An Open Letter to Ryan Coogler
By: Nicholas Williams
Ryan Coogler has his work cut out for him. In 2018 he’ll have to deliver a film about one of the most important and influential black superheroes of all time. When taking in account many of the unfortunate events that have plagued the world especially as of late, it could look like a daunting task to any director who has to face that challenge. But Coogler is a rare breed of director that can handle this with the grace that it will need. A man who has directed films such as FRUITVILLE STATION and CREED, Coogler knows exactly how to portray black figures on his canvas. In the hands of a lesser director, I may have a certain level of fear or concern, but with Coogler, I believe he’ll move in the right direction.
However, with all artists, a certain level of suggestion is always welcome. For a film like BLACK PANTHER, I think all suggestions should be welcome, as long as they will treat the character and his origin with respect. Black Panther is a rare black superhero in that he is literally a king. Unlike a Luke Cage, a Black Lightning, or a Static Shock, Black Panther has royal roots. He doesn’t have the arc of a blue collar working man or a young kid growing up on the streets of a rough city. T’Challa is much like a Tony Stark or a Bruce Wayne, a man that can quiet a room by simply entering it. That’s an aspect of the character I hope to see in his solo film, as I feel that aspect was glossed over when he made his first cinematic appearance in CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR.
In that film, the character was treated well, but since it wasn’t his feature film, it was to be expected that not all of his traits would be featured properly. That’s where Coogler can come in and rectify the situation. In his film, T’Challa needs to be the main attraction, with no interference from any outside forces. I stress this as much as possible, seeing as how the upcoming SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING (and the eventual THOR: RAGNAROK) will feature the titular hero receiving some form of help or guidance from another hero. I don’t want Captain America or The Winter Soldier to show up in such an important film, as all they’ll do is take the spotlight away from someone who rightfully deserves to have it on them. Black Panther needs to have 100% control and ownership of the screen.
That said, this is doubly important as the current world that many blacks live in frowns upon them. With the rising number of black men and women being killed by police for simply trying to get their wallet, black peace of mind is at an all time low. Black children are going to grow up in a world that, in many parts, hates them for the color of their skin. That’s where a character like T’Challa comes in. Coogler has the task of using this character as a mascot, and literal hero, for countless black children. When they see this movie, it needs to let them know that they are welcome, and that they can strive to accomplish wonders.
This point can not be stressed enough, and I hope Coogler gets it. The BLACK PANTHER movie needs to be a heck of a lot more than simply another entry into a billon dollar cinematic universe. That means I don’t want any of the suits at Marvel HQ to try and interfere with the film so as to morph it to fit into whatever narrative they’re going to try and push in their next phase. It needs to be a sort of culture shock grenade that will stand the test time because of how it helped so many, and because of the message it left.
We’ve heard and continue to hear about how Marvel interferes in the creation and production of the movies under the titles, and while many may think “Asking them to not do that to one movie is impossible,” I’d hope Marvel would realize what level of director they have on their hand’s, as well as the magnitude of the film he’s working on, and stand to the side. At this point in the letter I have to direct some focus to Kevin Feige, and ask him to just let Black Panther be Black Panther. Use another entry in the phase of Marvel films to make your cinematic universe more cohesive (because at the end of the day thats essentially what these movies are being used to do).
Now back to Coogler.
Black Panther needs to portrayed like the royalty that he is, and that means letting his story be told properly.
So to Mr. Coogler I say this, do what you gotta do.