If rumors are to be believed, Warners and DC Entertainment have a shortlist of directors they’d like to see work on the reboot of Superman’s movie career. Presuming that the five names on the list are for real, do they offer hints about what kind of Superman we’ll be watching in a few years’ time?
If Deadline Hollywood is to be believed, the Christopher Nolan-produced, David Goyer-written Superman movie – title still unrevealed, but I’m betting it’ll be Superman [Something] – is likely to be directed by one of these five men: Tony Scott, Matt Reeves, Jonathan Liebesman, Duncan Jones, or Zack Snyder. It’s an odd list, looking at it; Scott and Snyder are proven quantities with a track record for style-over-substance but also getting asses on seats (Sure, Watchmen may have flopped at the box office, but it’s allowed for multiple DVD releases and who’s to say that the problem audiences had with the movie wasn’t the subject matter?), while Jones, Reeves and Liebesman are more unproven – and, in Jones and, to a lesser extent, Reeves, there’s more of an indie feel to their output. Liebesman is more of a wild card – He’s getting a lot of heat for his upcoming Battle: Los Angeles sci-fi movie, and is lined up to direct the second Clash of The Titans movie as a result, so he’s clearly got no problem with genre work, but he’s also not had a hit in either critical or financial terms yet, either…
It’s worth noting that, of that shortlist, I think it’s safe to say that Liebesman and Scott are both ringers – Like I said, Liebesman is already committed to Clash 2, which I’m sure would conflict with any potential Superman shooting date, and Scott has all manner of projects that he’s already in various states of pre-production on, including his own superhero movie, Mark Millar’s Nemesis – Although the cynic in me would almost want him to end up with Superman, just to see how Mark would choose to spin it.
Of the three that that leaves, then, what are the shared characteristics that would put them together? Well, there’s an attention to visual spectacle – Snyder, for all his faults with narrative, makes films that look great (Have you seen that Sucker Punch trailer?), and Reeves’ Cloverfield was similarly as defined by its aesthetic almost as much as its content. Jones, perhaps, has less of a tendency towards this, but Moon was, in its own way, filled with lovely eye candy, direction-wise. The three also share an off-kilter sensibility; not so much that it overwhelms everything else – although, perhaps, in Jones’ case? – but there’s something more going on in each of their movies, for better or worse, than the average blockbuster. Each director has a specific voice that comes through in their work. This is the part that rings bells for me, especially when it comes to Nolan’s involvement. He has a similar tendency in his work – You can’t watch a Christopher Nolan film and mistake it for someone else’s – and it makes sense that that’s what he’d be looking for in a collaborator in his case (A similar case can be made for a focus on spectacle; again, look at Inception or The Dark Knight. Both movies just dazzle, visually).
I doubt very strongly that Superman will tonally mirror either of Nolan’s Batman movies, but in all terms of direction, I’d be surprised if it strays too much from what we’ve already seen. Whoever gets the directing gig for Superman, whether it’s one of these five or someone else entirely (I’m genuinely surprised that DC hasn’t gone after Iron Man director Jon Favreau… Maybe he’s too loyal to Marvel, or perhaps they’re waiting for a character who’d be a better fit. Wonder how quickly someone can start up a Wildcat movie?), will inevitably have to have a skill set that, in many ways, mirrors Nolan’s own, valuing strong visuals, an intelligence above that of the average blockbuster, and – and your mileage may vary when it comes to this last one – some interest in technical play within the medium. Hmm. Zack Snyder’s not got anything booked up for after Sucker Punch, does he…?