So, here we are. After months of being assured that Ben Affleck would definitely direct his #Batman solo movie, just not until the script was perfect, the news broke this week that he won't, in fact, be sat in the director's chair when the movie eventually begins filming — and not just because he's the kind of director who prefers to stand up. No, Affleck has fled the scene of the crime. Sayonara, bitches!
But it doesn't take the world's greatest detective to identify a few names who'd make a suitable replacement for the man who'll still be playing Bruce Wayne by day and the Caped Crusader by night. Despite the fact that directing in the #DCEU is a bit like using hot coals as dice in a game of Monopoly: Gotham Edition — you gon' get burned — the character remains such hot property that some of Hollywood's biggest names will be falling over themselves to take the reigns of this movie.
One of those names is Matt Reeves, director of the excellent Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes, and its upcoming sequel War For The Planet Of The Apes. Reeves is apparently being considered to take over from Affleck, but he's not the only one who could make a go of it. Let's take a look at six serious contenders to direct The Batman.
1. David Fincher
Why he'd be great: Christopher Nolan is widely considered to have made one if not two of the best superhero movies ever with the character of Batman to play with. Like Nolan, the worlds Fincher creates on-screen are dark places inhabited by disturbed people. He got an excellent performance out of Ben Affleck in Gone Girl, and that pre-existing actor-director chemistry makes him a great fit for The Batman. All of Fincher's movies receive critical acclaim, and he's an absolute master of VFX who could create a more distinctive Gotham City than any we've seen on the big screen in years.
Why he might not: Fincher is notorious for demanding big budgets to work with and going over. In 2015, his HBO series Utopia was cancelled when the network refused to give him a budget north of $100m. A few months earlier, his other HBO project, Videosynchrazy, died after five episodes were shot. His last big-budget movie, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, cost $90m and didn't make enough to be profitable. He demands a level of creative freedom that Warner Bros. would never give him.
Ultimately... This is David fucking Fincher, yo! Arguably the best director working today, he hasn't put a foot wrong since, well, Alien 3. It will never happen, but Batman through the clinical lens of Fincher is my beautiful dark twisted fantasy.
2. Darren Aronofsky
Why he'd be great: Many of Aronofsky's characters — the drug addicts of Requiem For a Dream, Black Swan's tormented Nina Sayers — are lonely people, and Batman is often a lonely character. While Nolan's attempts at psychology were sometimes hollow, Aronofsky would do a stellar job of getting into Bruce Wayne's head and peeling back the layers of his damaged psyche. He can make a small budget go a long way (Noah cost $125m but looked sensational) and he always gets the very best of the actors he works with, from Micky Rourke to Natalie Portman.
Why he might not: People love to complain that the DCEU is too dark. If Aronofsky has the chance to play in the sandbox, everything will become pitch black. He's typically interested in characters who are driven to the brink of insanity by addiction and alienation, themes which could definitely be applied to Batman but might just amplify the criticism of DC's bleak universe. His first and so-far only blockbuster, Noah, was not a runaway success financially or critically.
Ultimately... Aronofsky's next project, Mother, is another small-budget thriller, and that seems to be where he's most comfortable. I don't imagine he's waiting by the phone for a call from DC.
3. George Miller
Why he'd be great: Four words — Mad Max: Fury Road. Five words — the other Mad Max films. And five more — Babe: Pig In The City. (I'm not even kidding.)
Miller is a visionary who knows exactly how to make a mass-appeal blockbuster with superbly-drawn characters, exceptional visuals and brilliant performances from his cast. His use of practical effects rather than CGI to complete the intricate stunts on Fury Road created a movie which felt far more real than most Hollywood blockbusters, and what little VFX the movie did have was all supremely well executed.
Why he might not: There's really only one reason Miller might not be the perfect candidate, and that's that he takes literally years making his films. Fury Road began shooting, after various delays, in 2012, and didn't hit theaters until 2015. DC need a proper smash hit much sooner than three or four years from now. He would also want to write the script, which would meaning starting from scratch, and he may be busy working on that mysterious Mad Max sequel.
Ultimately... If he could commit on a tight timescale, Miller would perhaps be the most objectively strong contender on this list.
More On 'The Batman':
- Breaking In Gotham: Why Ben Affleck Won't Direct 'The Batman'
- Every Movie Coming In The DCEU Between Now And 2020
- Everything You Need To Know About 'Justice League'
4. Guillermo del Toro
Why he'd be great: It's Guillermo del Toro. The man with a massive boner for all things gothic seems like the perfect candidate to pick up where Tim Burton left off (with 1992's brilliant Batman Returns) and deliver a dark, heavily stylistic, comic book-influenced vision of Gotham City and its most debauched inhabitants.
His sci-fi blockbuster Pacific Rim was a crowd-pleaser and Pan's Labyrinth is considered a genre masterpiece of the last decade. The visuals in Crimson Peak were to die for (see how they were brought to life in the video below).
Why he might not: Del Toro's previous flirtation with superheroes, 2004's Hellboy, was a financial failure despite solid reviews, and his excesses can be difficult to curb. Sometimes the story takes a backseat to the aesthetic, which doesn't always result in a properly satisfying piece of cinema.
Ultimately... If DC had the balls to take Batman in a direction way, way different from what Nolan achieved with The Dark Knight trilogy, Del Toro could be a great choice. But let's be real — they don't.
5. Matt Reeves
Why he'd be great: The most easily-digestible, most mainstream director on this list, Reeves took a franchise which was pretty anonymous (after the highly mediocre Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes) and gave it a real identity. Dawn Of... was tight, with superb CGI and VFX work and strong character development. The latter is something the DCEU has been seriously lacking so far. He also made a highly original monster movie in Cloverfield, and his movies are made on reasonable budgets.
Ultimately... His name doesn't quicken the pulse, but that feels like criticism for the sake of it. On paper, Reeves is a very well-rounded candidate and there really isn't any reason to imagine Matt Reeves wouldn't do a great job of taking over from Affleck. Warner Bros. could do a lot worse.
6. Sam Mendes
Why he'd be great: Mendes, an English stage director whose films had mostly been low-key dramas (including the dazzling classic American Beauty), took to making blockbusters with absolute aplomb when he helmed Skyfall, one of the most successful movies of all-time and perhaps the greatest Bond flick. The action sequences were pure spectacle (the clip below, in which Bond fights Patrice in Shanghai, is some next-level shit), and the writing hit every emotional beat. His visual palette is in a league of its own.
Why he might not: Spectre went horribly over-budget, coming in at $250m (some have claimed it cost more), with a story which Sony didn't like (the Sony Pictures email leaks included some brutal criticism of the script and the villain), and the behind-the-scenes drama showed in a movie which was enjoyable but flawed.
Ultimately... Mendes and his star Daniel Craig both seemed exhausted after Spectre, and it's hard to imagine the director would want to make another blockbuster so soon. But if he did, there's a high chance it would be excellent.
Bonus: Zack Snyder
Which director would you choose to take over from Ben Affleck on 'The Batman' — somebody on this list, or a wildcard I left out?