With everything great going on in Captain America: Civil War—and there are a lot of great things about the movie—it wasn’t the familiar characters who stole the show. The introduction of two new characters into the Marvel Cinematic Universe was more than enough reason to be excited about the latest entry in the MCU - and while much of the pre-hype for the movie was focused on your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, Civil War may just be remembered as the movie that launched Black Panther into popular consciousness.
It was a risky move, to be certain. Throwing Chadwick Boseman (42) into the mix along with the established characters of Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man and Chris Evans’ Captain America could have created a muddled introduction for the Wakandan hero, but audiences walked away with an excitement that stoked the flames of anticipation for director Ryan Coogler’s (Creed) upcoming Black Panther. It’s a huge step for the director, who first rose to acclaim with Fruitvale Station. Helming a huge budget superhero movie backed by the hottest studio around may not have been the obvious next step for the director, and it's not a responsibility he’s taking lightly either.
Coogler spoke recently on the subject of Black Panther in an interview published on Fast Company. In it, the director discusses the challenges of being a successful indie filmmaker and transitioning to the world of Hollywood tentpoles. Coogler it seems is not one to rest on his laurels; as such, he intends to approach Black Panther with the same heartfelt commitment he did with both Fruitvale Station and Creed:
“It’s a specific challenge. What Marvel’s doing, and what you see a lot of studios doing now that Marvel has done it so successfully, is making content that exists in a particular universe, where the characters tie in and crossover, and I think that’s a great creative challenge to me—to make this movie as personal as possible. It’s going to be my most personal movie to date, which is crazy to say, but it’s completely the case. I’m obsessed with this character and this story right now, and I think it’s going to be very unique and still fit into the overall narrative that they’re establishing.”
Black Panther, of course, has had problems in the past with directors afraid that they wouldn’t be able to tell their story. Selma director Ava DuVernay ended up passing on the project over concerns that Marvel’s structure wouldn’t allow her to make the movie her own. Indeed, this has been a persistent criticism of Marvel Studios over the years. Many critics and fans wonder just how much say a director can have in the making of their movie, or whether or not a Marvel director is just, in a sense, a hired hand.
The notion that Coogler is using Black Panther to tell his “most personal” story to date flies in the face of such criticisms, and is a good indicator of the kind of approach the director is going to use in the making of this film. Perhaps it has something to do with Coogler’s long term appreciation for comics and the narratives they weave.
“I grew up as a comic book fan, and the same things used to happen in the comic books. You’d have Wolverine’s books, and they’d be so much darker and more brutal than the X-Men books, but they’d still fit in when you open the pages of the X-Men book. It’s new to movies, but it’s not new to storytelling.”
It certainly does help to have an understand of the mechanics of a comic book universe, where the events of one title can ripple through an unrelated series to create a sense of narrative cohesion across all titles. That Coogler understands this will ultimately help him craft Black Panther into a movie that is both entirely his own and fits within the larger framework of the MCU.
This is great news for both longtime fans and new recruits excited about the character in Civil War. After such a stellar introduction into the MCU, Black Panther needs to be handled with great care for his first solo outing, and it certainly seems as though the right man is at the helm. Coogler, after all, was able to turn Creed, a pseudo-sequel to the Rocky franchise, into one of the more powerful and remarkable films of last year. That alone shows that Coogler knows how to turn an established franchise into the jumping off point to tell a decent story, and the idea that he can take the same approach with a superhero movie is certainly encouraging.
Captain America: Civil War is in theaters now. Doctor Strange opens November 4, 2016; Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – May 5, 2017; Spider-Man: Homecoming – July 7, 2017; Thor: Ragnarok – November 3, 2017; Black Panther – February 16, 2018; Avengers: Infinity War Part 1 – May 4, 2018; Ant-Man and the Wasp – July 6, 2018; Captain Marvel – March 8, 2019; Avengers: Infinity War Part 2 – May 3, 2019; and as-yet untitled Marvel movies on July 12, 2019, and on May 1, July 10, and November 6 in 2020.
Source: Fast Company