This week the comic book movie landscape has been shaken by the news that Ben Affleck is no longer directing The Batman. He'll still be producing and starring in the DCEU standalone feature, but his departure from the director's chair after months of speculation about the development of the film's script is a big knock to one of the most anticipated upcoming superhero films.
With Affleck out and saying in his official statement "I have decided to find a partner in a director who will collaborate with me on this massive film", the big question on everyone's lips is who's going to be replacing him. The original Variety report cited that Matt Reeves (Cloverfield, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) was on Warner Bros' shortlist and later rumors have suggested Gavin O’Connor (The Accountant), Denis Villeneuve (Sicario, Arrival) and George Miller (Mad Max), while plenty of other excellent candidates have been floated by fans.
Other film directors are throwing their opinions in the ring too. During a Facebook Q&A, Guardians of the Galaxy helmer James Gunn was asked who he thought should take the job and responded with Jeremy Saulnier, the man behind cult hits Blue Ruin and Green Room:
"If Jeremy Saulnier was interested he'd be a good choice."
Saulnier broke big with brutal revenge showcase Blue Ruin in 2013 and cemented his position as a master of intense, uncompromising thrillers with last year's Green Room. Following a punk rock band going up against a gang of neo-Nazis after they see something they shouldn't, it was one of 2016's most horrifically violent films. Saulnier's currently working on an adaptation of thriller Hold The Dark for Netflix due in 2018. Whether this means he'd be available for The Batman or not depends on the sort of release date Warners are circling, but he'd certainly be an interesting choice.
Someone best known for gasp-inducing violence and expertly-mounted tension is far from the conventional choice to replace Affleck, but then Christopher Nolan wasn't the obvious pick in the early 2000s and he made three excellent Bat-flicks. Those showed it's possible to take an edgy indie style and successfully apply it to bigger budget films (something Gunn also know from personal experience, having made the leap from gritty films like Super and Slither to one of Marvel's biggest hits). However, with Saulnier rather inexperienced on a blockbuster stage - Green Room was his most expensive movie at $5 million - and DC looking towards more established names with its Extended Universe so far, his Batman is unlikely to make it out of Gunn's imagination.
Still, the director's comments are rather refreshing given how they go against the somewhat vitriolic rivalry between Marvel and DC. And it's not just fans online; David Ayer famously shouted "F*ck Marvel" at Suicide Squad's world premiere. Gunn giving a measured response is a calm addressing of the divide and an acknowledgment that superhero success benefits both sides.
Source: James Gunn
- The Batman release date: Sep 21, 2018
- Justice League (2017) release date: Nov 17, 2017
- Wonder Woman (2017) release date: Jun 02, 2017
- The Flash Movie release date: Sep 21, 2018
- Aquaman (2018) release date: Dec 21, 2018