The Top 7 Directors Who Could Replace Ben Affleck on 'The Batman'
by Dan Marcus
January 31, 2017
The trades were predicting it for a few weeks. Ben Affleck was even hinting at it for a while. Now it's official. Warner Bros and Ben Affleck announced together on Monday night that Ben Affleck will not be directing The Batman movie as previously planned. Affleck will remain on the project as a producer and star. With Affleck no longer directing the film, there's already a long list of possible candidates who could replace him. Variety reports that Warner Bros already has a shortlist, and there's going to be immense speculation as to who will be on that list. So we decided to put together our own dream list of directors who could replace Affleck on The Batman and make a kick ass, dark, yet different movie about the World's Greatest Detective.
Some of the top directors working today are going to be meeting with Warner Bros executives over the next couple weeks for the coveted gig. You can bet directing the next Batman film is going to be a hot commodity for many directors, no matter if they are industry veterans or newcomers to Hollywood with only a couple of indies on their belt. After all, Christopher Nolan had only directed a couple of films before Warner Bros hired him to direct Batman Begins back in 2003. So, with that in mind, let's take a look at some of our picks of the best candidates who could replace Affleck as director on The Batman. Here are the 7 we recommend:
#1 - Matt Reeves
War for the Planet of the Apes director Matt Reeves is the first person to be on that shortlist, which makes sense given Reeves' history of tackling tentpole films such as the Planet of the Apes remakes with style and artful sophistication. Reeves was also on the shortlist to direct Man of Steel before Zack Snyder was hired to helm the superhero origin story. Reeves got his start directing found footage movie Cloverfield for producer J.J. Abrams. He then honed his talent with the American remake of Let Me In in 2010. Reeves proved he could bring an enormous amount of nuance and subtlety to this story, directing a remake many thought was on par or even superior to the original. He has further honed his skills with the Planet of the Apes films, blending artistry and big budget spectacle with aplomb. Reeves would be an excellent choice to tackle the Dark Knight, bringing a certain level of gravitas that would more than elevate Geoff Johns' screenplay.
#2 - Mira Nair
This is a name you probably won't find on any other list of candidates for The Batman. Truth be told, most Warner Bros executives probably won't even be thinking of Mira Nair. However, she's a very capable and talented director who has been consistently making great films since the 70's. She's been gradually making a name for herself in the States with New York, I Love You, Vanity Fair and The Namesake. Nair has been branching out lately, having directed the suspense thriller The Reluctant Fundamentalist in 2012 starring Riz Ahmed and Kiefer Sutherland. Nair's most recent film, Queen of Katwe, received plenty of positive buzz last year. Nair is the kind of bold choice that would make a very interesting, compelling and different kind of Batman film. Warner Bros has prided themselves with being a filmmaker-driven studio, so by hiring Nair it would be embracing that by giving a filmmaker like Nair a chance to spread her creative wings. She may feel like an out-of-left-field choice, but at the time so were Christopher Nolan, Bryan Singer, Jon Favreau, etc.
#3 - David Fincher
The most obvious choice to helm a Batman movie will be David Fincher, who has made a name for himself directing stylish, gritty and dark crime thrillers such as Se7en, Fight Club and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Fincher has been up for superhero movies before. For a while he was in consideration to direct The Amazing Spider-Man, but took himself out of consideration not before long. Fincher has gone on record saying he doesn't really like superhero movies, saying "I find [them] dull." However, the appeal of reuniting with Gone Girl co-star Ben Affleck might make directing The Batman a more appealing prospect for the notoriously picky director. Fincher would be an excellent choice, bringing his artistic precision and knack for impressive imagery to the Dark Knight with effortless skill. It would be up to Fincher himself if he truly wanted the gig or not. If he did, there would be no doubt he could deliver a truly outstanding Batman film.
#4 - Denis Villeneuve
Denis Villeneuve is also someone who is very likely already on WB's shortlist. Villeneuve had an amazing year in 2016 with the science-fiction film Arrival, garnering eight Academy Award nominations including Best Director for Villeneuve himself. The talented auteur has Blade Runner 2049 coming out later this year and has been attached to remake Dune for Legendary. The prospect of directing Dune may make Villeneuve unavailable to direct The Batman, but given his relationship with Warner Bros – which is distributing Blade Runner 2049 – you can bet he'll at least be considered. Villeneuve is another outstanding visualist, who would no doubt bring a sense of understated artistry to Batman. He has never done an outright action film before, so his style may not meld with a superhero film. However, if WB is looking to take a risk, hiring Villeneuve would be a surefire way to ensure this next Batman would be well-received by critics and fans.
#5 - Gavin O'Connor
Gavin O'Connor, who most recently directed Ben Affleck in The Accountant in 2016, will likely also be in consideration. He's experienced and he's done action films before, so he has shown he has the chops for the gig. The only snag is that O'Connor is currently attached to directing a Green Hornet reboot for Paramount. You can bet O'Connor would leave that project in a heartbeat if it meant tackling the Caped Crusader, however. O'Connor may not be the most inspired choice, but he has proven he can work well with Affleck, produce results and get the job done. His film Warrior, co-starring Batman alum Tom Hardy, was a riveting display of heartfelt bravado. O'Connor definitely has what it takes to make a sufficient Batman film. The real question will be if he'll be able to deliver the kind of Batman movie that WB, Affleck and fans will demand.
#6 - Duncan Jones
Another name who you can expect to be rumored a lot will be Duncan Jones. Jones has been up for a fair amount of blockbusters before. He was even in consideration to direct Man of Steel before Zack Snyder took the job. Jones' last movie, Warcraft, did incredible box office overseas despite not clicking with audiences here in the States. Regardless, Jones has some major geek cred having directed the indie darling Moon, so he'll be mentioned quite a few times until a director is officially announced. He'll probably reject it, though, as he did Man of Steel. Jones has said before he wants to make a name for himself doing smaller projects, such as his upcoming sci-fi film Mute. Then again, Jones did direct Warcraft, a huge blockbuster, so he might be more inclined to tackle the Caped Crusader with that experience under his belt. He proved with Moon he can handle heady themes and dramatic narratives with ease. Source Code proved he can handle an A-list star, a riveting story and stellar visual effects. Jones surely has the sensibilities to make a tremendous Batman movie. It boils down to whether or not he'll have the desire to jump into the blockbuster ring again.
#7 - Darren Aronofsky
Darren Aronofsky will also be a director that will be brought up a lot as well. Aronofsky has had a storied history with the Dark Knight, having been attached to helm an adaptation of Frank Miller's dark graphic novel Batman: Year One almost two decades ago. Aronofsky was at one point slated to direct The Wolverine starring Hugh Jackman, but bowed out to direct Noah. It's unsure if Aronofsky still has any desire to make a superhero movie, but Batman is a perfect fit for his darker, more psychological tendencies. Aronofsky has proven he can handle Batman's darker nature with such films as Requiem for a Dream and Black Swan, which is why he was under consideration all those years ago before Christopher Nolan was tapped to direct. He's also proven he can handle a blockbuster after Noah performed well overseas when it was released in 2014. Similar to Jones, it will depend entirely on if Aronofsky actually wants the job. He ended up leaving The Wolverine because he wanted to make Noah instead. Time will tell if Aronofsky still has any desire to bring his dark and gritty sensibilities to the Dark Knight. If he chooses to do so, however, you can bet he'll deliver a movie that could rival Christopher Nolan's trilogy when it comes down to psychological darkness.
No matter who directs, they'll be tackling a project that has been under a lot of media scrutiny. Ben Affleck was under an intense amount of pressure to deliver a Batman film that lived up to Nolan's previous trilogy. Affleck even stated: "I'm sure that's going to be the most pressure, the most stress I have ever experienced in my professional life." That was before he even started a single day of filming. While his performance in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was praised by most fans and critics alike, his portrayal had a more divisive reaction from fans. Affleck's Batman was older, wearier – but also considerably more violent, killing people with little regard or consequence. The reactions to Suicide Squad weren't any better, so whoever ends up directing The Batman has big expectations to manage, including a divisive fanbase to keep at bay.
If DC's Wonder Woman and Justice League movies are big hits, then that will help things considerably. If both flop and/or under-perform – and early rumors have suggested both could be “disasters" – then it will make directing The Batman an even bigger challenge for whoever is chosen to direct. With that kind of pressure, it makes sense Affleck wanted to drop out. It also makes dropping out of starring in a Batman movie easier if WB doesn't have a good summer. The Batman is still currently slated to begin production by this summer, depending if someone gets hired soon enough to inherit the keys to the Batmobile and can keep the engine running. Whoever gets those keys will have to navigate an already bumpy road, and a possibly even bumpier road ahead. Fortunately the Dark Knight is accustomed to dealing with rough terrain.
Let's hope whoever Warner Bros chooses to lead the Dark Knight on his next epic adventure is equipped to handle some bumps in the road as well. We'll know soon. So who do you want to direct The Batman?