Film fandom the world over was shocked and saddened by the news that James Gunn has been fired by Disney and won’t be directing Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 3 after the discovery of controversial and offensive Tweets he made. There is a petition started by fans to rehire Gunn, and Dave Bautista and Pom Klementieff have stated their support for the director. But Disney cares about their image and a new director will need to be found.
Gunn was a director who had a distinct voice and put his stamp on the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It would be a tough act for any director to follow, but Marvel Studios oiled machine and generally been able to find the right people for their projects.
Gunn came from an indie film background, starting his career at Troma Entertainment before making films like Slither and Super. It would be wise for Marvel to hire a director from a similar background for Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 3.
Kicking off this list is Irishman Lenny Abrahamson. He has recently received a nomination for an Academy Award for best director because of his work on Room, and his next film is going to be a gothic horror. The real reason Abrahamson is on this list is for work on Frank – a quirky dark comedy that has earned a cult following. Abrahamson even got Michael Fassbender to wear a paper-mâché head throughout the film, and he got to work with Domhnall Gleeson, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and Scoot McNairy. It would be the type of film that Abrahamson could be used as a calling card to Marvel.
Abrahamson has also been successful in his homeland: he has won Best Director for Film prize at the Irish Film & Television Awards three times and once won the Best Director for Television. Room also earned Brie Larson an Academy Award for Best Actress, and she is now part of the MCU.
English director Joe Cornish became an in-demand director after his break hit Attack the Block – an urban set sci-fi that starred FN-2187 (AKA Finn) and the 13th Doctor. Attack the Block was an entertaining genre film that was funny, action-packed and considering its low budget had impressive special effects. The aliens in the movie had a simple yet effective design. Attack the Block also starred a group of boys started as an unlikeable bunch, especially John Boyega’s character but as the film progressed they became more sympathetic – Cornish could pull off this trick for Guardians of the Galaxy, a franchise that looks at the universe’s criminal underbelly.
Cornish has experience with the comic-book genre; he co-wrote the screenplays for The Adventures of the Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn and Ant-Man and after directing Attack the Block he was shortlisted to direct A Good Day to Die Hard and Star Trek: Beyond. His next film is set to be a modernized Arthurian tale.
Eli Craig was an actor turned writer/director, and he made a real splash back in 2010 with his directorial debut Tucker and Dale vs. Evil. Tucker and Dale vs. Evil was a fantastic parody and deconstruction of the slasher genre when after a series of misunderstandings lead to a group of college kids trying to kill a couple of hillbillies. It was darkly funny – my favorite moment was when a teen ends up running into a wood chipper, and Alan Tudyk tries to pull him out. Tucker and Dale vs. Evil was a hilarious, smart and violent comedy, similar to Super, Gunn’s last find before directed Guardians of the Galaxy.
Craig’s follow-up film was the Netflix Little Evil described as an ‘offbeat comedy about love, family, and the Antichrist.’ It was well received by critics, but audiences were more divided. But it still shows that Craig has a distinct sense-of-humor, and he can translate it to the MCU. Plus if Craig gets the gig hopefully, he can find a role for Tudyk.
Toby Haynes is a TV director who has worked predominately in the UK. He has directed episodes of popular shows like Sherlock, Being Human and The Musketeers. Haynes’ work on Doctor Who and Black Mirror are the best examples why he would be a good fit to direct Guardians of the Galaxy vol 3.
Doctor Who is a genre show that is in a similar vein to Guardians of the Galaxy and he has directed some beautiful episodes – he handled the Series 5 finale and Series 6 opener. Haynes directed the “USS Callister” episode of Black Mirror – arguably the best episode of Season 4 – and one of the best in the show’s history. “USS Callister” was made as a satire of the original Star Trek series and its effects could match anything in a blockbuster.
Haynes has experience with special effects and actions because of his work on TV. Many British TV directors have become film directors like Ridley Scott and Tom Hooper. It wouldn’t be a stretch for Haynes to step up to make a blockbuster and considering he has worked on many shows with a comedic edge and characters he would be able to fit into the MCU.
Paul King is a writer/director with a quirky sense of humor and managed to find mainstream success. Most audiences will know King for his work on the Paddington films, adapting a beloved series of children books in a popular and well-received film series.
King started his career working on The Mighty Boosh – a surreal comedy show that became a cult hit in the UK – and with his debut film, Bunny and the Bull King deliberately used old-fashioned special effect techniques. When King made the Paddington films, he was able to keep his style and sense-of-humor while still being able to make a mainstream material. Marvel has a knack for hiring directors with distinctive styles like Joss Whedon (The Avengers), Shane Black (Iron Man 3) and Ryan Coogler (Black Panther) and King could easily do the same with a Marvel property.
Dave McCary is the type of young director that Marvel likes to hire. McCary has made one film in his career, Brigsby Bear, a critically acclaimed comedy-drama about a man, freed from captivity and sets out to remake the only TV show he was allowed to watch as a child. The film was praised for its optimistic tone and has fantasy sequences that allowed McCary to be flashy and creative with his visions. Like the main character in Brigsby Bear Peter Quill, Gamora and Drax suffered from trauma and McCary could explore this for the Guardians of the Galaxy sequel.
Outside of Brigsby Bear McCary has made short films and directed segments for Saturday Night Live.
Texas-born director Robert Rodriguez is the king of the modern B-Movie. He made his name with the Spanish language action film El Mariachi, an entertaining movie that was made on an ultra-low budget of $7,000. Since that success, Rodriguez has become known for making gleeful violent, witty and at times self-aware films like From Dusk till Dawn, Planet Terror, and Machete – films that homage grindhouse cinema of the ’70s. He would be able to homage the look and feel cinema of the ’70s and ’80s and would be able to reference films that most people don’t know or even have heard of. He is perfectly adept with action.
Rodriguez has also flirted with more mainstream fare. He created his franchise, Spy Kids, that lasted for four films and he is set to make his first big budget film, the James Cameron produced Alita: Battle Angel, an adaptation of a manga series.
Rodriguez also has experience with the comic book films – he made an incredibly loyal adaptation of Frank Miller’s Sin City where he used comic panels as storyboards and back in the ’90s he was shortlisted to directed X-Men.
Born in Iran and based in France Marjane Satrapi is a woman of many talents, working as a writer, director, and artist. Satrapi started her career as working in the comic book industry, working as the writer and artist on Persepolis, a graphic novel based on her childhood in Iran and education in France. Spanning four volumes the graphic novel won numerous awards in France. Her film debut was the animated adaptation of Persepolis which she co-wrote and directed with Vincent Paronnaud and the film was a critical hit. It won the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival, two Cesar Awards (France’s equivalent of the Oscars) and nominated for the Best Animated Film at the 80th Academy Awards, an award it should have won.
Satrapi first live-action film was the dark-comedy The Voices, featuring Ryan Reynolds, Gemma Arterton, Anna Kendrick and a talking cat and dog who act as Reynolds’ conscience. The cat encouraged Reynolds’ character to kill so Satrapi should be able to get a grasp of Rocket Racoon’s character.
Satrapi’s next film is Radioactive, a biographical film about Marie Curie and based on graphic novel by Lauren Redniss. It is a film with a lot of promise, Rosamond Pike stars as the famous scientist, Jack Throne (Harry Potter and the Cursed Child) wrote the screenplay and Anthony Don Mantle is the cinematographer. Satrapi has the filmmaking ability, a risk taker and Marvel have had success getting indie directors to make their films.
Beside from Satrapi’s filmmaking credentials she was a rock fan when she was a child, being a fan of bands like Iron Maiden and AC/DC, so she would be able to match James Gunn when creating a soundtrack.
Thor Ragnarok director Taika Waititi has quickly emerged as a fan favorite to replace Gunn as director of Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 3 and he would be the most logical choice. Like Gunn Waititi came from an indie background – he made a number of comedies in his native New Zealand and his 2014 horror-comedy What We Do in the Shadows is a cult hit. Thor Ragnarok was clearly influenced by Gunn’s work on Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 3 – both films used Marvel’s cosmic setting, had a similar style of humor and had an ’80s aesthetics. Waititi and Gunn even had muscular lead actors called Chris. When I first saw the trailer for Thor Ragnarok, I thought it looked like Guardians of the Galaxy 3. It would be easy to see Waititi sit in Gunn’s chair, but the big question is would the New Zealander be interested?
Best known for writing horror films like the Saw and Insidious franchises Leigh Whannell has recently moved into directing. His first film, Insidious: Chapter 3 was met with modest critical and audience reaction while his follow-up, Upgrade has been praised by audiences and critics. Upgrade won the Midnighter Audience Prize at the 2018 South by Southwest Film Festival, and the film is on the road to become a cult classic. Upgrade was made on a modest budget, no more than $5 million and it has become known for its humor and fluid action scenes. If Whannell is able to accomplish this with a small sci-fi film from Australia – imagine what he can do with a major Hollywood blockbuster.
Completing this list is Norwegian writer/director Tommy Wirkola. Wirkola is a B-movie filmmaker who has specialized in the horror and sci-fi genres. He is best known for making the Dead Snow films, comedy-horror that feature Nazi zombies. Gunn started his Hollywood career in the horror genre – he wrote the screenplay for the 2004 remake of Dawn of the Dead and his debut feature as a director was the horror-comedy. Before making Guardians of the Galaxy Gunn produced the video game Lollipop Chainsaw which starred a scantily clad teenager cutting down zombies – so Disney should be able to overlook a couple of films featuring Nazi zombies.
Wirkola has directed two English-language films – Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters and What Happened to Monday. Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters was blasted by critics upon its initial release but has earned a cult following because of its violence and tongue-in-cheek humor. What Happened to Monday was a dystopia sci-fi film for Netflix and starred Noomi Rapace and Willem Dafoe. What Happened to Monday has a modest 6.9 rating on IMDB but considering the reaction some of Netflix’s most prominent films have received What Happened to Monday is one of the company’s best.
While Wirkola’s films have received decent if unremarkable critical scores, this hasn’t stopped Marvel from hiring directors if they think they are a good fit. Peyton Reed’s best films have been the Ant-Man films, Scott Derrickson has a hit-and-miss reputation before getting the Doctor Strange gig, and Jon Watts only made two low budget films when he was hired to direct Spider-Man: Homecoming.