When Marvel Studios first launched the Marvel Cinematic Universe with that game-changing post-credits scene in Iron Man, no one could have foreseen just how much success the mega-franchise would achieve. As it stands, the company’s Captain America: Civil War is among the most anticipated films of 2016 and will likely emerge as one of the year’s biggest hits as well. Part of what has made the MCU such a hit creatively is undoubtedly the studio’s deft decision-making with regards to the filmmakers they select to helm each film. Here are our picks for the most inspired directorial choices Marvel Studios has made so far.
1. Jon Favreau, Iron Man (2008)
Before taking flight with Robert Downey Jr.’s now-iconic take on Marvel hero Tony Stark, Favreau was likely best known for his acting work, most notably his performances alongside Vince Vaughn in Swingers and Made (the latter of which he also directed). Despite being his fourth time behind the camera, Iron Man gave Favreau the perfect opportunity to take his filmmaking career to that critical next step. His fast-paced storytelling and pop sensibilities fit the story so perfectly that the film helped its title character become as popular as Spider-Man and Batman and singlehandedly resurrected Downey’s career.
2. Joss Whedon, The Avengers (2012)
Stop us if you’ve heard this one: A ragtag group of do-gooders (some with special powers) form a surrogate family as they unite to stop supernatural creatures from conquering the globe. Sound familiar? If so, it’s probably because that description fits Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly, and Dollhouse (i.e., all four TV series created by Whedon). In hindsight, the writer/director seems like the only right choice to bring The Avengers to the big screen, but seeing as the Marvel Phase One finale was only his second film as director, Marvel Studios deserves to be commended for bringing him onboard, even if future MCU plans burned out the filmmaker after Avengers: Age of Ultron.
3. Joe and Anthony Russo, Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
Prior to Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the Russo brothers’ only directorial film credits were comedies Welcome to Collinwood and You, Me and Dupree. Moreover, the pair were best known for helming episodes of Arrested Development and Community when Marvel Studios came knocking. So we’re still not entirely sure what the company saw in them to instill confidence that they were the right choice to lead Chris Evans’s superhero sequel. Still, the resulting film stands among the best MCU films to date, and we couldn’t be more excited that the Russos will helm not only Captain America: Civil War but the two-part Avengers: Infinity War as well.
4. James Gunn, Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
The same year that the Russo brothers joined the MCU, Gunn brought his signature quirky sense of humor and sophisticated visual style to this space adventure. With its source material more obscure than that of previous MCU releases, Guardians of the Galaxy surprised audiences and critics with its fully realized world and engaging central characters. Gunn’s previously directed two bizarre and underrated films in horror comedy Slither and the darkly comic superhero film Super, but Guardians of the Galaxy was the project that managed to translate his unique voice into mainstream success. Hopefully, he’ll duplicate those results with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 in 2017.
5. Ryan Coogler, Black Panther (2018)
To be fair, we still have a couple years to wait to see how well Coogler fits into the MCU, but if past directorial efforts like Fruitvale Station and last year’s Creed are any indication, audiences may be in for another winner when Wakanda ruler T’Challa claws his way into his own solo film. Chadwick Boseman (Get on Up, 42) will debut in the role of Black Panther in Captain America: Civil War, and it’s easy to see from Coogler’s previous work how his skill behind the camera could translate the Marvel hero’s story to life in a visceral, enthralling epic worthy of one of fans’ most-anticipated additions to the MCU.
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