Aug 102012

Warner Brothers is at least considering Ben Affleck to direct their Justice League movie. Deadline is denying the story, but frankly they’re not as trustworthy as Variety. And while the internet has responded with some typical Affleck-backlash that the same guy who once starred in Gigli is going to direct such a key project. I’m here both to simultaneously defend this decision and offer up 6 more suggestions on directors.

Ben Affleck

Ben Affleck as Superman

Ben Affleck as (George Reeves as) Superman

First off, I do believe the Variety story. Affleck doesn’t have the job currently, but they have sent him the script and they’re at least entertaining the notion of hiring him. It isn’t unusual for studios to ask a few people for their takes on a project before hiring someone and moving forward. Warner Brothers only has so many big directors they’ve been working with that they can go to. This is a studio that handed their Terminator franchise to McG and hasn’t had many successful blockbusters outside of Harry Potter in a long time. If you go down the list of directors they have deals with, Ben Affleck sounds much better than many of the alternatives.

And for all the hate, Affleck did a great job directing Gone Baby Gone and The Town. Rumors are that his Argo shoot are going well. Even if he has a few bad acting roles on his resume, lets not forget that he won an Oscar for co-writing Good Will Hunting.

It isn’t clear if he would act or not. In theory, he could take a Justice League hero of his choice and start with a stand-alone movie for that hero leading into his Justice League project. And while he has proven that he can direct himself reasonably well, I think that would be a mistake on a large ensemble film. Assuming he did act however, he is a better actor than he gets credit for. He delivered strong turns in The Town, HollywoodlandChasing Amy, Changing Lanes, The Sum of All Fears, School Ties, etc.

But here in alphabetical order, are six more realistic choices.

Brad Bird on the Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol set

Brad Bird on the Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol set

Brad Bird

He’s already directed a truly fantastic superhero film in The Incredibles and another geek-classic in Iron Giant. He made a name for himself with The Simpsons, but has demonstrated his range over the years. He proved he can transition from animation to live action with Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, which might be the best entry in the series. He has proven he can handle effects, action sequences and drama. In this list, I’ve tried to avoid any directors I know are under contract at another studio (such as Spielberg). As it turns out, Brad Bird is currently working with Warner Brothers to develop his next project. So they already have him in house.

Neill Blomkamp

Neill Blomkamp on the District 9 set

Neill Blomkamp giving direction on District 9

Blomkamp has a strong effects background and has produced some great shorts. What should make Warner Brothers very happy is noting that he also knows how to produce effects on a budget. While James Cameron was spending $280 million making Avatar, Blomkamp was telling a fairly similar story with District 9 for $40 million. Peter Jackson thinks the world of him, and at one point he was going to direct Halo, except the studio wouldn’t give Microsoft the control they wanted. He is a very strong director from a technical prespective.

There might be some concerns that he has a short resume, or that he hasn’t worked with a large, ensemble cast. But he did work on Smallville, so he may have some familiarity with the source material.

Danny Boyle

Danny Boyle filming 127 Hours

Danny Boyle filming 127 Hours

This suggestion might come as a surprise to some. Boyle is best known for low-budget dramas such as Slumdog Millionaire, 127 Hours and Trainspotting. However, Boyle has worked in just about every genre imaginable and is consistently solid as a director. If you’re handing a key blockbuster project to someone, there is something to be said with picking a safe director rather than risking a massive flop.

Boyle doesn’t have one distinct visual style can likely merge and continue the work of any DC comic films that lead into Justice League. That doesn’t mean he is a weak visual director. The Beach and Sunshine are both great looking movies (even if the ending for Sunshine is a massive disappointment compared to the first two acts). And like Blomkamp, he is capable of producing a great looking movie on a budget. Boyle gets great performances from his actors and there is a reason he was trusted with directing the London Olympics opening ceremonies.

Guillermo del Toro

Guillermo del Toro making Hellboy

Guillermo del Toro making Hellboy

Guillermo del Toro was initially hand-picked by Peter Jackson to direct The Hobbit. He is a capable director with strong technical skills who makes great looking movies. Of all the directors on the list, he has perhaps the best creative vision. While Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy was hyper-realistic and The Avengers had a clean aesthetic that carried over from Jon Favreau’s work on Iron Man, I think Warner Brothers has an opportunity to differentiate Justice League; it could use a dash of the quixotic.

He is also known to love comic books and delivered two very good Hellboy movies. The problem with finding great directors for huge blockbusters is that their success now has them tied up with several projects. For whatever reason, he hasn’t really had the mammoth blockbuster success yet. Since The Hobbit fell through, and At The Mountains of Madness is now dead, del Toro’s talents are mostly free. Someone should grab him while they can. I suspect after Pacific Rim drops, he will become a more expensive and popular commodity in Hollywood.

George Miller

George Miller doing motion capture work

George Miller doing motion capture work

George Miller is such a great choice for a Justice League movie that Warner Brothers hired him to make one. Like Boyle, he has a very varied resume. He brought us both Mad Max and Happy Feet. There are a couple reasons his movie never happened. Superman Returns didn’t perform as well as expected. Batman Begins exceeded expectations, but they weren’t going to get Christian Bale for the Justice League movie (which may have backfired). The Writer’s Guild strike happened. Financing fell through down in Australia. And in the end, Warner Brothers wasn’t comfortable spending $200 million making the movie.

However, the people who read the script all raved about it. Miller was passionate about the project. With advances in effects, it is possible Miller could revisit his project and make the movie for less than $200 million today, though that budget wouldn’t be unreasonable now. The Avengers had a $220 million budget. Again, Warner Brothers doesn’t have a lot of blockbuster franchises today. My only concern would be whether or not the script everyone loved would work with the upcoming Superman reboot, or if they’d have to refactor it.

Steven Soderbergh

Steven Soderbergh

Yes, I seriously suggested the director of Magic Mike

He just directed a movie about male strippers and is moving on to a Liberace biopic. Clearly, he is the obvious choice.

Like many of the suggestions above, Soderbergh has a very diverse resume. He is a strong visual director, elicits great performances from his cast and doesn’t force one visual style on his movies. He also happens to be one of the best all-around directors working today. He has handled action with The Limey (with General Zod no less) and Haywire.

Perhaps most importantly, what made Joss Whedon such a fantastic choice for The Avengers was his ability to handle a large cast (from his TV background) and balance it well. Soderbergh did an amazing job handling multiple screen-chewing stars in Oceans Eleven. Even if the script suffered in sequels, Soderbergh knows how to handle an ensemble cast.

Avatar of T. J. BrumfieldT. J. is a human being residing on the planet Earth. He enjoys converting oxygen to carbon-dioxide and carbonated beverages to urine. He is tolerated (barely) by a wife and child. If you can't tell by the snark, he doesn't like writing bios. He feels real people aren't easily labeled.
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  3 Responses to “6 Directors for the Justice League”


    If anyone is interested, the directors working with Warner Brothers that I didn’t go with:

    Martin Campbell – his Green Lantern didn’t go over well
    Clint Eastwood – great director, but slow pacing and not sure he’d do a superhero film
    McG – Hell no
    James McTeigue – Uneven director
    Guy Ritchie – Sherlock Holmes did well, but that was after he cribbed Aronofsky’s visual style
    Zack Snyder – Doing Superman. If Warner Brothers wanted him, they’d have offered it to him.
    Wachowski brothers – It has been suggested before and they’re big comic book fans. But again, I think there is a reason Warner Brothers haven’t offered it to them.
    David Yates – Overrated director with no respect for source material. The last few Harry Potter films were great movies because the cast had great chemistry, but they were very poor adaptations.


    I agree with your list, have discussed many of them myself and agree with your reasons for the 6 as well as the ones you omitted. Good article. I would explore David Goyer as well.


      I can’t believe I forgot to include Goyer.

      If nothing else, I think Goyer should get a shot at pitching his ideas for the DC movies leading into and including Justice League. He came up with the stories for the Batman trilogy as well as the upcoming Superman reboot. But I don’t know about his directing Justice League.