Black Panther producer Nate Moore confirms that they won't be adapting the concept of the Dora Milaje as some sort of ceremonial wives-in-waiting to the big screen - a controversial part of the comics. In less than a month, Marvel Studios' first project of the year arrives in theaters as we get reacquainted with Captain America: Civil War standout T'Challa, who returns home after the death of his father to assume the title of Wakanda's new king and protector.
Things, of course, won't go smoothly for the new ruler, although fortunately, T'Challa has some solid allies who are devoted to putting the sake of their homeland first and foremost; these allies are the Dora Milaje, the king's bodyguards who are just as adept fighters as their cat-suit wearing leader. In the comics, they double up as potential future wives for the hero, something that has rightfully caused concern as the movie's release approached. However, fans needn't worry about this making the leap to the big screen.
Speaking with Screen Rant during our visit to the set of Black Panther, producer Nate Moore talked about Coogler's creative process in not just crafting a proper origin story for T'Challla, but the world he inhabits. While Marvel Studios already has an idea with the kind of character trajectory that they want for Boseman's character, it was the filmmaker who delved into the people that surround him and his relationship with them:
How did Ryan [Coogler] crack things open from what you and Marvel were planning to do? When he came in, what were the shifts that you saw?
Nate Moore: I think Ryan is a fantastic storyteller, specifically with character. We sort of knew the overall framework of what we wanted the movie to be. What he infused was a really good sense of the complications of being T’Challa and also really building out that supporting cast. One of the things that we love about the property of Black Panther is that there are so many interesting roles around him. Whether it be Ramonda, his mother; his sister, Shuri; Zuri, who is an advisor and a contemporary to T’Chaka’s and sort of a last link to his father. Ryan was really interested in exploring those relationships. Also, I think building out his relationship with the Dora Milaje, this group of all female, sort of Seal Team Six special forces women but making them all characters, making them all individuals rather than, again, this monolithic force of ass-kickers. That would be fun, and we’d always thought that’d be fun, but what we didn’t expect and what he really wanted to explore is the depth of the emotional connections between T’Challa and those individuals.
As the producer mentioned, one of the more interesting concepts of Wakanda is their army of strong and capable female warriors who devote their lives to keeping the King safe. But in the film, that's all they'll be: just his army, not a pool of possible spouses. In fact, Coogler and his team opted to scrap the notion that they are all betrothed to him completely - an apt move considering the negative gender implications that could arise from that depiction of women:
So there’ll be a lot more as far as their role in the story? That was my next question about the Dora Milaje.
Nate Moore: Yeah. They’re a big part of the movie. As you guys know Danai Gurira plays Okoye who, in our world, is the head of the Dora and a pivotal character in the movie. Exploring how they work, their role in Wakanda and their relationship with the King is a big part of the storytelling.
Is the betrothal aspect explored as well?
Nate Moore: It’s not. You know, that was sort of part of the original Christopher Priest run where they were all betrothed which we felt wasn’t necessary to tell the story of the Dora and in a way we all kind of rejected as being a little creepy. So we will not be exploring that.
This is not the only aspect of the Black Panther comics that Coogler decided to alter due to possible controversy. Winston Duke's character M'Baku is called Man-Ape in the pages of the comics but is not referred to as such in the film. The director has previously explained that it's already a tricky job to adapt him given his character design, so they have to be extra careful in considering people's feelings who might be offended with the term.
These decisions are all emblematic of the studio's consistent approach. Considering some of their heroes have origin stories that were first conceived decades ago, Marvel are making sure to modernize while remaining remain faithful to their original characterization. They did a similar thing with Robert Downey Jr.'s Tony Stark in Iron Man by choosing Afganistan as the global conflict which the Stark Industries profits from, instead of the Vietnam War, and later with Ant-Man they completely removed Hank Pym's relationship with his wife involving domestic abuse (a result of the shrinking mechanism's impact on his brain).
All of this promises that while Black Panther will be faithful to the comics, it won't be afraid to take leaps to ensure it's the best film possible. We'll find out how that pays off next month.
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