Have you seen Captain America: Civil War? Did you like it? You did? Good. Since you’re up to speed (if you’re not, stop reading this and go see Civil War posthaste), I don’t even have to go into a whole diatribe about how Black Panther was one of the show stealers that made this movie what we needed to kick off our summer. I realize we’ve been here before with movies that blerds bet it all on that didn’t meet specifications (I’m looking directly at you, Red Tails), but this is one of those cases where we’ve been given every hint that the impending Black Panther film, scheduled for release July 6, 2018, has a fighting chance of being the hero we deserve. These are probably the five indicators.
[title type=”h4″]1) Ryan Coogler[/title]
Have you seen Creed? What am I saying — you have enough wisdom and intellect to have found this website, you’ve likely seen Creed. Did you enjoy Creed? Well, guess what? That was Ryan Coogler. If you have the guy who made reached peak blackness with a franchise based on an Italian ex-loan shark enforcer who became a boxing champ (presumably through P90x and white privilege), then you hold onto him by any and all means necessary.
After basically talking themselves out of the opportunity to work with Ava DuVernay, lightning really wasn’t supposed to strike twice for Marvel. Any other studio would have had to pay penance by getting stuck with Tyler Perry signed for six movies where Madea’s house is the new Avengers Mansion, but here we are. A young, black, successful millennial director is directing a movie about the first black mainstream superhero. That’s basically like Voltron directing a movie about Voltron (don’t judge my metaphors).
[title type=”h4″]2) Reginald Hudlin isn’t writing it [/title]
Look, I mean no disrespect. After all, Hudlin has been a prominent black entity in the entertainment world from back in the day. I’m talking about “back when the Dallas Cowboys were a worthwhile football team” back in the day. And yes, I acknowledge that volume 1 of his tenure writing the Black Panther was pretty good as a textbook in case you happen to take an Intro to Wakanda course, but past that, Hudlin’s work got really questionable really fast.
[quote_simple]”I will bring Niganda into the 21st century, a world where there is enough for everyone to eat… all streets are paved… and there is free wireless internet service!”[/quote_simple]
This was a quote from the villain, Erik Killmonger. This dude was trying to die on the hill for the Black Panther’s wi-fi password. And as if it couldn’t get anymore problematic, he went on to promise the Nigandans flat screen TVs. In addition to making Africans out to be materialistic zombies you can just point at your enemies with promises of Obama phones, he makes virtually every white person he writes out to be a blatant racist. Granted, I completely understand the subtext at work, but honestly, if we’re going to have a progressive film about an African hero-king, he has to combat more than just The Man. Don’t get me wrong. Institutional racism is a big one, but a character like the Black Panther, in premise alone, can conquer so many more issues like colorism, imperialism, and patriarchy.
[title type=”h4″]3) Captain America: Civil War[/title]
Now, stay with me on this one, folks. I know it sounds problematic at first because there’s always the whole idea of a white man being needed to things involving people of color better, but let’s be I think exception can be taken where the curative powers of a Captain America movie are concerned. Look at Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.. If the Marvel Cinematic Universe is a visual (simplified) representation of its comic book counterpart, S.H.I.E.L.D. is basically the first generation of what a Marvel tie-in looks like. Historically, Marvel tie-ins, with some exceptions, tend to only be as strong as the event they’re derived from. This is why the show that marked the return of Agent Phil Coulson (that the Avengers still know nothing about because reasons) had such an awkward time getting started; It was trying to tie into a lot of Marvel events that weren’t the strongest to begin with (Thor: The Dark World).
Then things turned around once the writers allowed Captain America: The Winter Soldier to directly affect the show’s plotline (which, to be fair, isn’t really difficult given that they’re two espionage related properties). Suddenly, there was intrigue, betrayal, moral ambiguity and deception and suddenly, S.H.I.E.L.D. became… well, watchable, but that’s a whole lot better than how it started. Honestly, if you want to go back even further than that, if it weren’t for Captain America: The First Avenger, we wouldn’t have gotten two epic seasons of Agent Carter. Now, take that and multiply it times the Black Panther.
The Russo Brothers have taken the Marvel Cineverse to a new level where everything Captain America touches turns to vibranium. The response to the Wakandan king’s debut was fantastic and that was just after being given the entry level introduction to Black Panther 101. Civil War was easily the perfect springboard to get comic fans and casual moviegoers alike appropriately pumped for the resulting solo film.
[title type=”h4″]4) The Cast[/title]
Folks, can we sit back and have a moment to breathe in the fact that we have an impending Marvel film that, according to reports, will feature a 90% African/African American cast? Have y’all seen this (supposed) casting call list? Erik Killmonger, White Wolf, Monica Lynne, Malice, Ulysses Klaw? Just the fact that these names are involved in the project is an insight into the deep mythos Coogler seems to be mining for this project. Needless to say, this is a good sign. Nobody’s saying that this completely absolves the Marvel films of their various diversity issues. Even then, Hollywood has a long way to go in minority casting and that’s not something that should be laid solely at Marvel’s doorstep. And Africans playing Africans in Africa should not be such a revolutionary concept in a perfect world, but sadly, we’re not living that life. We’re living this one.
And even at bare minimum, this is a step in the right direction. Also, once you take the politics out of the equation, you’ve got Chadwick Boseman (who’s proven himself as only Jackie Robinson and James Brown, but will soon be playing Thurgood Marshall), Lupita Nyong’o coming off of Star Wars, one of the biggest selling franchises of our time, and Michael B. Jordan, who was an enormous part of what made Rocky movies a serious franchise again (see #1). Though Nyong’o and Jordan’s roles are unknown at this time, that headlining list alone sounds like the Black Brat Pack (at the risk of dating myself, google “Brat Pack”). Star power like that really has no choice but to win.
[title type=”h4″]5) No More Excuses[/title]
One of the ongoing gripes when the talks about your highlighting your favorite superhero happen (especially when you’re talking about PoC) is that there’s not a big enough audience for that type of character to make the movie a hit. Even more asinine is the idea that their overall origin or premise is too ridiculous to translate over to film. This is a conversation that is still taking place in a world where kids beg their parents for Rocket Raccoon shirts and at least two out of your ten adult friends have a dancing baby Groot in their house. Ant-Man brought in over 600 million worldwide and is holding strong at 80% on Rotten Tomatoes, tied with Captain America: The First Avenger, dwarfing both Thor movies and two Iron Man sequels (contending with Marvel’s most bankable stars, in other words).
Meanwhile, a movie about Batman and Superman, the two most celebrated superheroes in living memory, while doing big box office numbers (mostly from opening weekend presales and advance screenings), still managed to emerge a critical failure comparable only Azealia Banks’ career and Jeb Bush’s presidential campaign with 27% on Rotten Tomatoes, seventeen points lower than the Daredevil movie starring Ben Affleck from 2003. The point is that not only is there room for new blood to enter throw their hat in the ring, there’s really a demand for it. There’s no reason that a Black Panther movie with Marvel’s full weight (which it will likely have because Marvel can’t afford to flop at this stage in the game) behind it can’t emerge prosperous.