Marvel Nabs Ryan Coogler to Direct Black Panther
The Motion Picture Association of American hosted an evening with director Ryan Coogler after his breakout directorial debut, Fruitvale Station. Coogler was still fresh out of film school, and Fruitvale Station, which he wrote and directed, had recently won the Grand Jury Prize for Dramatic Feature and Audience Award for U.S. Dramatic Film at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, and, a few months later, the Avenir Prize – Un Certain Regard at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival. The USC School of Cinematic Arts in 2011 graduate had tackled a cinematic portrayal of a horrific moment in the Bay Area, when an unarmed 22-year old black man, Oscar Grant, was shot by a police officer, in the back, while lying cuffed on the floor of Fruitvale Station, part of San Francisco's Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system. Michael B. Jordan's portrayal of Grant, coupled with Coogler's delicate handling of the explosive material, was well beyond both their years. The film was measured and devastating, and both Jordan and Coogler emerged as rising stars.
Two years later, their next collaboration was perhaps, at first blush, surprising; these two young talents are going to revise a moribund, 40-year-old boxing old franchise that seemed to have been finally TKO'd in 2006's Rocky Balboa? That last film had Rocky, then pushing 60, fighting a 37-year-old Mason Dixon (played by real-life boxer Antonio Tarver) to a near stand still in the final round. But Coogler, who co-wrote Creed with Aaron Covington, knew what he wanted to do with his film, and ended up creating, with no small help from an irresistible Jordan, the finest sports film in years, and one perfectly suited for our times. He also course corrected a franchise that had starred a white boxer in a sport that has been dominated by African Americans and Latinos for years, refocusing our attention, and our love, on a young African American boxer who, like Rocky in his prime, is fighting for a whole lot more than a title.
Now, after months of speculation and a host of false starts, Marvel has landed Coogler to direct Black Panther. They posted this on their website: “We are fortunate to have such an esteemed filmmaker join the Marvel family. The talents Ryan showcased in his first two films easily made him our top choice to direct Black Panther. Many fans have waited a long time to see Black Panther in his own film, and with Ryan we know we’ve found the perfect director to bring T’Challa’s story to life.”
Black Panther will star Chadwick Boseman as the titular superhero, the leader of the African nation of Wakanda—which was where some of the action in Avengers: Age of Ultron took place, when Ultron pays a visit to Ulysses Klaw (Andy Serkis), one of Black Panther’s adversaries. The Black Panther, aka, T’Challa, who probably has the coolest of all the superhero costumes, will be bursting into the Marvel universe on February 16, 2018. In Coogler, Marvel has surely gotten their man.
Featured image. Ryan Coogler and Michael B. Jordan on the set of Creed. Courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures.