Over the weekend, I finally caught up to the rest of the Internet in not only seeing, but falling in love with Creed. It’s the second part of a two-part breakout for director Ryan Coogler, who had previously won acclaim for 2013’s Fruitvale Station.
Also over the weekend, the rumor mill began to swirl around Coogler and the folks at Marvel Studios. According to multiple reports, Coogler and Marvel had previously discussed the potential of bringing him on to direct Black Panther, currently scheduled for a 2018 release and starring Chadwick Boseman. At the time, talks eventually cooled off and no dotted lines were signed. Now, following the success of Creed, talks have reportedly started up again and if all goes well, Coogler will become the next talented director to get the opportunity to leave his mark on the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Prior to seeing Creed, I would have been excited about such news. Coogler’s talent is undeniable, even if you’ve only seen his early work. And it’s clear that Marvel is trying to find a talented black filmmaker to be the shepherd for their first movie headlined by a black superhero. They’ve been reportedly in talks with Selma director Ava Duvernay and Straight Outta Compton’s F. Gary Gray. The strategy itself is a little on the nose – “why weren’t they looking at these filmmakers for Marvel movies that weren’t going to have Black Panther on the poster?” is a legitimate question – but it’s not a wrong strategy. Black Panther is a unique hero surrounded by a rich mythos, one that carries a lot of clout within the Marvel hero power structure (at least in the stories upon which the MCU appears to be built). He deserves a talented filmmaker to bring his story, and that of Wakanda, to life.
Now that I’ve seen Creed, I’m over the moon about this choice. Because if Coogler really does end up behind the camera for Black Panther, it’s not just because he’s a hot ticket in black filmmaking right now. His ability to shoot and choreograph action is elite level. He proved this, alongside his Creed team, in shooting some of the most frenetic and visceral fight sequences that we’ve seen in a boxing movie since, well, the best of the original Rocky movies. He’s a filmmaker that knows how to develop his characters. He understands how to frame hand-to-hand combat and make the audience feel it. And he’s a filmmaker that understands how to handle the baggage that comes with what Matt Singer at ScreenCrush appropriately dubbed “The Legacyquel,” the modern breed of brand-extension that has enraptured Hollywood’s decision makers.
On all fronts, Coogler is a legit. It’s a bonus for Marvel that he’s a black filmmaker and they are in desperate need of diversifying their talent pool. What has me most excited about Coogler and Black Panther is the work he’s shown us already.
Now, if only we could get Marvel to sign Coogler to a two-picture deal, then get a rights deal done with Fox, so that he could make a Fantastic Four sequel that combines Black Panther and the cast of the recently squandered F4 attempt, which just so happens to include his good buddy Michael B. Jordan. Too much? Alright, fine. But a nerd can dream.