Tuesday’s speculative casting couch session for the role of Stephen Strange showed that tone will be crucial in making the Sorcerer Supreme succeed on the Silver Screen. So more important than the man in the point-collared cape is the person behind the camera making sure the Doctor Strange film is not torn apart by big egos and bigger effects.
One-time Swinger Jon Favreau nailed the tone for Iron Man slyly having previously learned his way around effects movies like Zathura and Kenneth Branagh proved an unexpectedly apt choice for Thor, with Joe Johnston far exceeding expectations with Captain America: The First Avenger.
Marvel are on a hot streak of hiring directors lately but which can keep the faithful comic fans happy and also bring magic to life without mainstream audiences looking for the hidden trap door.
Here’s our 8 top directing picks for who could bring Doctor Strange to life!
Strange Suggestion: Tim Burton
Yes, he took the superhero movie genre up a gear with his Batman films. Yes, he’s famous for finding conflicted characters amid surreal landscapes. But, perhaps more importantly, Tim Burton’s last film for Disney also made over a billion dollars at the box office so, if he were interested in the property, there’s a good chance he’s in Disney’s good books enough to exchange a lot more creative control in exchange for the supposed lower budget.
Heightening his story worlds with amazing designs and sympathetic characters, Tim Burton at the helm could be the draw for audiences potentially turned off by a comic book head trip. Especially if Tim Burton’s involvement could lure a certain Mr Johnny Depp on board as well, which it inevitably would.
Burton/Depp combo would be a goldmine for Disney. And it’s been too long since Burton adapted a comic book.
Strange Suggestion: Alex Proyas
Already impressing with ‘grown up’ graphic novel adaptation The Crow, blockbuster supremo Alex Proyas then created his own Dark City where Rufus Sewell could literally re-shape the world with his own strange powers. As well as sheer technical skill, style and bravado, Proyas has always used his effects shots to highlight emotion and character, especially when his heroes have suffered loss and mental collapse.
Even more mainstream fare like the still-fun I, Robot creates great empathy with its renegade machines and exhilarates rather than overwhelms with its set-pieces. With Paradise Lost currently in development, Proyas is tackling otherworldly fantasy at its most ambitious, hopefully giving him the armour he needs for a potential summer tentpole.
Plus we know he is a Marvel fan having previously been attached to a big screen spin-off of the Fantastic Four set around The Silver Surfer…
Strange Suggestion: Tarsem Singh
Anyone who has even seen a trailer – heck, even a poster! – for one of Tarsem’s movies knows he possesses a rare eye for striking, flamboyant and near-psychedelic visuals, even if storytelling isn’t regarded as his greatest strength. However, the script is already in the bag so hopefully there isn’t too much tinkering to be done. And while his upcoming Immortals looks like a cash-in on the commercial success of the Clash of the Titans remake, Tarsem’s previous film, The Fall, was a lot more character and narrative-driven in a way far more reminiscent of Pan’s Labyrinth and Guillermo Del Toro.
Speaking of whom…
Strange Suggestion: Guillermo Del Toro
There was a time when Guillermo Del Toro was actually already in line to adapt Doctor Strange with fantasy-supremo Neil Gaiman on writing duties. We can only assume this was before Del Toro signed up to direct every other movie being produced at the same time (where are you, Mountains of Madness?!) Still, we can always imagine.
Del Toro’s incredible Pan’s Labyrinth shows the perfect mesh of vivid fantasy and startling reality – truly one of the few films whose realistic story strands were just as captivating as its fantastic elements. His Hellboy movies, while never quite hitting all their marks, showed a steady hand when it came to keeping the fantasy fun, without having to ever wink to the audience.
A Gaiman-scripted, Del Toro-directed Doctor Strange movie is perhaps the most promising on this list. Though we already know Marvel have most recently gone with a draft written by the writing duo behind the forthcoming Conan the Barbarian, so sadly, it’s perhaps the most unlikely. Oh well.
Strange Suggestion: Matt Reeves
Matt Reeves’ Cloverfield artfully showed how big-scale effects could be done on a smaller budget and – important on this list – kept a giant, stompy monster feeling plausible and un-camp. Cloverfield’s success was down to the audience being tricked into thinking they’d seen more than they had, perhaps the secret magic of bringing Supreme Sorcery to the big screen is the same. Keep the CGI backstage and the smoke and mirrors up front.
Reeves’ unfortunately unnecessary Let Me In may have been met with derision from certain audiences, but it still demonstrated haunting atmospheres and excellent performances. Indeed, the best bits of the film were where Reeves’ veered away from the source material and did something new (Richard Jenkins’ failed murder from the back seat, Elias Koteas foolishly exploring Abby’s bathroom). With the potential for demons and astral projection, Reeves seems a strong contender to bring a new kind of superhero to the screen and make new fans of fantasy.
Strange Suggestion: Darren Aronofsky
He was going to do Batman: Year One. Then he was going to do The Wolverine. But we’re still waiting for Darren Aronofsky’s first superhero opus. All we do know is that he pushes actors towards great, if not career-best, performances and if The Fountain alone isn’t proof of his imaginative concepts and set-pieces suited for inter-dimensional magic, then I don’t know what is.
While we probably won’t know what really caused Aronofsky to leave The Wolverine, it’s fair to say that the X-Franchise has had trouble in the past keeping directors due to the tight reigns being kept on this (extremely profitable) film series. Maybe a second-tier hero and less-risky budget would be the perfect way for Aronofsky to throw his hat in the superhero ring. Maybe even drawing the first Oscar nod for a comic book character while he’s at it!
Strange Suggestion: Duncan Jones
With his haunting debut Moon and breakneck follow-up Source Code each demonstrating a distinctive tone and lofty ambition, Duncan Jones always appears as a director you want to keep your eye on. Shortlisted to direct the Christopher Nolan-produced Man of Steel and in the running to replace Darren Aronofsky helming The Wolverine, maybe third time’s the charm for Duncan Jones – especially with a more psychedelic and psychological hero.
While I know it’s lazy to always point out that he’s the son of David Bowie (who by the way would have made a great Strange back in the day!), I can’t help but already hear a few Ziggy Stardust tunes on the soundtrack.
Strange Suggestion: Michel Gondry
While The Green Hornet may have spent years in development hell (to the extent that it was meant to be Gondry’s debut film back in 1997) and then fallen flat, it’s Michel Gondry’s other dreamlike movies such as The Science of Sleep and the exceptional Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind which make Gondry a possibility for a much more mystical take on the superhero.
While there are any number of directors who can create films with lavish fantasy (read CGI) backgrounds, it is Gondry’s ability with the right actors to always keep one foot in the fantastic and the other grounded. While I’ve no doubt that the new script will call for special effects hell-beasties to threaten our reality, it’s the fact that a human will be facing them that requires a director like Gondry to make the actor seem the powerful feature amid the pixels and differentiate this Marvel title from, for example, The Incredible Hulk.
It seems to be getting easier to fill our screens with special effects magic, but it takes the right director to make sure that magician himself stays the focus of an enthralling story. If not one of the eight above, do you have another choice up your sleeve?