So, as it turns out, Ava DuVernay will not be directing the upcoming Black Panther film. In an interview with Essence, DuVernay stated that, while she considered Marvel’s offer to direct, she ultimately passed on the project because she and Marvel
had different ideas about what the story would be. Marvel has a certain way of doing things and I think they’re fantastic and a lot of people love what they do. I loved that they reached out to me. […] In the end, it comes down to story and perspective. And we just didn’t see eye to eye. Better for me to realize that now than cite creative differences later.
I definitely believe that DeVernay would have given us an outstanding film, one that’s faithful to the source material that would have addressed issues of race, imperialism, and colonialism. Issues that, within the context of everything that’s happening in America at the moment, are hugely important. I strongly suspect that made Marvel a little uncomfortable because they may have felt that this would have alienated their white male fanbase. Which would have undercut their bottom line.
This goes back to what I was saying about how directors with a unique voice and style aren’t really what Marvel’s looking for. Joss Whedon summed it up perfectly when he said “With so much at stake, there’s gonna be friction.” Marvel’s concerned that unique voices and styles will impact on their bottom line revenue, which is totally fair. I get that Marvel wants to make as money as they can on these films – especially given their production budgets.
But, as I’ve said before, having a cinematic universe that’s so tightly controlled and one that always plays it safe doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re going to produce good films. And, frankly, as Marvel produces and releases more cookie cutter and lacklustre films, they will notice a drop in revenue.
I think that a lot of the same issues that prevented DeVernay from directing this project is also one of the reasons why we haven’t seen a solo Black Widow film. I think Marvel thinks that diversity – on-screen and behind it – is a threat to it’s moneymaking blockbuster franchises. Which is really sad because, from what I remember from my marketing class, both women and non-whites are huge untapped sources of revenue, not only for the films themselves but also for the attendant merchandise.
Upon the release of Ant-Man later this year, the Marvel Cinematic Universe will move into “phase three”, which includes the following films:
- Captain America: Civil War (2016)
- Doctor Strange (2016)
- Guardians of the Galaxy 2 (2017)
- Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
- Avengers: Affinity Wars Part 1 (2018)
- Black Panther (2018)
- Captain Marvel (2018)
- Avengers: Infinity Wars Part 2 (2019)
- The Inhumans (2019)
(Yet there’s still no solo Black Widow movie. Because, fuck you, fans. That’s why. But that’s a whole ‘nother rant entirely.)
Films, like other pop culture texts, have a tremendous impact in shaping how we see and interpret the world around us. They not only reinforce the dominant cultural values of a society but can also challenge them. The writers, directors, and producers who produce films have tremendous power and can use film as a way of stimulating discourse around important issues. This is why diversity behind the camera is so critical.