Now that Ben Affleck isn't doing the job, who could?
That's the question that no doubt weighs heavy on the minds of Warner Bros. execs regarding The Batman, which is short a director ever since Affleck decided to remove that position from his list of duties on the film (he's still starring and may have a hand in the screenplay). The last person to direct a stand-alone movie about the Dark Knight, Christopher Nolan, did pretty well for himself, and while it would be a real coup to lure him back, that's not likely to happen.
But there are still a number of talented filmmakers out there -- some of whom are reportedly on the studio shortlist already -- who deserve a shot at the WB/DC crown jewel. Some of them might provide a fresh eye or excel at Batman's twisted psychological side, while others know how to roll out the visual firepower and epic scope. It all depends on what kind of Batman movie the powers-that-be want to make, but we think each of the 20 men and women below could all bring something unique to the Bat.
Keep on reading and tell us who you think should get the gig ...
Latest film: War For the Planet of the Apes (2017)
Reeves is said to be at the top of the Warner Bros. list, and with good reason: he did one hell of a job with 2014's Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, and the upcoming War looks like a bigger and even more dramatic follow-up. Reeves has proven savvy at balancing strong characters with intense imagery and action -- more rare these days that you might think -- and his strong storytelling skills could also provide a tonic for fans disappointed by the haphazard plotting of Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad.
Latest film: Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
Do we even need to make a case for Miller? He blew everyone's minds in 2015 with the return of Mad Max, delivering a movie that set a new bar for action films while also imbuing it with a rich humanity and clarity of purpose. His ability to handle epic, jaw-dropping action is second to none, and he could bring incredible, even beautiful imagery to scenes of the Bat tooling around Gotham. And let's not forget: he almost did it once before, as his version of Justice League nearly went into production in 2008 before getting the plug pulled. Could he at last get his chance with The Batman?
Latest film: Mother (tentative title, in production now)
Like George Miller, Aronofsky almost got handed the keys to the kingdom once before: in the dark days before Nolan revived the franchise with Batman Begins, Aronofsky spent some time developing an ultra-dark, gritty version of Batman: Year One. To be fair, he's stronger when he goes smaller, as his Biblical epic Noah seemed less confident and cohesive that his previous indie films. But his dark sensibility is seemingly a natural fit for Gotham and its haunted hero.
Latest film: Untitled Detroit Project (now filming)
From horror movie (Near Dark) to heist thriller (Point Break) to sci-fi mystery (Strange Days) to devastating war film (The Hurt Locker) to real-life manhunt (Zero Dark Thirty), Kathryn Bigelow has done it all. Her taste is impeccable, her sense of pacing and tension outstanding, and her talent for shooting visceral, brutal action in an almost intimate way has elevated each of her films. Bigelow takes years between films, so we would really like to see her try her hand at the superhero genre at some point.
Latest film: The Nightingale (in development)
Michelle MacLaren's day will come. After helming some of the finest episodes of Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones, among others, she came this close to superhero glory when she was recruited to direct Wonder Woman. But creative differences led to her exit, with Patty Jenkins finally getting the job. MacLaren is developing a feature called The Nightingale now, but if that's going slow, we'd be happy to see her jump in the Batmobile and cruise on over to Gotham. It's about damn time.
Latest project: Mindhunter (for Netflix)
The great Fincher, whose last feature was 2014's brilliant Gone Girl, has never expressed any real desire to direct a superhero movie -- but if there's one that could be tailor-made for him, it's The Batman. The man behind Seven and Fight Club could really sink his teeth into the Caped Crusader's dark psychology, and Fincher also shoots some of the most amazing-looking movies in the business. His take on Batman, good or not, would almost certainly be the most glorious just to watch.
Latest film: Blade Runner 2049 (2017)
Simply one of the best directors working today, Villeneuve has movies like Enemy, Sicario and Arrival already under his belt. With the latter picture and now Blade Runner 2049, he has also shown a taste for the fantastic. Like Fincher, he would probably dive deep into the psychology of Batman while also making a striking-looking movie. The thing is, he just signed on to direct a new version of Dune, so his dance card seems to be full for the next couple of years at least.
Latest film: Captain Fantastic (2016)
Ross has worked primarily as an actor, but his second feature film, 2016's Captain Fantastic, scored with critics and audiences and landed star Viggo Mortensen an Oscar nomination for Best Actor. Captain Fantastic was in fact a very good film, but it's hard to see Ross making the leap so quickly from a smaller indie drama to something like The Batman (not that it can't be done, but it's always a risk). So why are we including him here? Because his name has apparently popped up on the studio shortlist.
Latest film: Deadpool (2016)
With a relatively modest budget and a slender script, Tim Miller worked wonders with Deadpool and ended up with a pop culture sensation on his hands. Since walking away from the sequel, he's had no shortage of offers (including one from James Cameron to help reset the Terminator franchise), but if WB offered him the biggest superhero franchise of all, he just might be tempted to take it. The question is: how would he do with a presumably massive budget, a big-name star and a character who is about as far as you can get from Deadpool's snarky self-awareness? We're guessing he'd be fine.
Latest film: Hell or High Water (2016)
Mackenzie has made nine feature films but his biggest to date is the excellent modern noir/Western hybrid Hell or High Water, which is nominated for Best Picture and features a trio of dynamite performances from Chris Pine, Ben Foster and Jeff Bridges. Mackenzie works in all different genres and while he has not done anything as big as a superhero film, he has a clean style of directing and a sense of place, narrative and atmosphere that could serve a Batman tale well.
Latest film: John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017)
With his directing partner on John Wick, David Leitch, off to do Deadpool 2, Stahelski went it alone on the sequel. We've seen it and can tell you it's an exciting and relentless piece of pure action cinema. There may not be many directors better right now at laying out the geography and choreography of an action sequence in a way that is coherent and electrifying. The hidden world of assassins and criminals in the Wick films is not that far off from Gotham's underground, either. And while we wouldn't call the characters in the John Wick movies complex, Stahelski doesn't ignore the quiet moments.
F. Gary Gray
Latest film: The Fate of the Furious (2017)
F. Gary Gray has racked up a solid list of mid-range action thrillers over the course of his career, but the spotlight really shone on him in 2015 with his excellent handling of the N.W.A. biopic Straight Outta Compton. That led directly to him taking on this year's The Fate of the Furious, offering Gray his best action-oriented challenge yet. His experience with action and his keen sense of life on the city streets could serve him well on his first superhero pic.
Latest film: XX (2017)
Kusama has stayed mostly indie and largely in the horror field since making her debut with Girlfight in 2000 and following that up with Aeon Flux in 2005. The latter film was her one major foray so far into high-level action fare, but the picture was taken away by the studio and reworked with disappointing results. More recently she scored with the excellent low-budget horror thriller The Invitation and just directed a segment for the all-female-directors horror anthology XX. Her take on the Bat would be a unique one, if nothing else.
Latest film: The Raid 2 (2014)
Indonesia-based Welsh filmmaker Gareth Evans turned the world of action cinema upside-down with his films The Raid and The Raid 2, introducing international moviegoers to the stunning pencak silat style of martial arts. Both films were gritty and brutal, but The Raid 2 also developed an epic criminal family storyline that had sweep and emotion to it. Evans has yet to make a movie in the Hollywood system (his next project may be a crime thriller called Apostle) but it would be fascinating to see him let loose on the Batman canon.
Latest film: Mudbound (2017)
We have not seen Dee Rees' latest film, Mudbound, yet, but we saw her previous one Pariah and were blown away by its depth and emotional rawness. So we'll take it from our friends at Collider when they think Rees could handle a Batman film, since they say that Mudbound is a bigger, more epic and complex movie in every way. Rees would easily be one of the more unconventional choices on this list, but she could bring a very different perspective to a big canvas, a big budget and a larger-than-life character.
Latest film: Patriots Day (2016)
Berg has been making big movies for a while, ranging from wacky military sci-fi like Battleship to the intense real-life military drama Lone Survivor. His latest film Patriots Day, about the Boston Marathon Bombing, may be his best and most gripping yet, featuring two of the most terrifying sequences (including a literal war on a suburban Boston street) we saw all last year. His one previous foray into superhero territory, Hancock, didn't work out so well, but he might do better with the darker The Batman.
Latest film: Kingsman: The Golden Circle (2017)
Vaughn has been working almost exclusively in the comic book and superhero genres for the past few years, and still (IMHO) made one of the best X-Men films ever with 2011's First Class. He's busily finishing up the second Kingsman movie, and sliding over to a Batman film wouldn't be a terribly long stretch for him. His slightly irreverent filmmaking tone might also give a somewhat different spin to the usually grim proceedings in Gotham City.
Latest film: Black Panther (2018)
Coogler seems like almost too obvious a choice, but the fact remains that his first two features, Fruitvale Station and Creed, were two very different but equally powerful pieces of filmmaking. We can't wait to see what he does with the Marvel Cinematic Universe in Black Panther, and if the movie is as terrific as we hope, it would be hard for any studio not to offer him the world. Would he want to leap from one superhero franchise right to another? Could he? He seems like he would want to do something else first ... and the Bat, unfortunately, may not be able to wait.
Latest film: Star Trek Beyond (2016)
So Star Trek Beyond was not exactly a blockbuster at the box office, but Justin Lin's enthusiasm for the franchise was real. He knows how to do big, energetic filmmaking and if he could curb his tendency to shoot and edit action really fast, he could be a formidable choice behind the camera for The Batman. Right now he's between projects, so WB could easily make him an offer he can't refuse.
Lana and Lilly Wachowski
Latest project: Sense8 (Season 2)
Strangely enough, the Wachowskis have never ventured into superhero territory, although comic books are certainly part of the stew of pop culture influences that have shaped the output of these singularly unique siblings. All their projects, from The Matrix to Sense8, are informed by their particular vision, so it might be interesting to see that translate to The Batman along with all the other powerful filmmaking tools at the Wachowskis' fingertips.