Ava DuVernay‘s stunning work on Selma put her as one of the frontrunners to direct Black Panther. Though there was some initial excitement on the possibility, DuVernay ultimately walked away from the job, citing creative differences as the reason. “Marvel has a certain way of doing things and I think theyâ€™re fantastic and a lot of people love what they do. I loved that they reached out to me,â€ said DuVernay.
As we have all seen before with Patty Jenkins, Edgar Wright, Alan Taylor, and Joss Whedon, all had to work under the Marvel guidelines, connecting their work to the collective Marvel Cinematic Universe. Not really an easy job when you want to maintain your creative input, while being pressured to be part of a universe you may not be as concerned with.
More on why DuVernay turned down the job below.
In an interview with THR, we get to see how difficult it can be to be in a relationship with Marvel:
“For me, it was a process of trying to figure out, are these people I want to go to bed with? Because itâ€™s really a marriage, and for this it would be three years. Itâ€™d be three years of not doing other things that are important to me. So it was a question of, is this important enough for me to do?”
It’s nice to see that she has her priorities in order, and that she isn’t willing to sacrifice her creative integrity just to be a cog in a machine. Again, that is nothing against Marvel, I have loved every single thing they have done so far. But this would have been a great opportunity for Marvel to add more diversity to its staff, and hiring DuVernay to direct Black Panther would have been done just that. In fact, she came really close to directing the film:
“At one point, the answer was yes because I thought there was value in putting that kind of imagery into the culture in a worldwide, huge way, in a certain way: excitement, action, fun, all those things, and yet still be focused on a black man as a hero â€” that would be pretty revolutionary,” she continued. “These Marvel films go everywhere from Shanghai to Uganda, and nothing that I probably will make will reach that many people, so I found value in that. Thatâ€™s how the conversations continued, because thatâ€™s what I was interested in. But everyoneâ€™s interested in different things.”
That last portion of the statement may refer to Marvel wanting things to be connected to its cinematic universe. And I can see why she may have wanted her vision of Black Panther to serve a greater purpose than just to be connected and feel episodic.
“What my name is on means something to me â€” these are my children,” she said of her body of work. “This is my art. This is what will live on after Iâ€™m gone. So itâ€™s important to me that that be true to who I was in this moment. And if thereâ€™s too much compromise, it really wasnâ€™t going to be an Ava DuVernay film.”
As you can see, DuVernay wasn’t going to put up with it, and walked away from the job. Now as much as I enjoyed Ant-Man, the whole Darren Cross revealing that he was selling his Yellow Jacket specs to Hydra seemed absolutely unnecessary, and the villains are constantly underdeveloped, with the exception of a few. At this point, Marvel should understand that their fans know these films are connected, and need to forget about the heavy-handed Easter eggs like Hydra. They also should let their directors have more creative freedom and input. But with 12 consecutive first place openings at the box office, things probably won’t change for a while.
Black Panther will make his debut in Captain America: Civil War, which opens in theaters on May 6th, 2016. The Black Panther solo film will open in theaters on November 3rd, 2017.