not only did he direct two of the best Bond films, Goldeneye and Casino Royale, but he also revived a classic masked vigilante with The Mask of Zorro. And what is Batman, if not a combination of Bond and Zorro?
Alas, Martin Campbell seems to be persona non grata at Warner Bros after directing 2011’s Green Lantern, so Sam Mendes is a far more likely pick.
Fincher has been a popular pick with fans to take the reins of the Batman franchise ever since Christopher Nolan left, and with good reason.
Fincher has made a habit of directing great mystery thrillers like Seven, Zodiac and Gone Girl, and seems like the ideal choice of director to put the ‘detective’ back in ‘the world’s greatest detective’. A distinctive stylist, he’s also shown he’s not averse to genre material with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
Fincher would also be a great pick to resuscitate a couple of the villains we’ve already seen so far in the DCEU – both Jared Leto (Fight Club, Panic Room) and Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network) did some of the best work of their careers under Fincher’s direction.
Of course, he also got a great performance out of Ben Affleck in Gone Girl – but that experience could go either way, in terms of Affleck’s willingness to work with him again.
On the film’s DVD commentary, Fincher gave Affleck the most backhanded of compliments, remarking that Affleck was good at playing a man concealing an affair because “he’s so duplicitious”. Fincher was probably joking, but the quote went viral after Affleck’s separation from Jennifer Garner.
Still, if Fincher can give the commentary track a miss this time, The Batman would be extremely lucky to have him.
Gavin O’Connor is uniquely suited to directing a Ben Affleck Batman movie for Warner Bros, because, well, he’s basically already directed a Ben Affleck Batman movie for Warner Bros.
In 2016’s The Accountant, Ben Affleck’s character is trained to fight from an early age by his father, who is later gunned down in front of him (at his mother’s funeral, no less).
Affleck’s character also travels to Asia to receive martial arts training from a wise old mentor. He develops extraordinary fighting skills in addition to his incredible intellect.
He operates out of a secret lair where he stockpiles weapons and souvenirs, and when he’s out in the field, he communicates with a secret assistant who feeds him mission intel over the phone.
He even has a connection to a Treasury agent played by JK Simmons, who’ll be taking on the role of Commissioner Gordon in The Batman.
Frankly, if I was O’Connor, I’d be a little offended if I didn’t at least get a courtesy call about directing Affleck in an actual Batman film for the studio.
The Accountant was heavily criticised for its depiction of autism – but the Batman franchise, which has been vilifying mental illness for 78 years, is awfully problematic in its own right, so that probably won’t count against him.
Alex Garland did not direct 2012’s Dredd, the ultra-violent comic book movie that failed at the box office but later became a cult hit on home video, but he may as well have.
Garland wrote the script and produced the film, and later took over the editing process, reportedly barring nominal director Pete Travis from taking part.
Still, if there were any doubts about Garland’s significant contributions to Dredd – an action movie that The Batman would do well to emulate – they were erased by his actual directorial debut, 2015’s brilliant Ex Machina.
After more than a decade in the industry, Garland – who also wrote the screenplays for 28 Days Later, Sunshine and Never Let Me Go, as well as the book The Beach was adapted from – is finally a director on the rise, and a massive superhero film like The Batman could give him the box office clout to do whatever he wanted next.
Better yet, he’s actually a Batman fan, and he scripted the acclaimed short comic story, Sunrise, for the third volume of DC’s Batman: Black & White anthology.
Garland is more than qualified to direct The Batman – but, given how his collaboration with Pete Travis on Dredd turned out, you have to wonder how he’d handle taking ‘direction’ from Affleck.
And if he insisted on doing a page one rewrite of the script, it certainly wouldn’t help get The Batman in front of cameras any quicker, which seems to be a priority for Warner Bros.
Yes, I know it sounds like a ridiculous idea, but bear with me here.
Eastwood has long been the Gold Standard at Warner Bros as both a director and an actor. Affleck, after the success of Gone Baby Gone, The Town and Argo, has often been described as the studio’s next Eastwood.
So why not let the legend take the ‘new’ kid under his wing for a movie, and pass the torch from one great slashie to another?
Affleck’s Batman is meant to be an older, wiser and meaner caped crusader – a depiction largely based on Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns, which itself drew plenty of inspiration from Eastwood.
The old gunslinger has well and truly missed his chance to wear the cape and cowl, but he could still be involved as a director – and if you doubt the old man’s ability to craft a great action set-piece at 86, just watch Sully or American Sniper.
Most importantly, Eastwood would lend instant gravitas and credibility to DC’s cinematic universe, which is floundering badly at the moment.
Superheroes may not be Eastwood’s cup of tea, but if he could be persuaded that this is a dark, adult-oriented vigilante film worthy of his time – or if Warner Bros is willing to drive a truck full of cash to his house – he might be willing to do this to ensure he’s leaving the studio in good shape.
Still, it’s a ridiculous idea… isn’t it?
Tim Miller ‘broke through’ as a director last year with the monster hit that was Deadpool, but he’s not exactly a newcomer.
As one of the co-founders of Blur Studios, Miller had been directing cinematic cutscenes and trailers for video games for years.
Just watch the trailer he directed for Batman: Arkham Origins, in which Batman takes on Deathstroke (who has already been confirmed as the villain of Affleck’s Batman movie).
Well, you probably have at least one – didn’t Tim Miller leave Deadpool 2 after clashing with Ryan Reynolds? Yes, but that was because Miller wanted to make a more ‘stylised’ superhero film, while Reynolds wanted to stick with the raunchy comedy that worked the first time around.
It’s hard to see Warner Bros having a problem with Tim Miller wanting to bring his style to Batman, though.
Miller does have a few projects on his plate at the moment, but JJ Abrams was all booked up when Disney bought Lucasfilm, too, and we all know how that turned out.
Yes, Warner Bros is looking at Matt Reeves – but they might also want to consider his Cloverfield collaborator, Drew Goddard.
Goddard cut his teeth working with Joss Whedon on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel and JJ Abrams on Alias and Lost, but he’s since come into his own as a fully-fledged geek idol.
Goddard directed The Cabin in the Woods, one of the best horror-comedies of this or any other decade, and he wrote the screenplay for the surprise Brad Pitt zombie hit, World War Z.
For our purposes, it’s probably most notable that he developed Netflix’s Daredevil, which was a great vigilante superhero show for at least one season, although he had to withdraw from showrunning duties fairly early on in the process.
He’s been circling a superhero film for a while. He was attached to write and direct a movie based on Spider-Man villains The Sinister Six before Sony’s Andrew Garfield-verse collapsed, and he was also considered to direct Marvel and Sony’s rebooted Spider-Man before they ultimately went with Jon Watts.
He also wrote the screenplay for The Martian, which gave Affleck’s buddy Matt Damon one of the best roles of his career.
Whether it’s The Batman or not, it seems like a safe bet that Drew Goddard will be attached to another major superhero film soon.
Wait a second – why would the first (and only) woman to win a Best Director Oscar want to waste her time with a Batman movie?
The truth is that Bigelow’s critical success somewhat obscures the fact that she’s a great action movie director. Never forget, for instance, that she directed Point Break, everybody’s favourite surfing-and-skydiving epic and the blueprint for the entire Fast & Furious franchise.
She also directed the dark western vampire flick, Near Dark, and the sci-fi noir film, Strange Days. Even The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty contained an unusual amount of action for films that were showered with Oscar love.
Of course, just because she’s a great action director doesn’t mean she has any interest in helming a Batman movie. But it’s got to be at least worth asking the question, because as great as it is that Patty Jenkins is directing Wonder Woman, it’d be nice to see more women directing superhero films, even if they don’t have women in the lead role.
It only seems to be superhero films that ‘typecasts’ directors like this – consider that Ryan Coogler was brought in to direct Black Panther, and not, say, Doctor Strange – and it’d be good to get past it.
And diversity aside, how great would it be to see a Batman film getting Oscar buzz again? With Bigelow, that’d be possible.
Kevin Smith’s Batman comics haven’t all been winners, but he does have a decent track record in the industry, with popular runs on Daredevil and Green Arrow to his name, as well as the fun Batman ’66 Meets the Green Hornet crossover.
And while his films aren’t exactly known for their action sequences, he has directed episodes of The Flash and Supergirl for The CW.
But let’s be honest – the appeal of Kevin Smith directing a Batman movie wouldn’t be the movie itself (which could very much go either way, to say the least), it would be the stories that would come out of it.
Can you imagine how interesting Smith’s Fatman on Batman podcast would be if he was literally directing a Batman movie? They might even talk about Batman once in a while!
More importantly, it’d bring two men – two colleagues, two friends, two brothers in Bat-love – together after too long apart. Smith says he hasn’t spoken to Ben Affleck in years, but that’s no reason for them not to work together. It’s just the set-up for an incredible comeback story.
And if it all ends in tears – well, the DCEU wasn’t going that well anyway, and Smith will get at least one speaking tour out of it, so it won’t be a total disaster.
Look, I’m a Batman fan, and I’m going to see this Batman movie no matter who ends up in the director’s chair. But if Warner Bros and DC Comics want this movie to be one for the ages, they should hire Gareth Evans.
The Welsh director has carved out a niche for himself in Indonesia, directing martial arts films Merantau, The Raid and The Raid 2.
They’re all great, but The Raid 2 is special. It’s one of the greatest action films of all time.
The fight choreography is flawless, but it also goes way beyond martial arts to tell the sort of epic crime story that the best Batman comics and films aspire to. It’s beautifully shot; it has memorable, quirky villains; and it contains what might be the best car chase ever projected onto the big screen.
And he did it all for $4.5 million.
If we can agree that the best parts of Batman v Superman were Batman’s action sequences – and I think we can – than we need to go all-in with The Batman and make sure that this aspect of the film, at least, is perfect. And if Gareth Evans is on board, it will be.
While the DCEU has, so far, largely been an exercise in squandering the advantages afforded to filmmakers by huge budgets, beloved characters and a library of great storylines, Gareth Evans will squeeze every last drop of value out of what he has to work with.
He will create a DC film that wildly exceeds expectations for once.
Can you even begin to imagine what a fight between Batman and Deathstroke staged by Gareth Evans would look like? I can’t.
But I’d love to see it.