The Black Panther will make his big screen debut in May’s Captain America: Civil War, but Marvel has bigger plans for comics’ first black superhero, with his own solo movie coming in 2018. That film now has a director, with Ryan Coogler signing on to helm the project.
Coogler is best known for biographical drama Fruitvale Station and the just-released Rocky spinoff/sequel, Creed. Both have earned critical acclaim, and marked the 29-year-old director as one to watch.
“We are fortunate to have such an esteemed filmmaker join the Marvel family,” said Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige, via statement. “The talents Ryan showcased in his first two films easily made him our top choice to direct Black Panther. Many fans have waited a long time to see Black Panther in his own film, and with Ryan we know we’ve found the perfect director to bring T’Challa’s story to life.”
Given Black Panther’s prominence as the first mainstream black superhero, Marvel has been keen to have black creative voices on the film. Selma director Ava DuVernay previously circled the project before Coogler’s signing on, and Amber Lake screenwriter Joe Robert Cole will pen the script. Actor Chadwick Boseman will be appearing as T’Challa.
The standalone movie is rumoured to recount his origins following his father T’Chaka’s murder. In the comics, the killer and T’Challa’s arch nemesis is Ulysses Klaw, who was introduced to movie canon in Avengers: Age of Ultron, played by Andy Serkis. While no synopsis has yet been provided by Marvel, hopefully Coogler will be able to turn Black Panther into something distinct amongst the crowded superhero cinema slate. The material offers plentiful opportunities to do that too, as T’Challa is very different to the Marvel heroes cinemagoers have met so far. For one, he’s not, strictly speaking, a superhero — he’s royalty.
The Black Panther is a mantle, something more like a spiritual figurehead and tribal leader for the people of the technologically advanced African nation of Wakanda. Although the role is inherited, each new King or Queen has to undergo a trial to prove themselves worthy, and earn the blessings of the Panther God. Think James Bond with the powers of an animist deity, Iron Man’s tech and an entire country at his disposal for a hint of the potential.
It’s also worth noting that T’Challa will be the first non-American character to headline a major Marvel movie, and that alone could give Coogler, Cole, and Boseman ample material to explore, especially coming out of Black Panther’s introduction in the fractious Civil War. The mix of politics, technology, and mysticism inherent to the character could also position him at a midpoint between Captain America, Iron Man, and the upcoming Doctor Strange in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Black Panther is set to premiere 16 February, 2018.