With Marvel releasing a movie or two every year now, and the Star Wars franchise expected to release one movie every year starting in 2015, the supply of capable directors is dwindling. Additionally, Marvel has built a reputation on getting talented directors who don’t yet have marquee names and will still work relatively cheap. Those guys, however, are being quickly snatched up: Josh Trank has been drafted into the Star Wars field, Colin Trevorrow is doing the Jurassic World movies, Gareth Edwards is on the Godzilla beat, Duncan Jones is working on Warcraft, while some of the other younger talented directors (James Pondsoldt, Joe Swanberg, Jeff Nichols, Zal Batmanglij, Ti West) probably aren’t as interested in franchises.
Marvel is looking for a little fish in a tiny pond that can swim like a motherf*cker but isn’t looking to be paid millions of dollars to do so. They want talent, not names, someone who doesn’t have a lot of clout, and who can maybe be pushed around a little.
Based on that criteria, I believe I’ve successfully identified the next five Marvel Universe directors.
Josh Boone — He’s young, he has very little name recognition despite directing last weekend’s hugely profitable number one film at the box-office, The Fault in Our Stars, and he’s about to tackle a Stephen King adaptation, Lisey’s Story, which should give him some cred in the geek community.
Ideal Marvel Project: The Runaways, about group of teenagers who discover that their parents are part of an evil crime organization.
Chris Miller and Phil Lord — Their names are beginning to gain a lot of traction, but they don’t yet pass the facial-recognition test, which is to say, a director isn’t hugely popular until you can identify them in a line-up. They have huge hits with 21 Jump Street, The LEGO Movie and probably 22 Jump Street, but they probably still command far less than an A-list director.
Ideal Marvel Project: Avengers 3, assuming Joss Whedon departs after the second sequel.
José Padilha — The Brazilian director was tapped to direct the commercially unsuccessful Robocop remake after making a huge splash with his Elite Squad movies. He’ll also direct the pilot for the Pablo Escobar series on Netflix, Narcos. He’s definitely got talent, he’s not a huge name, and he knows how to work within the studio system.
Ideal Project: Iron Fist, the Netflix series that follows a martial artist with chi based super powers who fights crime.
Michelle MacLaren — Though she has only served as a television director so far, she’s directed some of the best episodes of television over the last few years, including four episodes of Game of Thrones, 11 episodes of Breaking Bad and two episodes of The Walking Dead. She also exec-produced The X-Files for two years.
Ideal Project: Captain Marvel, which is in development and the character may even be introduced in Avengers: Age of Ultron, according to some rumors. (Please let it be Emily Blunt.)
(Update: Nevermind. After this was published, HBO signed MacLaren to a two-year deal.)
Jonathan Levine: One of my current favorite directors, he’s the guy behind The Wackness, Warm Bodies, 50/50 and All the Boys Love Mandy Lane. He has a really good eye for story, knows how to crush a romantic storyline, and can spin genre conventions into his storylines.
Ideal Project: The Quicksilver and The Scarlett Witch spin-off, which has been rumored as a possibility in phase three of the Marvel Universe grand plan.