As recently reported, Marvel Studios has tweaked a good-sized chunk of its upcoming release schedule, shifting the release dates of five confirmed movies and taking one unannounced one off the calendar for now. The films that are moving include some biggies like Fantastic Four and Avengers: Secret Wars, but the whole thing – because any MCU moves tend to have a domino effect – seemed to start with the studio’s reboot of Blade being shot out of its November 2023 berth all the way to September 2024.
That was precipitated by the departure of director Bassim Tariq from the project, less than two months before production was scheduled to start, along with reports that the film’s screenplay needed quite a bit of work. Clearly Blade – which was first announced way back in July 2019 when star Mahershala Ali walked onstage wearing a hat bearing the movie’s title – is in a bit of a rough spot right now.
The first priority has to be signing a new director to right the ship and get pre-production back on track, so we’d like to offer up a dozen potential choices. Since we’d like to see the new Blade lean heavily into the newly expanding horror wing of the MCU – with Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness and Werewolf by Night leading the charge – this list hopefully reflects not just an always necessary amount of diversity but also a breadth of both emerging and seasoned talent in that genre. See what you think.
Justin Benson/Aaron Moorehead
Known for their low-budget horror movies – which they write, produce, direct and often star in – Justin Benson and Aaron Moorehead recently joined the Marvel family to helm two episodes of Moon Knight before being asked to head the writing and directing teams for the second season of Loki. They’ve clearly made an impression on someone at Marvel, and their background in atmospheric horror (The Endless) and even sci-fi (Synchronic) gives them a wide expanse of experience.
DaCosta made Marvel history by becoming the first Black woman, and the youngest filmmaker, to land a directing job with the studio. She’s finishing up that project now, The Marvels, with the film slated for release next July. While that film will certainly feature a more cosmic esthetic that something like Blade, DaCosta has proven herself handy with horror as well: she directed the underrated 2021 Candyman sequel, and its combination of an urban milieu, folklore, and shadowy nocturnal stalkers may be just right for Blade – if she’s willing to stick around the MCU a while longer.
Guillermo del Toro
Landing the great maestro of modern dark fantasy filmmaking would be a major coup for Kevin Feige and Marvel – along the lines of nabbing Sam Raimi to direct Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness – but it would also bring GDT back to one of his early triumphs. Del Toro, of course, directed Blade II (2002), the second and widely considered the best entry in the original trilogy starring Wesley Snipes as the Daywalker. While he has moved onto other thematic concerns with his more recent films like Nightmare Alley, Del Toro might love the chance to make his mark on the MCU with a character he can rebuild the way he’d like. Plus it could reignite excitement around an already troubled film.
We still have fond memories of J.D. Dillard’s directorial debut, 2016’s Sleight, in which an excellent Jacob Latimore played a young street magician who also fashions himself into a homemade superhero. Dillard followed that up with Sweetheart, a horror tale in which Kiersey Clemons finds herself stranded on an island with a humanoid sea creature. His next film, Devotion, is a war drama, but other recent work like directing episodes of The Outsider and The Twilight Zone indicate that he has a large soft spot for the supernatural – which might make him a good fit for Blade.
This Welsh filmmaker is best known for his two stunning Indonesian action thrillers, The Raid (2011) and The Raid 2 (2014), but he also directed the extremely dark – if not entirely coherent – folk horror movie Apostle for Netflix in 2018. He’s back with the streaming platform for his next film, Havoc, another dark crime thriller starring Tom Hardy. Evans is second to none with action and fight sequences, and his films fairly drip with mood and atmosphere. He also might not be averse to playing in a comic book universe; he was one of the many filmmakers (along with GDT and others) who took a swing at developing Justice League Dark for DC Films.
After his stellar work recreating the look and texture of old Universal and Hammer horror movies for Marvel’s Halloween special, Werewolf by Night, the well-known composer-turned-director might easily make the shift to a larger, more ambitious, but still horror-flavored property like Blade. He’s already in the family, he’s introduced Marvel monsters like Werewolf by Night and Man-Thing into the MCU, and we’re sure he’s eager to prove himself again as a director.
Natalie Erika James
Japanese-Australian writer-director Natalie Erika James made a stunning feature debut with 2020’s Relic, a thoroughly eerie horror drama about three generations of women dealing with aging, death, and loss of memory through a terrifying supernatural lens. While she’s been developing another original horror outing called Drum Wave, she’s also currently in production on Apartment 7A, a highly secretive film that is rumored to be a (*sigh*) prequel to Rosemary’s Baby. James’ focus on character, tone, and atmosphere would be her biggest strengths in helming Blade, especially if it tilts more toward horror than straight superhero action.
Leigh Janiak first arrived on the scene in 2014 with her debut feature, Honeymoon, a low-key chiller starring Rose Leslie from Game of Thrones. She was attached to a remake of The Craft for a while, but instead ended up directing and co-writing all three installments of Netflix’s successful Fear Street trilogy, based on R.L. Stine’s best-selling series of YA horror novels. The trio of films was easily the most expansive things Janiak has ever done, and while it’s clear that she’s comfortable in the horror genre, she may want to combine that with the larger canvas of working in the MCU.
The Welcome to the Blumhouse series of films produced by Blumhouse and released through Prime Video have been a decidedly mixed bag for sure, but they’ve certainly provided an outlet for a number of new filmmakers to hone their craft. One of those is Emmanuel Osei-Kuffour, whose sci-fi/horror hybrid Black Box wasn’t entirely successful, but did feature some striking imagery and a solid lead performance from Mamoudou Athie. More recently, Osei-Kuffour has directed an episode of Mike Flanagan’s The Midnight Club, while his sensibilities – he spent several years working in Japan – might bring some fresh twists to the Blade saga.
Like Guillermo del Toro, getting Peele to direct an MCU project is probably a long shot, given the Get Out and Nope writer-director’s often stated intentions to keep moving forward with his own original material. But would it hurt for Feige to give Peele a call anyway? Certainly the idea of crafting a film based around one of Marvel’s most well-known horror and Black characters might prove irresistible to Peele, while also giving him a chance to branch out and play in another universe for a while. He’s already proven he can do epic stories, if that’s what’s required, and his always intriguing style of blending sharp social commentary with genre thrills might add a whole new wrinkle to the Daywalker’s return.
One of the most frightening horror movies to come out of the Netflix pipeline in a long time was Remi Weekes’ His House, a shattering story of a South Sudanese refugee couple trying to survive their relocation to an English town and an evil presence that may have followed them from their homeland. Taut, timely, and terrifying, the movie instantly announced Weekes as a talent to watch. Strangely, he’s gone quiet since then, with no announced projects in development, so it might be a perfect time for Marvel to scoop him up and let him loose in the world of the vampire hunter.
Leigh Whannell’s horror bona fides really don’t need much explaining: the co-creator of the Saw and Insidious franchises, on which he’s handled writing and (on the latter) directing duties, he’s established himself as a major voice in the mainstream end of the genre. Whannell’s other acclaimed directorial efforts, Upgrade and The Invisible Man, have seen him push into sci-fi and action territory while retaining a focus on character and strong thematic subtext. Although he’s recently been attached to a (in our view) pointless Green Hornet reboot, we’d like to think that working on Blade in the MCU might be the more intriguing superhero option for Whannell.
Blade is now scheduled for release on Sept. 6, 2024.