Ava DuVernay looks to carve out her own path by turning down Marvel’s “Black Panther”

6th Annual AAFCA Awards Ceremony - Arrivals

Last week, news broke that the courtship that Marvel had been engaging in with filmmaker Ava DuVernay had resulted in her turning down a chance to direct one of their upcoming superhero movies, namely Black Panther. For some, it was a bummer of an announcement, as she was clearly the first choice, but for many, it was almost a positive development, showing how DuVernay is committed to developing her own material in a way that suits her and not rushing off to take a paycheck. Would her potentially compromised take on Black Panther have still been pretty good? Almost assuredly, but whatever she’s planning on her own for next time out likely will turn out better.

One needs only to look at her most recent work to see that she’s got a distinct identity as a filmmaker and probably wouldn’t mesh well with Marvel. Both Middle of Nowhere and Selma are very much about the Black experience in America, while also telling universally relatable dramatic stories. Obviously, Selma is based on real events and real individuals, but the fact remains…you can tell it’s something from DuVernay. Films within the Marvel Cinematic Universe don’t specialize in that. To be fair, the homogenization of their directors usually results in big hits with solid critical praise, but the MCU is not where filmmakers should go to exercise total creative control.

In terms of what DuVernay should do next, I’m sure she has no shortage of options. She’s already shot the TV Movie For Justice and has the television series Queen Sugar in development, with an as of now untitled drama about Hurricane Katrina planned as well. It wouldn’t surprise me if she signed on to something far more Oscar bait-y than a Marvel movie, though she’s certainly able to do as she pleases. After all, she did take the Black Panther meetings, so there was some interest at the start. Ultimately though, I’d rather her push forward on that Hurricane Katrina project, which I think she could really knock out of the park.

With regards to Black Panther, which still will star Chadwick Boseman in the title superhero role, I’m sure Marvel and Kevin Feige will cast a wide net, though names like Antoine Fuqua, F. Gary Gray, and Spike Lee seem like wishful thinking. I’ve mentioned here and there that Ryan Coogler (of the recently discussed Creed and Fruitvale Station) could be an interesting choice, while other names I’d be interested in seeing get consideration include Carl Franklin, Kasi Lemmons, Dee Rees, John Singleton, or Tim Story. Franklin’s work on House of Cards especially could give him a leg up, though these names are just speculation on my part. The studio I’m sure has their own list that they’re working with right now.

Overall, the only really reason to be bummed about DuVernay turning down Marvel’s offer to make a Black Panther film is that it’s probably going to be a bit longer until we see her behind the camera with a theatrical release. You can also bemoan her not making a distinctive superhero flick, but I doubt it would have turned out that way. She essentially said last week that it was better for her to say no now than say yes and then wind up stepping aside over “creative differences” later. Black Panther will wind up being just fine, but this frees up DuVernay to follow her own whimsy (hopefully taking David Oyelowo along for the ride as well). The last few times out, that’s resulted in some great movies, so we should be excited for whatever she decides to do next. History dictates that it’ll be worth watching. Besides, we’re all going to see whatever Marvel does anyway…

black panther marvel
Stay tuned to see who Marvel winds up tapping to make Black Panther!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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