Listen, there’s no getting around the fact that Darren Aronofsky’s departure from The Wolverine is a disappointment. The project was a uniquely good fit for the director: Aronofsky’s last couple of films have focused on characters who push their bodies to ludicrous extremes, which pretty well sums up Wolverine, whose main superpower is the ability to take a million punches and a shotgun blast to the forehead without stopping. Aronofsky’s Wolverine now joins Aronofsky’s Batman: Year One, Aronofsky’s Robocop, and Aronofsky’s episode of Lost on the ever-expanding pile of “Awesome Commercially-Viable Projects Darren Aronofsky Never Ends Up Doing.” But you have to admire 20th Century Fox for even hiring Aronofsky in the first place. It shows that they’re genuinely interested in bringing some fresh blood into the X-Men franchise, or are at least devoted to making something better than this claptrap. So it’s time to start pondering, film fans: Who do you want to replace Aronofsky as the Wolverine director?
I say we run with the choice of Aronofsky and turn our focus to directors who haven’t necessarily had the chance to work on the blockbuster stage before — so don’t say “Christopher Nolan” just because. To me, the obvious choice for the job is Nicolas Winding Refn, the Danish director of the Pusher trilogy who shares Aronofsky’s instinct for twisted pulp melodrama. (Check out Refn’s Valhalla Rising, if you don’t mind having your brain metaphorically punched out of your skull.) Unfortunately, Refn’s currently working on a Logan’s Run remake.
Of course, a Wolverine sequel doesn’t necessarily have to be a bleak action thriller. The first Wolverine movie suffered from a severely hamfisted sense of melodrama — it took away any hint of Wolvie’s sharp sense of humor, and weirdly tried to turn him into a glamorous romantic hero. This is not the face of a romantic hero. It’s the face of the guy who sits in the corner of the local bar waiting for a fight. You could argue that a more lighthearted take is in order — requiring a director who can go over-the-top without being campy. You could make the argument for comic book fan Edgar Wright (if any studios ever trust him again after the box office disappointment of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World) or over-the-top gurus Mark Neveldine/Brian Taylor (when you think about it, the Crank duet is about a very Wolverine-like character.)
You could even make a pretty good case for the return of Bryan Singer, the guy responsible for turning Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine into a global box office sensation. Singer’s kept a pretty low profile lately, but he made two of the most idiosyncratic superhero movies of the decade: X-Men 2, which was almost like an ensemble comedy with superpowers, and Superman Returns, a meditative failure which looks better and better with every passing superhero sequel.
Still, if I had to make my choice, I’d go with a director who has a proven track record in directing tense action movies, but who’s also shown a fascination with deconstructing über-manly characters with serious psychodramatic issues. That’s why my pick to step into Aronofsky’s is Kathryn Bigelow. Putting aside the fact that no woman director has ever helmed a superhero movie, Bigelow just seems like the right choice for the movie. The Hurt Locker was a pretty ridiculous movie — much-despised by pretty much all armed service personnel for its utter inaccuracy– but it was also an undeniably intense thriller experience, packed full of actors doing incredible variations on macho bravado.
So that’s my pick. What do you think, PopWatchers? Start tossing out your Wolverine preferences! And okay, you can say Christopher Nolan if you want to. Why not? It’s Friday!