On a day in sore need of good news, Marvel, of all places, has delivered some: The studio’s confirmed that Ryan Coogler, the 29-year-old wunderkind behind Fruitvale Station and Creed, will direct its forthcoming adaptation of Black Panther.
When a director of Coogler’s caliber takes on a superhero movie, it’s easy to feel excitement give way to a vague sense of dread, a fear that, by engaging in a pas de deux with the Marvel machine, a promising artist has pledged his prime years to the production of rote action films. To wit: Ava DuVernay, who for much of 2015 seemed a lock for the Black Panther job, backed out after realizing “creative differences” would stop her from making “an Ava DuVernay film.”
Coogler, a longtime comics fan, seems to have no such reservations, and his hiring is a huge coup for Marvel. For one, the studio is a tiny bit closer to having its films match the diversity of their source material, especially when it comes to who’s behind the camera; Coogler is the first black and second non-white man to helm a Marvel movie. (The first was Taika Waititi, the half-Maori New Zealander directing Thor: Ragnarok).
More importantly, Coogler’s talents are perfect for the material here. Black Panther looks like Marvel's most intricate superhero yet, a man with Tony Stark’s intelligence, Thor’s royal lineage, and ultra-enhanced strength, senses, and speed. Creed proved that Coogler’s eye for character development doesn’t falter in the context of big-budget filmmaking; it also proved that he has a virtuoso way with action sequences, which will come in handy when shooting a character who can walk on water, excel at a dozen martial arts, and still make time to rule an isolationist African kingdom. T'Challa should be in good hands for years to come.