“I loved “Creed,” director Ryan Coogler’s resurrection of the “Rocky” franchise, which paired Coogler’s muse, the tremendous young actor Michael B. Jordan, with Sylvester Stallone, to simultaneously brutal and tender effect as Rocky Balboa (Stallone) trains Adonis Johnson (Jordan), the son of his longtime rival and friend. And I adoredCoogler’s debut feature, “Fruitvale Station,” which starred Jordan as Oscar Grant going through his day on Dec. 31, 2008, leading up to the moment when he would be shot to death on a BART platform in the early hours of New Year’s Day 2009.
But while there are few things in mass culture right now that excite me more than the prospect of a new Ryan Coogler movie, I found my heart falling a little bit on Friday with the news that Coogler may be directing yet another franchise picture, Marvel’s forthcoming “Black Panther” movie.
The prospect of Coogler making a “Black Panther” movie raises the same issues that the prospect of casting a black actor as James Bond does. Both choices are rooted in the same direction. Do we want the best actors of color, and the most visionary filmmakers of color, to spend valuable years of their careers improving or improvising on mainstream franchises that have historically been dominated and defined by white artists? Or would pop culture be better off with Coogler, or actors like Idris Elba and David Oyelowo (who have been floated as potential Bonds), making original movies like “Fruitvale Station,” “Beasts of No Nation” and “Selma”?
None of this should be taken to mean that I don’t care who directs “Black Panther.” I would hate for the first Marvel movie centered on a superhero of color to be a bust, just as I was anxious for “Jessica Jones,” the Netflix series about a troubled female superhero, to be a success in both feminist and superhero terms…”