Jon Favreau recently let it be known that he will not be directing The Avengers, Marvel’s super-powered mashup of Captain America, Iron Man, and Thor, which is being planned as THE summer movie event of 2012. That news dashed the hopes of some, but has thrown the door of possibility wide open for others who are wondering:
Who Should Direct The Avengers?
It’s been pointed out by Favreau, current Avengers writer Zak Penn and even a few directors who have already tried to toss their hats in the ring to direct The Avengers: Making this movie is going to be like riding a unicycle across a tightrope while juggling plates on chopsticks. We’re talking about a film that has to give equal weight to three characters – Cap, Thor and Iron Man (and maybe more) – who are all (best case scenario) going to be blockbuster movie divas in their own right.
(Ok, so I’m making a joke about comic book characters being divas, but seriously, I could just as well be talking about the actors playing the roles, by the time The Avengers rolls around.)
Along with three super divas, there are the (multiple) storylines and subplots of the individual films that will likely factor into the narrative arch of The Avengers:
What happens when Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) lays eyes on Thor (Chris Hemsworth) or Captain America for the first time? Does she go all ga-ga? How would Thor’s girlfriend (Natalie Portman) feel about the competition for her man-god? Will Cap and Thor get cozy in Tony Stark’s plush pads and leer jets – or will Thor prefer the Mjölnir express for his flying mileage? How will Cap deal with Tony’s boozy charm? How will Thor deal with Cap – a mere Midgard mortal – trying to tell him what to do? How will Tony deal with a grandstanding old-timer and a guy who thinks he’s a Thunder god without reaching for a drink?
None of those questions I just asked are even relevant to the central plot of Avengers – they’re all themeatic and tonal threads that need to be woven together into just the right braid for Avengers to work. On the comic book page, a team-up is usually just the geekgasm of seeing a bunch of heroes getting together to kick ass – it’s purely a novelty. When an unprecedented event like The Avengers – a mashup of individually profitable movie franchises – happens, it’s more than a novelty – it’s three cinematic worlds colliding. Hard to do that without breaking something.
Once the ideas have been fleshed out, and the details of the story settled on, there still remains the task of essentially making three movies in one, while simultaneously making it all look revolutionary and epic. Avengers could potentially reset the bar for superhero films, action films and how the movie biz builds its franchises. For that feat you need more than a director – you need somebody who has the vision to see what could be and make it into a reality that will blow our collective socks off. Any less than that and this movie slips right off the rails into the quagmire of disappointment.
So, who’s up for the job?
Let me start off with some the of names of potential Avengers directors that have surfaced as of late.
The director of Layer Cake and the upcoming comic book movie Kick-Ass has already put his bid in to helm The Avengers, and he’s not a bad candidate to consider. Early word is that Vaughn has done something truly special with Kick-Ass (expect that film to be a breakout hit in 2010), and for those who are divided over Layer Cake (is it an awesome gangster flick or a Guy Ritchie knock-off?) it’s hard to deny that the film was slick, stylish, with some really spectacular sequences. It also made stars of Daniel Craig and Sienna Miller, who are both currently enjoying superhero movie paychecks as James Bond and The Baroness in G.I. Joe, respectively.
However, IMHO, Vaughn’s strength is his sense of style. I haven’t seen Kick-Ass yet, so maybe Vaughn has turned a corner as far as action sequences go, but right now I imagine he would make an Avengers flick that was “cool” and “slick” with some lackluster (though forgivable) action sequences. That formula worked for Jon Favreau in Iron Man, but we obviously need more from The Avengers.
The director of The Incredible Hulk has also expressed his desire to helm more superhero flicks, and there were enough fans of his version of Hulk (and sure to be even more when his remake of Clash of the Titans is released next year) to warrant his nomination.
However, I think that like Incredible Hulk, Leterrier falls into that “Solid, but not great,” category of directors. And while it’s an OK category to be in when directing films about B-list superheroes, The Avengers is going to need more than the standard set-piece-to-set-piece blockbuster blueprint in order to be great; it will need real heart, real charm, and the sort of goosebump-inducing awesomeness that I’m not sure that Leterrier can deliver on his own. Having said that, we’ve heard that he is IS interested in directing the Avengers movie.
To his credit, though, it was Leterrier himself who nominated the “crazy plan B” that I’m about to pitch to you now:
TEAM MOVIE, TEAM EFFORT
The Avengers (as this post has hopefully pointed out) is a project with more moving parts than one of Michael Bay’s Transformers. People are going to be coming to the theater (presumably having seen three (to four) truly kick-ass superhero flicks) expecting their favorite heroes to be greater than the sum of their individual parts. As Louis Leterrier pointed out in a prior interview, a collaboration between himself, Iron Man director Jon Favreau, Thor director Kenneth Branagh and director of The First Avenger: Captain America, Joe Johnston, might just be the best way to make sure that Avengers is a movie event that hits theaters with all engines on full throttle.
After all – who better to ensure that Avengers Thor is as cool as Branagh’s Thor – that Avengers Iron Man is as cool of Favreau’s version, etc… other than the directors who (presumably) made each hero a box office hit in the first place?
The way I imagine it, you take the guy who is a solid helmer (Leterrier) and let him coordinate, while the other three directors share their input and insights into their respective characters scene by scene, maybe even getting behind the camera here and there if they have a vivid sense of how a particular scene or sequence should be realized. Each of these guys will be coming to the table with impressive resumes and specific experience in the superhero genre; I would expect they each wish for their respective characters to enhance the shared Avengers experience as much as possible, so why NOT work together to make sure that happens?
An added bonus: breaking up the work load would ensure that everybody could put 100% of their talent to the task without wearing themselves down to a nub. If there was ever a film I thought might be too much for any one director, Avengers would surely be it.
If I had to list the strengths each current Marvel superhero director would bring to The Avengers:
- Favreau = the fun and the cool swagger.
- Branagh = weighted drama that never turns cheese on us.
- Johnston = the sense of cinematic adventure (and some wicked set designs).
- Leterrier = kick-ass action sequences.
So that’s my call: keep it in the family. If Marvel starts trying to bring in a new director to pull together the visions of so many (perhaps more talented) others, I can only think that something would be inevitably be lost or diluted.
RUNNERS UP: I have to just mention that I think Len Wiseman (Underworld, Live Free or Die Hard) and Neill Blomkamp (District 9) are two names I would at least CONSIDER for a shot at directing The Avengers. Wiseman came out of nowhere with Underworld and its sequel and (with some half-Matrix, half-creature-feature imagination) gave rise to a new action-horror franchise. His Die Hard 4, while not loved by everyone, was certainly a polished and satisfactory entry in one of (if not THE) most beloved action franchises of all time.
Blomkamp shocked the world with District 9 this past summer, likely making some studio execs truly sorry they didn’t give him a shot at the Halo movie as was initially planned. D-9 was a small-scale project (from a budget standpoint) from a director who has mostly worked on TV commercials – however, Blomkamp totally embodies what I meant when I used that word “vision.”
Just a couple names to keep in the back of your mind.
What about you – do you think a collaborative effort directing The Avengers is a knot just waiting to happen? Is there an individual director you think would be able to rise to the challenge?
Check the photo above for release dates on all upcoming Marvel superhero movies. The Avengers will be in theaters on May 4, 2012.