Ava DuVernay, Black Panther and Superhero Diversity

It was announced yesterday that Marvel is “courting” Ava DuVurnay to direct one of their upcoming features. Which film? The Wrap says that they want her to do one of their “diverse films.” Essentially, one of the films that isn’t about white males.

In July 2018, Marvel will be releasing Black Panther. Black Panther will be the first Marvel Studios production with an African-American lead. In the comics world Black Panther was the first black superhero. To be clear, Black Panther was the first African superhero, as he is actually from Africa (be it the fictional country of Wakanda). The first African-American superhero was Falcon (portrayed in the films by Anthony Mackie).

After that, the next Marvel Studios release will be Captain Marvel in November 2018. The Captain Marvel name has belonged to various characters (in the same way there have been different people who have taken up the Robin mantle). At Marvel’s Phase Three Event back in October, President Kevin Feige clarified that this Captain Marvel is who we all hoped it would be, Carol Danvers.

With Black Panther and Captain Marvel, Marvel Studios is moving forward with its Cinematic Universe and displaying the diversity possible in a superhero film. While this post isn’t about the merits of introducing heros of color/female superheros I will say that this is important and I’m glad to see that Marvel is doing this. Whether it be politics, the workplace, religious settings or yes, the fictional world of Marvel, it is important that equality is a priority. I’m glad to see Marvel is going to have their first female superhero AND their first black lead in the same year (2018 is also the year Avengers: Infinity War – Part 1 comes out, so yeah, big year).

Black Panther

This leads us to DuVernay. I hope and pray that it is true that she is going to direct a Marvel film. While the report suggests (and common sense says) that she will do either Black Panther or Captain Marvel, I would be just as happy to see her do Thor: Ragnarok or Inhumans or the new Spider-Man film. If it is true that she is doing one of the “diverse films,” my wish would be that she do Black Panther. Being the first Marvel film* with a black lead, I believe Duvernay is the woman to bring justice to the character, both as a successful film and as a symbolic gesture that Marvel is moving forward.

As you may know, Selma was one of my favorite films of 2014, it is a masterpiece and an incredibly moving experience. This goes to show that Marvel is not just looking for a “black director” or a “female director” even though they have no experience. Yes, Marvel wants to have a “diverse” person direct their “diverse” superhero (those are the words of The Wrap, not my words), but they are seeking real talent with award-caliber directing.

Some have said that DuVerney is unqualified for the job since she has never directed an “action movie.” While it is true that Selma doesn’t feature fight scenes choreographed with a blue screen background, she definitely understands action. If you’ve seen Selma, then you know that the film features very intense scenes of violence between protesters and the Alabama police force.  First off, these scenes are shot masterfully and display the violence in a frightening manner. Second, in Selma we see that DuVerney can use scenes of action/violence to drive the story forward and hit a very strong emotional note.

Ava DuVernay Directing

This is what I want from Black Panther, action scenes that are both thrilling while also deeply emotional. Think of the action in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. Yes it was thrilling and fun to look at, but it was also used to show the horrors of war and the emotion of those involved. With DuVerney, we could be getting this in a Marvel film.

Let me close with this. I know there are some out there that just see this as a liberal or progressive move from Marvel, that “the feminists are forcing their hand” (all you have to do is go to the message boards to see these complaints). I understand, the best director for the job should get the job, regardless of color or sex. With that in mind, in the 21st century it is important for institutions like Marvel to take a stand and show the power of diversity.

Whether we like it or not, a black woman will tell Black Panther’s story differently than a white male. It’s just true. That’s the power of diversity. We all have different life experience and we bring different things to the table. I, for one, happily welcome DuVerney’s life perspective to the table when it comes to Black Panther’s story.

With the new Spider-Man film being added to the Marvel roster, Black Panther's new release date is July 6, 2018 (not the November date in the official logo here)
With the new Spider-Man film being added to the Marvel slate of movies, Black Panther’s new release date is July 6, 2018 (not the November date in the official logo here).

Even in the midst of this talk of liberal agendas and diversity, I won’t let anyone say that she is unqualified as a filmmaker. Selma is the only film she needs on her resume to prove herself. What were the Russo Brothers known for before Captain America: The Winter Soldier? Episodes of Arrested Development and Community. What was Jon Favreau known for before Iron Man? Elf. Previous experience doing blockbusters is not required for a filmmaker to make their blockbuster debut.

In DuVerney I trust. If you haven’t seen Selma, please do so, the film is immensely powerful. Here’s to Marvel’s future films and to superhero diversity in general!

* 1998’s Blade is a Marvel film with a black lead, but I am referring to Marvel Studios. It should also be noted that Blade came before the current generation of superhero films. Blade was more of a straight up action/horror film, Black Panther represents the first Avenger of color getting a solo movie.

Source: The Wrap

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