When Christopher Nolan was first tapped to reboot the Batman franchise in 2005, few people could have accurately predicted how well that pairing of filmmaker and material would work out. After all, at that point, Nolan had only one big studio credit to his name (2002's Insomnia) and no experience at all in the comic book realm. But the one-two punch of Batman Begins and The Dark Knight proved that he was more than up to the task. Fusing his own specific interests with familiar Batman iconography, Nolan crafted a distinct take on the character that pleased both comic book fans and general audiences... to the tune of over $700 million at the domestic box office combined.
With the release of The Dark Knight Rises on Friday, Nolan is leaving Batman behind for good and Warner Bros. finds itself without its signature franchise and most esteemed director. As they attempt to expand the DC movie universe beyond Batman and Superman (who is getting his own Nolan-like reset courtesy of Zack Snyder next year), we hope that they'll learn from this experience -- not to mention the example of the rivals over at Marvel, who took big chances by handing off Iron Man to Jon Favreau and The Avengers to Joss Whedon -- and entrust some of their other characters to untraditional directors. (It's not like assigning Green Lantern to a veteran studio guy like Martin Campbell worked out so well...) Here are some of the unexpected, potentially inspired superhero/filmmaker pairings we'd most like to see:
Who She Is: The original warrior princess -- an Amazonian wonder who can go toe-to-toe with any male hero.
Who Should Make It: Gareth Evans (The Raid: Redemption)
Why: Before he jumped over The Avengers, Joss Whedon had been working on a Wonder Woman pitch that the studio wound up not using and considering how far his stock has risen since directing the third highest-grossing movie of all time, we're pretty sure DC couldn't shell out enough to win him back even if they wanted to. On the other hand, they probably wouldn't have to do a lot of arm-twisting (or budget-busting) to convince Welsh-born, Indonesian-based director Evans to make his studio debut. His breakout international martial arts picture The Raid: Redemption is a marvel of fluid fisticuffs -- the Pencak Silat discipline looks terrific on camera -- and sustained tension. We have no doubt that Evans would give us a Wonder Woman who is every inch the Amazon warrior we've wanted to see onscreen.
Who He Is: DC's resident speed demon has gone through various incarnations over the years (Jay Garrick begat Barry Allen begat Wally West begat Bart Allen begat Barry again), but his quick wit and fleet-footed derring-do continues to make him a favorite.
Who Should Make It: Ruben Fleischer (30 Minutes or Less, Zombieland)
Why: The ticking clock premise (not to mention the great mixture of action and laughs) that fueled last year's sorely underrated buddy comedy 30 Minutes or Less makes Fleischer a natural choice to put Flash through his paces. Zombieland also showed his facility with special effects and he's already making his next film, the period crime picture Gangster Squad, for Warner Bros. Since plans for a Flash feature stalled out after original director David S. Goyer left the project, Fleisher would be perfectly poised to kick-start it.
Who He Is: A shape-shifter whose elastic body can just barely keep up with his wild imagination.
Who Should Make It: Joseph Kahn (Detention)
Why: Amidst all the (mostly deserved) raves thrown at Cabin in the Woods earlier this year, Joseph Kahn's spirited horror movie send-up Detention went sorely overlooked, despite the fact that, in its own unique way, it has as much to say about the current state of the genre as the more serious-minded Cabin. The broad sense of humor on display in that film -- not to mention the way the narrative turns on a dime often regardless of logic -- complements Plastic Man's own short-attention span as well as his general goofiness. While it's questionable whether Kahn could turn a Plastic Man feature into a mainstream hit, he'd almost certainly produce a cult favorite that would continue to win new fans long after everyone else has already forgotten a disappointing "hit" like Superman Returns.
Hawkman & Hawkgirl
Who They Are: Boasting one of the most complicated and muddled backstories in comics, these winged adventurers are reincarnated lovers who -- depending on which version the studio wants to go with -- hail from either ancient Egypt or the alien planet Thanagar.
Who Should Make It: Rupert Sanders (Snow White and the Huntsman)
Why: Beyond the fact that all of the crow imagery in Snow White suggested a strong interest in birds, Sanders' surprisingly good directorial debut also demonstrated his facility at world-building and depicting a fantasy-tinged landscape that felt grounded and realistic. That skill would particularly come in handy if DC were to go with the Egyptian versions of the Hawk duo, allowing Sanders to explore Egyptian mythology in a potentially new and exciting way. Since the weakest aspect of Snow White was the storytelling, Sanders would need to have a great writer on his side to make sense of Hawkman's convoluted history, preferably one with a strong grounding in historical fantasy. Hey, now that The Hobbit is in the can, co-screenwriter Philippa Boyens might be available...
The Teen Titans
Who They Are: The youthful version of the Justice League, whose ranks have included such teen heroes as Robin, Kid Flash, Starfire, Beast Boy (or, if you grew up reading the Wolfman/Pérez Titans run, Changeling) and Speedy.
Who Should Make It: Jennifer Yuh (Kung Fu Panda 2)
Why: The success of The Avengers has moved talk of a Justice League movie to the front-burner, but a Teen Titans feature seems like an even more attractive proposition. For one thing, the characters already have a sizeable fanbase due to the popular 2003-2006 Cartoon Network series, which is coming back in 2013 with new episodes. Also, provided the studio is able to resist the temptation to add a touch of Nolan-style darkness to the Titans, the film could be something unique in the current comic-book movie marketplace: a fun, family-friendly, PG-rated superhero romp. Based on Kung Fu Panda 2, Yuh (who is still one of the few women in recent years to have the opportunity to direct a major studio blockbuster, live-action or animation) has a strong grasp on how to choreograph team-oriented action set-pieces and would be able to bring the right mixture of humor and gravitas to the movie so that it's equally entertaining for kids and grown-ups. Of course, as we've previously explored, making the leap from animation to live-action can be tricky, but if DC surrounds her with the right collaborators, Yuh has the potential to be a Brad Bird rather than a Simon Wells.
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