Marvel’s Kevin Feige is currently looking at a bunch of directors for their long slate of upcoming flicks. One of them now happens to be director Ava DuVernay, fresh off the Martin Luther King flick Selma. TheWrap reports that both sides seem to be very interested in a cooperation. Marvel currently seeks five new directors for their phase three projects Black Panther, Captain Marvel, Thor: Ragnarok, Spider-Man and Inhumans.
- Black Panther was once considered by John Singleton, but that was almost ten years ago. So far, DuVernay is one of the first names in the running. Whoever makes it will direct Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther and Andy Serkis as Ulysses Klaw.
- Captain Marvel was rumored to be offered to Angelina Jolie, but that might not have been true.
- Thor: The Dark World director Alan Taylor already declined to do Thor: Ragnarok, so that’s still free to have as well.
- Spider-Man is already looked at by Jonathan Levine, Ted Melfi, Jason Moore, John Francis Daley & Jonathan M. Goldstein and Jared Hess.
- Inhumans is slated for 2019. Might be a little early to make a decision on that.
But could Ava DuVernay do it? Should she even do it?
First of all, I think she’s an amazingly gifted director. On paper, Selma was solid-but-standard biopic fare, but she clearly elevated the material with her keen eye for interesting composition. She was able to create several intense moments, she made the movie both gripping and moving, and she directed David Oyelowo in an Academy Award-worthy performance. And she did all that on her very first big budget opportunity. I mean, how can you not be impressed? She’s an exciting talent.
However, could she be the right one for an MCU movie?
She’s rumored to be negotiating for either Black Panther or Captain Marvel, but whatever it might be – it’ll be a $100+ million event movie. She’s super self-confident, so I doubt she has any problems directing an even larger crew than before. However, Marvel is obviously doing broad family movies, with lots of action and massive use of VFX. That’s something she’s never done before and that’s something I hold against any director coming from small dramas*. Sure, there have been shining examples such as James Gunn or the Russos, coming from a small backgrounds and excelling at giant blockbuster fare, but all three of them had traceable genre roots. It’s still a big step from a Community paintball episode to direct Captain America: The Winter Soldier, or to go from Slither to Guardians of the Galaxy, but at least there were visible stairs. Selma and Black Panther are as different as Lincoln and War of the Worlds. Just looking at her filmography, such a genre movie would be a huge challenge for her. But who knows? Maybe she’s the next Spielberg, able to tackle any genre? Maybe she can’t wait to do big budget action? Yeah, I’m ready to believe she could nail it. She’d have my full support.
But she has to be open for healthy scepticism as she still has to prove herself as a genre director. If Marvel went with Lexi Alexander instead, we’d have a previous Marvel action movie for reference. If they went with someone like Kathryn Bigelow, we’d have an idea. Thus, DuVernay is still a question mark in the field of genre movies. Even though she’s one that deserves a lot of curiosity and goodwill, she needs to convince us. If she manages to convince Kevin Feige, she might be able to do that. I don’t think Marvel considering a female drama director is the real problem. The elephant in the room is that there simply aren’t dozens of other prominent female action directors to choose from.
*In contrast, I’m highly respecting the fact that studios continue to offer giant projects to newcomers such as Joseph Koskinski or Duncan Jones. It could easily be a way stricter system, shutting everyone out that hasn’t proven himself as a longtime success. The fact that any 30-year-old director can actually dream of helming a big budget movie in his lifetime is what keeps Hollywood’s magic up.
In case Marvel actually offered her the gig. Should she do it?
In theory, deciding on a director should come down to three basic questions.
1) Does the director have an exciting vision for the story?
2) Does he or she get along great with the producers, actors and writers?
3) Is he or she okay with the influence Marvel demands to have?
If there’s a yes on all of these questions, great, let’s do it. That should ensure a promising production.
Of course it’s not as simple as that. Not in this case. Hiring DuVernay would mean two groundbreaking things at the same time. Marvel would finally have a female director after having worked with thirteen men in a row, and they would finally have landed a Non-caucasian director. That has no meaning for the quality of the movies, but it obviously means a lot to everyone who is not a white man. If she decides to go for it and the movie ends up being a great success, it could open her doors to many other big budget projects. It could open countless other doors for other female or Non-caucasian directors as well. This way, the movie doesn’t only need to compete with the other MCU movies. It carries an even bigger responsibility, because the moment she agrees to do any of those movies, that weight is on her shoulders. And if she picks either Captain Marvel or Black Panther, it gets even heavier. Her directing Carol Danvers has to spite every sexist expectation that a female-lead, female-directed event movie is bound to fail, and a similar thing goes for directing the story of T’Challa. Personally, I don’t care about gender or color. At all. We’re all just humans and if you happen to be a great human storyteller, I gladly listen to you. But there are forces out there who want to keep the business as white and male-driven as possible, at all costs.
I don’t know whether DuVernay is interested in fighting that fight. I mean, it’d be great and inspiring if she chose to do so but I’d totally understand if she would prefer to continue slowly building up her own career instead. She can easily both inspire and support talents on smaller scale projects.
There’s also another thing. As I already said she’s really self-confident, and that could obviously lead to problems if Marvel tries to overrule her. Even if she currently has a great time with everyone involved, she needs to accept that a year from now, plans could change. Working on the big Marvel brand, she would have to give up a significant amount of control. So far, only Jon Favreau, Joss Whedon and the Russos decided to come back for more, and two of those four already declined to do further movies for Marvel. Don’t forget Patty Jenkins leaving Thor: The Dark World and Edgar Wright leaving Ant-Man. Unless your vision isn’t aligned one hundred percent with Marvel’s everchanging vision you really need to be a person of compromise to fit in.
The idea that a female-lead super hero movie such as Captain Marvel has to be directed by a female director is total nonsense to me. A storyteller never has to have the same gender, color, age, wealth, or origin as his or her protagonist to make a great movie. And we all know even Wonder Woman won’t ever be directed at females first and foremost. Like all of the big comic book movies, it’ll be a four-quadrant movie for every gender. Saying a female-lead super hero movie should be directed by a female director kinda implies that male-lead super hero movies shouldn’t. And that’s unfair, as most heroes happen to be male. Any gifted female director should be able to do any comic book project, even if it’s Lobo.
And yeah, Marvel could do a lot more to support female and Non-caucasian directors. Hire talents to do episodes for your growing slate of shows, for Marvel one-shots, for webisodes, and for second and third unit of your features. If someone really excels at directing, give him or her a shot at one of the feature films. Ten or twenty years down the road the field of directors might finally look more diverse, giving every super talented director a chance, no matter what gender or origin. I know Marvel Studios is a money-making company first and not an institute for equality, but in the end, like any other big studio, they do profit from finding the best storytellers. Right now, a lot of great talent isn’t heard because the system often prefers white males over better female or Non-caucasian talents, mostly out of tradition. Unused talent equals money lost, so that should be their best reason to make a change.
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