The Pros, Cons and Lessons of the Possible ‘Superman’ Directors

By  · Published on September 26th, 2010

The Superman movie Warners is contractually obligated to make by 2012 is still a ways off, but now that Christopher Nolan is involved, there’s even more attention being paid to it.

That attention turned this week to the possible directors in line to take on the famous superhero – Tony Scott, Matt Reeves, Zack Snyder, Duncan Jones and Jonathan Liesbesman. Some are denying they know anything about it, some are saying they’ve already turned it down, and none of them are dressing up as Superman and running around their offices pretending to fly.

That’s all well and good, but there are some pros and some cons to these names.

Tony Scott

The Pros: Scott is first and foremost known for creating films with strong male leads (meaning we might finally get a Denzel Washington Superman), and his recent work has all been focused on ramping up tension in a standard action film way. He’s also got a strong sense of how to create a scene where things blow up and Denzel Washington wrinkles his brow to signify that he’s figured something out.

The Cons: Scott’s editing has always been rapid fire, and it’s getting more so with every new film he creates. Plus, the character of Superman is just not as grizzly as almost all of Scott’s other characters. The world of Metropolis is a vision of the future as provided by the 1950s, not a graffiti-riddled concrete jungle with people yelling at each other. Tonally, he might not be a good fit.

Matt Reeves

The Pros: Reeves has proven some versatility in taking on the found footage monster film and the coming of age character drama monster film, and his own cinematic knowledge creates a solid ground for adapting a character like this. He’s meticulous in crafting characters, and delivering the world as a character itself. Those will translate well for taking on a project that has the ability to skew into a cartoon if not handled carefully.

The Cons: Reeves is fairly young as a director, and he’s only worked in the horror/dark drama world so far. That doesn’t mean he couldn’t do it, but there’s nothing in his current films that shows an ability to live in the world of Supes and Lois Lane. It’s not so much a con as it is a variable.

Zack Snyder

The Pros: Snyder is a seasoned director at this point who has worked in the superhero genre before. Although it would be ironic to see him take on the classic icon of comic books after taking on the book that was supposed to kill the medium, Snyder has the talent to funnel the immense amount of elements and focus them into an engaging experience. Plus, Superman would fly in slow motion before rocketing out into the sky.

The Cons: Snyder mostly works with anti-heroes, and while they may seem like a small detail, the character of Superman is a symbol of virtue more than he is a man. Or, you know, an alien. Snyder more than has the talent to make this movie, but he hasn’t shown an interest so far in the type of story being told by the Man of Steel. Plus, Superman would fly in slow motion before rocketing out into the sky.

Duncan Jones

The Pros: Jones delivered one of the best science fiction films in recent memory with Moon, and created a character defined by isolation in the process. He’s also a talented writer who has proven he has a fresh take on old tricks. If there’s anything that this project needs, it’s innovation. Watching the origin story again followed by a fight with a bald business owner is not what the world needs.

The Cons: Inexperience is a factor, but it seems like a small one considering just how well-made Moon is. Still, plenty of directors have had great first films and failed to produce beyond that point (which reminds me to re-watch Donnie Darko), and Superman will be a much, much larger project than Jones has taken on before.

Jonathan Liebesman

The Pros: This choice would create a fresh start for the possible franchise. In a way, Liebesman comes with the least baggage because he’s the least well known. That may change after Battle: Los Angeles, and that film will be a proving ground in more ways than one for Liebesman to get a shot at helming this project.

The Cons: Although his last name subconsciously sounds like “The Best Man,” his inclusion in the list is also the most confused. He’s most well known for mediocre horror films. That could clearly change with a successful alien invasion of Battle, but for the most part, he’s the farthest in left field right now.

The Lesson

So what do all of these directors have in common? They are all far grittier than any natural choice for Superman might be. It’s not outside the realm of logic to imagine that Christopher Nolan and company are going to go darker than the character has gone before. The action styles range, but Scott, Snyder, Jones, Reeves, and Liebesman have all worked in some terrifying arenas (including outright horror).

The Superman film we have to look forward to is going to have some edge to it. There’s no doubt about it. Thus, earlier speculation about the tone has all but been confirmed in my mind. Why else would they go after this brand of director unless Superman was going to add a dash of The Dark Knight to the mix?

Unless this whole list is a ruse, and they end up hiring the Double Rainbow guy.

What do you think?

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