This post was inspired by a series of tweets.
On Oct.28th, Marvel held a “secret” press conference where they revealed the titles of all of their films for the next six years. You can view the some of the slate here. (Not included is ‘The Avengers: Infinity War’ Part 1 and 2 in 2018 and ’19.)
The biggest, and arguably the best, news coming out of the presser was the announcement of fan favorite, especially black fans, ‘Black Panther’ which is scheduled to be released on November 3, 2017.
For those unfamiliar with the character, in short, Black Panther, who was created in 1966 (made first appearance in Fantastic Four 52), is an symbolic figure of the African nation of Wakanda, which is the world’s wealthiest because of the mineral vibranium (the same material that Captain America’s shield is made from). The mantle is mostly known to be held by T’Challa.
Since Marvel announced about two years ago of unannounced movies and former Marvel EIC Stan Lee hinting of a ‘Black Panther’ film, fans have clamored for it. Now, that it’s official with ’42’ and ‘Get on Up’ star Chadwick Boseman set to star as T’Challa, a collective “YAASSSSS!” reverberated over social media.
But … not so fast.
I have fears.
The most important thing that I’ve learned as an aspiring screenwriter and just by having the love of writing and reading is that I have a more critical eye when it comes to films. For the most part (‘The Transformers’ franchise notwithstanding), I love story-centric films. I’m not fooled by the glitz and visual spectacle of these CGI driven films. Movies are a visual media but the visual aspect carries the story along, not be the story (‘Avatar’).
Marvel fans will disagree with my next statement but for the most part, Marvel has more subpar films than great ones.
‘Blade,’ which people forgot is a Marvel film because it came before the current “Cinematic Universe,” was a great film. The tone was perfect for the ‘Vampire Hunter’ and Wesley Snipes did his damn thing. But since, many (granted I haven’t seen ALL of Marvel films) have been hit or miss.
‘Iron Man’ was a great film. Perfect origin story. ‘Iron Man 2,’ despite me defending it initially, was not. Both ‘Hulk’ films pretty much failed although the latter, the 2008 version, wasn’t all that bad. ‘Thor’ could have been more grounded if they actually used his alter ego Dr. Donald Blake.
The issue with me is that Marvel isn’t creating individual films. Their films intertwine with one another which makes for a story that isn’t about the actual character but what will it do to the overall ‘Avengers’ lineup (i.e. ‘Captain America: The Winter Solider’).
All of this ties back into ‘Black Panther.’
We have never had a feature film about a black comic hero since Blade. (For the sake of the argument, let’s pretend ‘Steel’ didn’t happen.) And none as beloved as T’Challa. Hollywood has oftentimes failed in delivering black characters on film (reference George Lucas ‘Red Tails’ comments here). So I’m not even sure if Hollywood will be able to properly do the film justice (development, marketing, etc).
I also fear that Marvel will get in its own way. Does ‘Black Panther’ need an origin film? Absolutely. Will ‘Black Panther’ be an origin film? No. ‘Black Panther’ will be just another piece in a larger cog to the ‘Avengers’ machine (see ‘Infinity War’) which means the film will be just like ‘Iron Man 2’ in worse case scenario or ‘Captain America: The First Avenger’ in best case scenario.
‘Black Panther’ could be the driving force that changes comic book film industry forever. Black Panther could lead to other black comic book characters to the big screen (Luke Cage comes to mind) but I fear that Marvel will treat him like the rest of their poster children — a brush stroke to a larger painting.
T’Challa, Wakanda and fans doesn’t deserve that. And for our sake, let’s hope Marvel proves me wrong.