Ryan Coogler on his Black Panther Film & More
Chadwick Boseman's turn as Black Panther in Captain America: Civil War was one of the most satisfying parts of the film. While a lot of the buzz post Civil War has focused on Tom Holland's Spider-Man and the incredible second act climax that featured Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) doing something huge, we've seen these characters before. Boseman turn as Black Panther was the first time the character has been seen on the big screen, and it was a relief; Black Panther was not only bad ass, he had a gravitas we haven't really seen in a superhero before. His fighting style was a kinetic, lithe form of martial arts that no other character possess (the only other character with his fighting grace would be Black Widow), but unlike other superheroes, he has a whole country he has to run. A superhero and a king. A man who has more on his shoulders than simply defeating the bad guys.
Director Ryan Coogler's stand alone Black Panther film is going to be a very interesting project to watch unfold. Coogler's rise in the film world is the stuff of legend; it was only three years ago he was struggling to get his excellent debut, Fruitvale Station, off the ground. That film ended up winning the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance and was, in our opinion, robbed of an Oscar nomination for Best Picture. His next film was Creed, where all he did was revitalize a once proud film franchise and deliver one of 2015's most satisfying films. And now he's one of the hottest young directors in the business with a brand new Marvel film to handle.
As you know by now, Marvel films aren't like anything other projects in the business—each one is a part of the vaunted "Marvel Cinematic Universe," and thus they have to function as both stand alone films and episodes connecting the previous and future stories Marvel's working on. It's a lot to juggle narratively, and thus the degree of difficulty on a Marvel film is high, especially for a young director carving out a real name for himself in the business—how might Coogler meet the challenge of satisfying Marvel while staying true to his specific film language and style?
Speaking to Fast Company, Coogler spoke about what makes this Black Panther film so exciting, and daunting, and how he plans on handling it:
"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. 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."
And then there's this—Coogler has worked with female cinematographers on both Fruitvale Station and Creed. The former was lensed by Rachel Morrison, the latter by Maryse Alberti. When asked about his decision to have a woman as his creative partner on set, this is what he had to say:
"You’re absolutely missing something [in a room that’s all men]. Too often, you find yourself in a room like that. Sometimes dealing with studios, you go to a session and there are only a few women, or sometimes there are none. That’s not really healthy for the creative process. That’s how stuff slips through the cracks. Everybody’s a prisoner of their own perspective. I can only see the world through my own eyes. The last few times I made a movie, I had a cinematographer who was a woman. And my editors, one of them is a woman, and the way those two view things and give notes are radically different, and when you have that balance, it’s really an asset."
It seems clear that Coogler's handling of a Marvel film will likely look and feel different from the work of the Russo brothers on Captain America or Joss Whedon's take on The Avengers. Here's hoping Marvel gives this immensely talented young director enough room to put his specific imprint on a character many, many people have longed to see get their own film, Coogler included.