Summer blockbusters are often fun, but they're also where true creative genius goes to die.
The sad truth is that movemaking is a business, and massive, populist films are carefully crafted to appeal to mass audiences. That means stories that won't offend anyone, actors who won't turn anyone away, and directors who won't get in the way of the studio's notes. However, many directors have managed to make the system work for them. The likes of Steven Spielberg and Christopher Nolan continuously churn out masterpieces in the blockbuster arena, proving that art and commerce don't have to be mutually exclusive.
With that said, let's take a look at the filmmakers who deserve a shot at a summer blockbuster. These filmmakers range from the new to the seasoned, with some having Hollywood experience and others having only dabbled in the independent fringes. However, they all have the chops to do something truly special with a big budget and the backing of a studio. If Darren Aronofksy can get his utterly weird (and wonderful) Noah made, then these 10 directors deserve a shot.
After making his debut with the twisted high school noir Brick and the delightful con man caper The Brothers Bloom, Rian Johnson got a small taste of big Hollywood with the sci-fi thriller Looper and it looked good on him. Really good. With a modest budget, Johnson created a detailed and dense science fiction world that puts far more expensive films to shame, filling every frame with a twisted world that feels just grounded enough to connect with us on an emotional level. We can't even begin to imagine what a $100 million Rian Johnson sci-fi epic would look like, but it would probably look like it cost $200 million and expose the majority of summer films as the featherweight fluff that they are. No one injects genre films with so much purpose as Johnson.
Speaking of directors who know a thing or two about working on the cheap, few filmmakers know how to squeeze two pennies together and create magic quite like Benh Zeitlin. In his Oscar-nominated Beasts of the Southern Wild (as well as in his short films), Zeitlin creates grandeur seemingly out of thin air, combining raw performances, gorgeous cinematography and a keen awareness of the power of music and sound to make even the smallest moments feel huge. If he can create such a lively and moving picture on a small canvas, what would happen when you offer him an actual budget? Would it actually deflate what seemingly makes him special? We're willing to risk it.
Ever since he burst onto the international film scene with the stellar Attack the Block in 2011, Joe Cornish's name has popped up on a number of Hollywood wish lists, but he's yet to land a major film. And that's a shame. Attack the Block may be a small movie, but it's as energetic, clever and visceral as any horror or sci-fi film being made for much larger budgets. This is a guy who makes the kind of movies that movie fans love. Maybe that's why he ultimately didn't land Die Hard 5 or Star Trek 3 -- he would make a movie that's actually, you know, good. At least a few key players know his talent; he cowrote Steven Spielberg's exceptional The Adventures of Tintin and the upcoming Marvel superhero movie Ant-Man.
The filmography of Kelly Reichardt is so quiet and subtle that we wonder if she'd even want to make a big-budget blockbuster... and that actually makes us want to see what she'd do with a $100 million budget even more! Maybe she won't need too much convincing. After all, she followed up the exceptional trio of Old Joy, Wendy and Lucy and Meek's Cutoff with Night Moves, which sees her taking a slight turn into thriller territory after a decade of personal character studies. Would she be willing to take a hard left turn into the mainstream? Imagine her deft handling of fascinating female characters being applied to, oh, a Wonder Woman movie or something. Find a movie fan who wouldn't want to see that and you'll find you a liar.
Nacho Vigalondo's bizarre and inspired work represent a man punch-drunk with the possibilities of cinema. He's a mad man, but he's a mad man with a huge imagination and a knack for taking seeming generic stories and transforming them into something truly unique. With Timecrimes, Extraterrestrial and Open Windows, he tackled time travel, alien invasions and stalker horror and created films that feel completely unique despite having plenty of seemingly similar company. The next time a producer with a lot of cash to burn wants to make a genre movie that's as smart and weird as it is expensive, they should give him a call.
Shane Carruth has made only two films in 10 years and that's just plain unacceptable. He suggested a massive, unfathomable scope with only a few thousand dollars in Primer. He deftly blended complicated science fiction with raw romance in Upstream Color. He's nothing short of a genius. To make matters worse, it's no secret that he has written bigger, more expensive films and simply cannot get them made. Carruth has the potential to be the next Christopher Nolan, a brilliant director with the ability to transfer his unique set of skills to the blockbuster arena without compromise. He could make the next Inception.
You won't find a more assured sophomore film effort than Jeremy Saulnier's Blue Ruin, which feels like the work of a master with a dozen films under his belt. Like the Coen brothers at their best, he can find humor in the darkest places and extract tension from the simplest moments, creating a film that feels shocking without feeling like it's working too hard. Unlike so many modern directors, Saulnier's work feels meticulously crafted, with every composition carefully thought through and every choice a gear in a larger, more complex machine. There's nothing about his work that feels lazy, workmanlike or thrown together. Give this man a shot at the big leagues.
If you're a fan of modern TV, you're familiar with the work of Michelle MacLaren. She didn't just direct episodes of Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones, she directed some of the best episodes of those series. Hank Schrader's parking-lot gunfight? Her. Brienne of Tarth's showdown in the bear pit? Her. The shocking reveal of the zombified Sophia? Yeah. Her. When you see MacLaren's name pop up in the opening credits of a TV show, you're guaranteed an oppressively intense hour of entertainment. If she brings half of her usual game to a big-budget thriller, she'll make something that will make you tear the armrest off your seat. She's already delivered the goods on massively popular shows. She's not above creating great entertainment. She's the real deal. Someone hire her.
If someone gave Ben Wheatley the keys to a massive Hollywood production, he'd probably burn everything to the ground (in an entirely awesome and mostly metaphorical way, of course). The sick genius behind Kill List and Sightseers, Wheatley has built his increasingly prolific career out of being a filmmaker who approaches material from the most eccentric and darkly hilarious angles imaginable. He turns period pieces psychedelic. He transforms rom-coms into murder sprees. He mines menace from even the most innocuous things in his horror movies. Out of everyone on this list, Wheatley feels the least likely to be given a $100 million budget from a Hollywood producer, but damn, he 's the one who would make, unquestionably, the craziest movie.
Michael and Peter Spierig
They may have gotten their start with the low-budget zombie movie Undead, but the Spierig brothers really launched into Hollywood with the dystopic vampire story Daybreakers... only for the film to land with a thud at the box office. And that's a shame, as Daybreakers is one of the most clever horror movies in recent years, and the Spierigs showcased a real knack for world building and monster design. Their newest film, the twisted and truly crazy time travel drama Predestination, has them trying something completely different. Working on a tiny scale on a film that takes place almost entirely in one location with only a handful of actors, they once again showcase a confidence and command of the screen that more prolific directors lack entirely. Give them a Marvel movie. Hell, give them Dr. Strange.
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