Black Panther and Captain Marvel Got Me Excited About Marvel Movies Again
Marvel has given Hollywood the template for an ongoing mega-franchise that’s making it big on the big screen with every iteration – 13 movies in 8 years with over $10 billion in revenue. To achieve that kind of longevity, producers and writers have had to maintain the status quo, especially during ensemble events like the two Avengers films and this year’s Captain America: Civil War. Essentially, we’re now dealing with a franchise that’s more like a TV sitcom in some ways.
That’s why Loki (Tom Hiddleston) can’t die in Thor: The Dark World, Ultron continues to train with the Avengers without consequences, and the events of the so-called Civil War don’t really damage relationships and friendship within the group of superheroes as they should have. In doing so, Marvel’s greatest cinematic adventures feel more like chapters in a book headed to infinity and beyond. And so, to keep the machine turning, it has to keep adding more characters to the mix.
Spider-Man (Tom Holland) and Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) were introduced in Civil War and are about to get their standalone movies. Before that, there will be Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) in November, and Marvel also confirmed over the weekend that Brie Larson had officially been cast as Captain Marvel. But as easy as it is to be disappointed in the lack of risk Marvel is taking, the four new properties show promise. Besides bringing freshness (and hopefully better storytelling), it also brought some much-needed diversity (Black Panther, Captain Marvel) even though the company is being criticized for it in other places (Spider -Man, Doctor Strange).
A question of identity
Spider-Man: Homecoming director Jon Watts said his film would reflect the New York high school experience. To some extent, this is also reflected in the casting choices. But when it came to deciding the identity of a third Spider-Man in less than fifteen years, Sony chose to stick with White Peter Parker, now played by Tom Holland.
Doctor Strange also had to wrestle with its own issues, with fans and celebrities – including the original Star Trek’s George Takei – blowing up the studio for casting Tilda Swinton (a white actress) as The Ancient One. , a character that resembles the standard Asian mystical sage trope.
But Marvel seems to be improving now. Slated for a February 2018 release, Black Panther will be directed by Ryan Coogler, who announced himself with Fruitvale Station in 2013 which won dozens of awards on the film festival circuit. After that, Coogler delivered a compelling spin-off/sequel story in last year’s Creed, following up on the life of Rocky’s rival son Apollo Creed.
And because of Coogler’s presence, the yet-heralded casting of Black Panther – set in the fictional African nation of Wakanda – rightly involves people of color, from Jordan himself to Danai Gurira (The Walking Dead) and Lupita Nyong’o (Star Wars: The Force Awakens, 12 Years a Slave), in addition to Boseman. And to go along with the diverse cast, Coogler is working with Joe Robert Cole on the script – who produced and wrote a few episodes for FX’s gripping courtroom drama The People vs OJ Simpson earlier this year. Things seem to be in good hands.
For Captain Marvel, although a director has not been confirmed, two female screenwriters have already been announced. Nicole Perlman – who also wrote Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy – and Meg LeFauve – who penned the screenplay for Pixar’s 2015 hit Inside Out – are working on the first female-led solo film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. To add to that, we have Brie Larson in mind to portray Carol Danvers aka Captain Marvel.
Why Captain Marvel?
For those unaware, the character of Carol Danvers first appeared in a comic book in the 1960s as a love interest for then-Captain Marvel. She returned in the late ’70s with Ms. Marvel’s alter ego, her prefix being symbolic of her support for the women’s movement. Danvers continued through the decades in this character, falling into oblivion after an infamous storyline, and was subjected to B-grade treatment for a long time. But she bounced back with the help of Brian Michael Bendis’ work on the Avengers and Brian Reed putting the Ms. Marvel series in the spotlight.
A big change came in July 2012, when writer Kelly Sue DeConnick took over Carol Danvers and gave her the identity of Captain Marvel. Danvers also got a new costume – a jumpsuit – which allowed the character to be gender neutral. Under DeConnick, Danvers thrived as Captain Marvel – and in turn, that helped generate a passionate fanbase called the Carol Corps.
Marvel had other options for a female superhero feature. The first of these, and perhaps the most obvious, is Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow. She’s already appeared in a number of MCU movies and Johansson is one of Hollywood’s biggest stars, which is always a nice bonus. For what it’s worth, Marvel President Kevin Feige has hinted that a standalone Black Widow feature is on the cards. Then there’s Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) who has now appeared in Age of Ultron and Civil War. But Marvel probably thinks a Scarlet Witch movie wouldn’t have the same draw. Plus, there’s also Peggy Carter, Jessica Jones, and Elektra in the MCU – though they all seem to be confined to TV productions.
Call me Captain Marvel. pic.twitter.com/IgqRIb9ijM
— Brie Larson (@brielarson) July 24, 2016
On top of that, the character is conveniently called Captain wonder which should please the studio. And in Brie Larson, Marvel has found someone rising quickly through the ranks, especially with her Oscar-winning performance in the acclaimed 2015 drama Room.
Before it gets Coogler’s Black Panther and Larson’s Captain Marvel, the studio will release four more films as part of its cinematic universe, while DC Comics will offer its own female lead in Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman next June, which presented a promising film. trailer at Comic Con. It’s all far from perfect — Disney and Warner Bros. superhero movie slates still lean heavily toward one gender and skin color — but the realm of pop culture is more inclusive than ever.
Not everyone thinks that’s a good thing – just look at the reaction to the trailer for the new Ghostbusters movie when it was released and the response to the move itself.
But the thing is, movies aren’t a zero-sum game, and having more women and more racially diverse stars in the limelight isn’t going to take away from the heroes we already have. When you include a diverse group of people in creating entertainment, you open up unnecessary boundaries and give more viewers characters they can now relate to. If this in turn results in a financial windfall for movie studios, it will cause a virtuous circle that is as easily understood as “the more the merrier”, the more the merrier. Now who here doesn’t want that?