Once a guilty pleasure generally cast aside by the film industry, the new and improved ‘comic book movie’ is now not only a legitimate venture, but the type of project that can turn relative unknowns or niche talent into household names overnight. Marvel is enjoying its reign in the wake of The Avengers‘ critical and commercial success, all set to commence Phase Two while the iron is hot. But while movie fans await the next wave, Warner Bros. and DC Comics have quite a task on their hands.

The inevitable Justice League movie isn’t showing any sign of losing momentum, meaning those entrusted with DC Comic’s feature film adaptations now face the task of assembling the necessary ‘dream team’ if there’s any hope of following Marvel’s lead. With more than a few leading roles still to cast, the directing chair needs to be filled first – and soon. We now know that Ben Affleck is out with the Wachowskis possibly on deck, but the newest reports claim that Brett Ratner has also been placed on the short list.

The reports come from Superman Super Site, claiming that the decision is far from final, but Brett Ratner is one name being strongly considered:

“The studio is very pleased with the work that Brett [Ratner] has done as a producer and director on past projects,” states our sources. “They are now very interested in seeing what he can do with helping finally bring this group of iconic superheroes to the big screen!”

Ratner’s experience at the helm of X-Men 3: The Last Stand is certainly a strong factor, which, while being somewhat of a divisive issue among comic book fans was nevertheless the most profitable film in the trilogy. It’s worth repeating that Warner Bros. is even close to settling on a final choice, since the mere mention of Ratner’s name among superhero movie fans is guaranteed to spark fierce debate.

While we’re not the biggest fans of jumping on the Ratner-hate-train, any director’s resume is admissible when discussing their suitability for large movie franchises. In the case of the Justice League, a franchise that will act as keystone for possibly one of the largest commercial series in movie history. The last generation of superhero comic book movies may have been tailor-made for blockbuster directors experienced with mixing action and laughs, so Ratner’s work on the Rush Hour trilogy and last year’s Tower Heist makes some sense. But in today’s industry, things have changed.

With Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins, Joss Whedon’s Avengers, and Matthew Vaughn’s X-Men: First Class – the project that successfully rebooted the mutant team – the studios turned to tried and true, honest-to-goodness storytellers. Nolan, Whedon and Vaughn didn’t just write the screenplays for their respective films, they’d already proven themselves as writers before being considered for the director’s chairs. For the upcoming Man of Steel, a film that may well determine the viability of a shared DC universe as large as Marvel’s, Warner Bros. has turned to Zack Snyder. While a less substantial resume holder, Snyder is nevertheless experienced in taking a story from page to the screen – experience Ratner lacks.

The fact is, there is plenty of evidence that making a superhero or comic book movie can go catastrophically wrong in more ways than can be imagined, provided the director isn’t up to the challenge. And while Ratner has defended his work in the face of criticism from comic book fans, the Justice League film has more riding on it than most directors will be likely to handle. Provided Man of Steel is a success, Justice League will be saddled with the responsibility of delivering a satisfying follow-up for the new Superman, rebooting Batman outside of his own dedicated film, possibly saving Green Lantern from a repeat disappointment, and introducing enough new characters to please more than the mainstream audience.

That’s even more opportunity for failure than Joss Whedon faced, but every one of those tasks must arguably be accomplished for Warner Bros. to be poised for continued success. As our own Kofi Outlaw pointed out, what the DC Movie Universe really needs is a shepherd for the foreseeable future. Christopher Nolan is a visionary storyteller and proven director, but a challenge this massive would likely test even his nerve. And besides, he’s already made it clear he isn’t interested. If Ratner is up to the task, we applaud his courage, but all rumors and hints at the direction DC and Warner Bros. is taking seems greatly different from his usual work.

It was Kick-Ass creator Mark Millar who first caught wind of the Justice League script dealing with far darker and mature subjects and characters than anything Marvel has experimented with. While that news may have come as somewhat of a shock, the recent makeover of DC’s Universe seems to be following suit. Comic book fans who have been keeping up with DC’s New 52 have witnessed some truly surprising things: an insecure Green Lantern out to impress anyone and everyone, and a re-imagined Superman who seems more interested in letting his fists do the talking, and comparing his own strength to others, than embodying “truth, justice,” or “the American way.”

Considering the amount of time DC and Warner Bros. have put into crafting a new breed of heroes and villains that can make the bonds between film and comic book stronger and clearer, this might be the version of the Justice League that moviegoers will ultimately be introduced to.

If that is the case, then Ratner’s brand of action and humor – while successful in its own right – is hard to marry with the tone and attitude a Justice League feature film will likely exhibit. There’s a first time for everything, of course, but for now it’s hard to imagine Warner Bros. entrusting the project to any director who hasn’t already warranted high praise, not to mention the support of the core Comic-Con fans. For now, we’d recommend taking this report with a grain of salt.

We’ll be sure to keep you updated on Justice League, along with any other DC projects and rumors.

Source: Superman Super Site [via CBM]