In a heavily circulated interview with NextMovie, Cosmopolis director David Cronenberg dismisses the possibility of a superhero movie being "supreme cinema art." Specifically citing Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy (which I don't believe he's seen all of), and drawing fanboy hate in doing so, he basically notes that not even a great auteur can do anything beyond something mildly interesting because the source material and the industry behind stuff like Batman adaptations will always be more powerful than the artist.
To an extent, he's right, and while he's actually done a non-superhero comic book adaptation (A History of Violence) and worked off other popular works of literature (Naked Lunch, for one) and also made one of the greatest defenses for remaking classic films (The Fly), all of these could still be tailored to become "Cronenberg films." Whereas a Batman movie is always first and foremost a Batman movie.
But now his comments only make me curious about what he would do with a major superhero property, same as I'll always wonder what his Return of the Jedi, Total Recall, Top Gun, Flashdance, Beverly Hills Cop and Witness might have looked like. Cronenberg's thoughts on Nolan in particular do align with many critics' feeling that great filmmakers shouldn't waste their time with stuff like superheoes because their original works (Memento is the given example) are far more interesting. He might be accepting of actors stooping down to do tentpole movies, but directors have to give more of themselves and more time to such projects.
So that all said, combined with our sorrow about the Joe Carnahan Daredevil that will never be, at least in our imaginations we can fantasize about favorite auteurs tackling superhero movies. Other than Cronenberg making a Spider-Man origin movie (how different is that story from The Fly, really?), some filmmaker/hero team-ups I'd love to see include Lars von Trier's Dark Phoenix Saga, Werner Herzog's Superman or Silver Surfer, Wes Anderson's Fantastic Four (heavily involving Franklin Richards), Todd Haynes' Dazzler: The Movie, Nacho Vigalondo's Marvels and Gaspar Noe's Dr. Strange.
But really the point isn't to think of appropriate combos, because the fun in seeing distinct auteurs take on superhero movies is to see just how much they can conform the material to their own style and personal perspective. Just imagine if some of the following auteurs just needed the paycheck and could do their best to elevate the genre to high art standards in the process: Michael Haneke, Pedro Almodovar, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Wong Kar-Wai and David Lynch.
Which filmmaker would you love to see tackle a superhero movie? Here are some responses received on Twitter: