Marvel has driven away another creative, innovative filmmaker with its overly strict movie-making machine. Ava DuVernay was widely rumored to be the studio’s top choice to direct Black Panther, which will be the first Marvel film centered on an African American character, but the Selma director recently told Essence magazine that she had discussions with Marvel about the film and decided not to pursue the project. Apparently her and the company had some different ideas about how the movie should go. Marvel seems to want acclaimed directors to come and make superhero movies for them, but won’t let the filmmakers have the creative control they’re going to want/need/probably demand in order to make the movies.
The company is seeking to get a person of color to direct Black Panther and a woman to direct Captain Marvel, which will be the company’s first movie focusing on a female superhero. Black Panther is set to star Chadwick Boseman as the titular hero, the prince of the fictional African nation of Wakanda who has to take on his father’s throne and avenge the king’s death.
Marvel’s aspirations have always been high, as the company has made comic book-based movies that appeal to both wide audiences and critics. It has seduced the most famous and the most acclaimed actors in the business into roles as superheroes. But Marvel has had a harder time with getting big name directors on board. Not that they haven’t had talented filmmakers work with the company, but the need for the movies to have continuity in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as well as comply with the vision of Marvel head Kevin Feige has been a turnoff for filmmakers who are used to having creative control over their films.
“I’m not signing on to direct Black Panther,” DuVernay told Essence. “I think I’ll just say we 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.”
“I loved meeting Chadwick and writers and all the Marvel execs,” DuVernay continued. “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.”
She’s alluding to Marvel’s last director snafu, one that will be fresh in people’s minds as Ant-Man is due to come out later this month. Filmmaker Edgar Wright, best known for the trilogy Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and The World’s End, developed that project for the better part of a decade before finally dropping out, citing creative differences with Marvel. Peyton Reed was brought in to replace him and Wright is still getting screenwriting and other credits for his contributions to the film, but he still essentially lost years of work due to the inability to find common ground with Marvel on the project.
This happened yet again with Monster director Patty Jenkins and the Thor sequel, The Dark World. Monster was a widely acclaimed look at serial killer Aileen Wuornos, who murdered seven men while working as a prostitute. Charlize Theron won pretty much every award there is to win, including the Oscar, for her portrayal of Wuornos. Jenkins signed on to direct The Dark World, but exited the project citing creative differences. She said she remained open to the idea of doing a superhero movie and Marvel, a company in need of a female director as it’s under fire for a lack of diversity at every level of filmmaking, allowed Jenkins to get scooped up by Warner Bros. and DC first. She’ll be directing Wonder Woman for that studio.
If Marvel really wants to get these interesting and acclaimed filmmakers on board with its projects, then the company needs to allow more room for their varying creative interpretations. The way the studio has all of its movies planned out for so many years in advance, with their varying interlocking plots, there’s little room for experimentation with story. Ditto goes for style with the way Marvel has established the feel of its films and hasn’t shown much willingness to stray from that aesthetic. If the studio wants the best and most distinctive filmmakers in the business to work for it, then it’s going to have to loosen up.
Black Panther is due to be released on July 6, 2018 and DuVernay remains supportive of the movie. “I love the character of Black Panther, the nation of Wakanda and all that that could be visually. I wish them well and will be first in line to see it,” she said.
Follow Jacqueline on Twitter @Jacqui_WSCS