There have been a ton of Marvel movies, and many of them have sported star-studded casts. Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Scarlett Johanssen, and Mark Ruffalo are all household names thanks in part to their leading roles in big-budget Marvel movies. The multi-billion dollar franchise has spanned over 20 movies and tons of recent TV shows, making it one of the most noteworthy and influential entertainment properties in the world.
But one thing that many more casual fans tend to overlook is who is sitting in the director’s chair. Throughout the second and third phases of the MCU, some fans suggested that the Marvel universe had a certain “same-y” feeling caused by the house style of color correction and post-production decisions. To make things more diverse, Marvel has tried to diversify things by getting visionary directors like Chloe Zhao and Ryan Coogler to make some of their biggest franchise entries.
Today, we’re taking a look at some Marvel characters who don’t currently have their own movies and brainstorming about which directors would make a perfect fit for such a solo outing. These characters range from silly and loveable to serious and even scary, so the directors on display here are drawn from a wide variety of filmmaking styles and genres.
David Cronenberg: Man-Thing
David Cronenberg is well-known for his grotesque body horror films, with standout freak fests like Videodrome and The Fly pushing the boundaries of practical horror in films. Cronenberg’s eye for the humanity of sickening-looking monsters would make him a natural fit to direct a film based on Man-Thing, Marvel’s swamp-dwelling mystic monster.
Man-Thing, born Dr. Theodore Sallis, was a brilliant researcher who tried to crack the super-soldier serum that made Captain America a superhero. He got so close to perfecting it that the villainous organization AIM went after him, and in a climactic chase, Dr. Sallis crashed his car into a swamp and injected himself with the incomplete serum. His body intermingled with the surrounding vegetation, and he became the monstrous Man-Thing. He also made his MCU debut in the recent (and excellent) Werewolf by Night.
This premise is perfect for Cronenberg, who would have a blast animating the monstrous title character while still injecting him with pathos and making him a compelling lead. Man-Thing is a vital character in the Marvel universe, as he inhabits a magical swamp that is a portal to every dimension–a perfect fit for the eerie dream logic that makes Cronenberg movies like Videodrome so entrancing and haunting at the same time.
Quentin Tarantino: Punisher
Quentin Tarantino is an unmistakable director, with his signature shot compositions and rapid-fire, profanity-laden dialogue. When a Tarantino movie comes on, you’re just as likely to hear discussions about hamburgers or classic rock as you are to see brutal, bloody shoot-outs. He’s earned critical acclaim for films like Pulp Fiction, Django Unchained, and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. That would make him the perfect director for a film about the violent, darkly funny Frank Castle, also known as the Punisher.
The Punisher is one of Marvel’s most extreme characters, a morally ambiguous vigilante who eschews the usual superhero creed of nonviolence in favor of hyper-violent retaliation against criminals. Frank Castle was a US Marine who was involved in some sketchy operations before returning home to his family. In a cruel twist, espionage operatives ordered a hit on the entire Castle family, and Frank was the only survivor of the attack.
Now, armed with military equipment and a desire to hurt evildoers, Castle patrols the night as the vicious, often villainous, Punisher. Tarantino could imbue a crime-driven story about Frank Castle with the right amount of relatability without celebrating his morally dicey worldview. Some Tarantino characters have already gone on similar journeys: the protagonist of Kill Bill is also on a quest for revenge after assassins take her family away from her, for instance.
James Wan: Legion
As the creator of both the Saw and Insidious franchises, James Wan might not sound like the first pick for a Marvel movie. However, he’s not as unexpected as he might sound; he’s already directed the DC film Aquaman, a stunning-looking movie that defied expectations and became a smash hit with audiences. However, in the context of a Marvel setting, Wan could easily return to his horror roots to take a classic comic character for a spin.
Legion, the superhero alter-ego of David Charles Haller, is a dangerous super-powered mutant. He’s the son of Charles Xavier and has similar powers as his father, including psychic manipulation and telepathy. He also suffers from dissociative identity disorder, and each of his alters sports their own set of powers. As such, any stories dealing with Legion and his unique blend of might and vulnerability often deal with the chaos of a character who is so strong but so unpredictable.
While Legion starred in an FX series of the same name, the MCU has yet to offer its take on the classic mutant character. Wan’s up-close, visceral horror sensibilities would make a great fit for the iconic psychic.
Edgar Wright: Mr. Immortal
Okay, I know Edgar Wright was slated to direct Ant-Man, but things went sideways between the director and the studio. But hear me out! Edgar Wright’s stylish direction has brought some of the coolest and most eccentric characters to life on the big screen. He’s already an accomplished director of comic book adaptations; his take on Scott Pilgrim vs The World is one of the coolest superhero films ever made.
That’s why Wright would be the perfect fit to direct a movie centered around Mr. Immortal and the Great Lakes Avengers. Mr. Immortal is basically one of Marvel’s D-listers, even in-universe. Other heroes mention that the Great Lakes Avengers, while technically superheroes, are approximately as useful for fighting crime as just regular people would be. Such a premise would be perfect for Wright’s brand of dry humor.
Mr. Immortal has also already made an appearance in the Disney+ She-Hulk series, played by Derek Theler. It would be delightful to see him reprise the role in a comedic film, especially if we were able to see him playing off his GLA pals like Dinah Soar, Big Bertha, Flatman, and Doorman.
Jordan Peele: Blade
Jordan Peele is a visionary horror director, expertly translating the skills that made him a comedic master in the sketch show Key and Peele to the timing-based genre of scary movies. Films like Get Out and Nope have cemented him as one of the most influential horror directors of the modern era, and his ability to tackle racial issues while still telling universal (and frightening) stories makes him the perfect director for the Blade reboot.
Blade helped save Marvel in the late 90s after the comic publisher nearly went bankrupt. The Wesley Snipes-led vampire films were cult hits and helped the publisher drum up enough capital to eventually make Iron Man. Lately, though, Marvel Studios seems to be struggling with the Blade IP, unable to find a script or director they like.
Why not just go full-on vampire horror with Peele in the director’s chair? After all, Blade fights some of the most terrifying creatures of the night. Any film starring the Daywalker should be at least a little unsettling. Not to mention, Blade is also quietly one of the funniest Marvel characters, often quipping and dropping one-liners that make fans grin–and Peele knows a thing or two about comedy.
Scott Derickson: Ghost Rider
Scott Derickson is one of the most prolific horror directors working in Hollywood right now, and his filmography shows a particular fascination with the occult. Films like Sinister and Deliver Us from Evil are centered around religious iconography and demonic forces–which sounds a lot like the Marvel hero Ghost Rider.
Ghost Rider, originally a man named Johnny Blaze, is a biker who gives his soul to the demon Mephisto in order to save his father. He now rides as the Spirit of Vengeance, an avenging superhero who brings evildoers to justice with his hellish superpowers.
Derickson could easily bring Ghost Rider to the big screen as a horror-tinged superhero flick with a slightly more serious direction than the Nick Cage-led effort from 2007. Keanu Reeves has recently stated that he’d love to play the character, and that sounds like spot-on casting for the iconic biker from Hell.
Phoebe Waller-Bridge: Squirrel Girl
Phoebe Waller-Bridge is best known for her cult hit TV series Fleabag. She was also the showrunner of Killing Eve and has contributed to screenplays on movies like the James Bond film No Time to Die. Her meta-focused fourth-wall breaking in Fleabag and excellent work on Killing Eve make her the obvious choice to bring a beloved Marvel hero to the big screen: Squirrel Girl.
Doreen Allene Green is a superhero with a genetic anomaly (though she’s explicitly not a mutant!) that makes her super strong, fast, and acrobatic, as well as enabling her to talk to squirrels. She’s a more lighthearted character than some of Marvel’s more stoic heroes, and as such would need a more comedic and self-aware creative team to make her as fun as she should be.
Waller-Bridge would provide the perfect mix of comedic wit and plentiful action. While she’s never directed a big-budget Hollywood film, she’s proven herself talented enough to get behind the camera as the showrunner on a critically-acclaimed spy thriller, so she clearly has the chops to make a Marvel movie.