Although Marvel's Cinematic Universe has continually drawn praise for revolutionizing how superheroes appear on screen, there has also been an increasingly loud discussion about diversity in the franchise. Some of those concerns were addressed last fall when Marvel announced standalone films for Captain Marvel and Black Panther (played by Chadwick Boseman), which will both arrive in 2018.
It seemed Marvel was looking to diversify behind the scenes as well, by hiring a female co-writing team to pen Captain Marvel and courting Selma director Ava DuVernay to helm Black Panther. The director has since passed on working with Marvel and recently opened up about her decision to do so.
During her closing keynote at the 2015 BlogHer conference, as reported by THR, DuVernay spoke about her meetings with Marvel, specifically Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige. For the director, signing on to direct Black Panther became a question of whether the cultural impact of the film was worth giving up three years of her career to Marvel:
"At one point, the answer was yes, because I thought there was value in putting that kind of imagery and culture in a worldwide, huge way that they do in a certain way: flying, exciting action, fun, all those things, and yet still be focused on a black man as a hero — that would be pretty revolutionary. These films go everywhere from Shanghai to Uganda, and nothing that I probably will make will reach that many people, so I found value in that. That’s how the conversations continued, because that’s what I was interested in. But everyone’s interested in different things."
DuVernay went on to say that the work her name is attached to is important to her and if she needed to compromise too much, a movie wouldn't "be an Ava DuVernay film." However, the director did support Black Panther and said she will see the feature when it premieres.
When DuVernay first confirmed she wouldn't be directing Black Panther, it seemed like a clear case of creative differences. There have certainly been directors in the past that have struggled to work within the Marvel Studios system: Patty Jenkins left Thor: The Dark World and Edgar Wright infamously exited Ant-Man after spending years developing the film.
Since Marvel is constantly working to progress their shared universe in addition to releasing standalone films, the process can cut into a director's freedom. Of course, since Ant-Man had some difficulty getting back on track after Wright departed the film, it's likely for the best that DuVernay recognized early on that she wouldn't have worked well within the Marvel system.
That being said, DuVernay's understanding of Black Panther and the film's overarching cultural impact may leave some fans disappointed that she won't be helming T'Challa's standalone feature. However, it's clear Marvel is looking for a Black Panther director who will understand these aspects of the feature, while still creating an entertaining piece of the MCU. Who that will be, though, remains to be seen.
Ant-Man is currently playing in theaters; Captain America: Civil War opens May 6, 2016; Doctor Strange – November 4, 2016; Guardians of the Galaxy 2 – May 5, 2017; Spider-Man reboot – July 28, 2017; Thor: Ragnarok – November 3, 2017; The Avengers: Infinity War Part 1 – May 4, 2018; Black Panther – July 6, 2018; Captain Marvel – November 2, 2018; The Avengers: Infinity War Part 2 – May 3, 2019; Inhumans – July 12, 2019.