A little while ago, I wrote an article outlining the pros and cons of my top three candidates for the role of Captain Marvel/Carol Danvers. That debate has garnered a lot of attention these days in preparation for the movie's 2018 release. A less popular argument is who should direct the film, but any true movie fan knows that the director can be as (or more) important than the star. There have been conversations regarding the film's director, mostly in reference to the want for a woman to do the job. A similar conversation is going on about the Black Panther director being black. I think the argument for specific types of directors doing these movies with a specific lead is misguided. I understand the want and need for diversity, especially behind the camera, but I also believe that jobs should be rewarded to those that truly deserve it. That being said, there are qualified female directors who could do a great job with Captain Marvel, and there is something to be said about the female direction of a female lead.
...which brings me to my top pick for the job:
In case you're unaware, Kathryn Bigelow is the first woman to win the Oscar for Best Director.
She took home the award for 2008's The Hurt Locker starring Jeremy Renner as the "maverick" Sargeant First Class William James. Bigelow employs what I would describe as "artistic realism" in her movies, and her approach to combat films is unique in that they feel like personal character studies as well as engrossing thrillers.
Bigelow has shown that she can work well with both male and female leads. The first woman she directed was Jamie Lee Curtis in Blue Steel (1989), which is about a young female officer hunting a psychopath. Bigelow directed and co-wrote the picture. The film's main flaw was the lack of a satisfactory ending, other than that, Blue Steel was a stylish detective/mystery. Bigelow succeeded in building an intelligent and compelling story and got great performances out of her cast. It was nominated for Best Film at the Mystfest awards in 1990.
Two years later, Bigelow directed the action-crime thriller, Point Break, which garnered critical acclaim and starred Patrick Swayze and Keanu Reeves. In truth, it's mostly an action film with a relatively hole-filled script but excellent stunts. However, the film is shot like Bigelow had better material to work with. She explores the lives of glutinous young men after sex and money, no matter the cost of the latter. She successfully convinces the viewer of the gray area that motivates her characters to act illegally in the name of guilty pleasures.
Her 1995 film Strange Days about a former cop turned street hustler earned her another Best Director nomination at the Saturn Awards. In 2000, Bigelow won the film and literature award at the Film by The Sea International Film Festival for her film The Weight of Water about a photographer who becomes involved in solving a 1873 homicide/cold case when history repeats itself. Are you seeing a trend?
She won the Oscar for The Hurt Locker in 2008, departing from her more typical law enforcement characters to explore the world of soldiers in Desert Storm. In 2012, she returned to that genre with Zero Dark Thirty, marking the first time she'd worked with a female lead since Curtis in 1989.
Bigelow has gone on record saying that despite The Hurt Locker's critical success, she's most proud of Zero Dark Thirty. She said that working in a collaborative nature with the film's star, Jessica Chastain, made for one of the most pleasant creative experiences of her decorated career. It also helps that Chastain is one of the three candidates I wrote about in my Captain Marvel Casting Marvel. Their already established relationship could yield impressive onscreen results.
Zero Dark Thirty was nominated 5 Oscars including Best Screenplay, Best Lead Actress (Chastain), and Best Picture. At the end of the night, all they went home with, though, was the award for Sound Editing. Argo won best picture that year, and although I am a fan of that film, I believe that Zero Dark Thirty was a better story and a better movie overall. However, it invited criticism for its politically charged subject matter (even if Bigelow's approach was as apolitical as possible), which was more prevalent than in Argo. Also, I'm honestly not sure The Academy was ready to award a movie directed by and starring a woman with best picture. Yes, we've made a lot of progress in the way of equal rights, but the truth is we still have a long way to go. Bigelow herself has been very outspoken about the discrimination: "If there's specific resistance to women making movies, I just choose to ignore that as an obstacle for two reasons: I can't change my gender, and I refuse to stop making movies. It's irrelevant who or what directed a movie, the important thing is that you either respond to it or you don't. There should be more women directing; I think there's just not the awareness that it's really possible. It is."
So no, I'm not rooting for her to direct Captain Marvel because she's a woman. I'm rooting for her because she has proved throughout her career that she knows how to handle the battle between good and evil. Even more important, she can help an actor show that battle within their themselves, leaving a trail of deep, complex, thought-provoking characters in her wake as a film maker. She could help to create a superhero who takes themselves and their role in society seriously, while also focusing on the humanity of the hero. Olivia Wilde called for more personally flawed female superheroes, and Bigelow could deliver that as the director.