Another stunning trailer for Marvel’s Black Panther is making the rounds after Marvel Studio’s debuted it early in the morning. It showcases a world that has never been seen before in the almost ten years of Marvel Studios films, full of bright colors, action and a cast that is all black except for a supporting ally and a supporting villain.
Next year will mark ten years since Marvel made a giant splash with Iron Man that kicked off a shared universe of comic book films that began the current golden age of comic book related films. Films based upon comic book properties are nothing new of course, with Reeves/Donner Superman and Burton Batman and the Singer X-Men films among others stretching back decades. What was new though was the work that Marvel Studios put into not only turning formerly sort of B to C list characters, at least to non comic book reading fans, into A-listers but also building a universe that rewarded both comic fans and non-comic fans alike by building upon what had come before to create a truly shared universe.
Audiences were used to the idea of franchises that build on one another like the old Superman films or the first X-Men films, but each of those were stand-alone universes. They never crossed over with anything else and once they were over those worlds were done.
Marvel Studios changed that, and now Black Panther is just one part of a brand new major revolution that is occurring at the studio.
Two years ago news broke that Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige and co-President Louis D’Esposito would be handling the overall Marvel Studios decision making alone and instead of reporting to the mysteriously withdrawn and allegedly notoriously spiteful and penny-pinching Issac “Ike” Perlmutter they would report to Disney’s Alan Horn directly. Because most of the films that Marvel had in the pipeline at the time were in production before the split, there was no real noticeable difference.
Fast forward to 2017, and the result of that split seems all but clear.
While there will likely never be a reference from Feige or anyone else, at least until someone writes the secret history of Marvel Studios style book or something years from now, the departure of Perlmutter has seemingly led to a big change for the better. This was made clear with the first film Marvel put out this year Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.
Colorful, bright, fun and fully what James Gunn wanted to make, the film was a departure from the still muted colors and scope of many of the previous films that fans had begun to say all looked and acted alike in many ways. GOTG2 though was a world a part from those films and clearly was Marvel letting the director direct.
Then came Spider-Man: Homecoming falling into the same sort of area with tons of colors and the character gets to be the character, and the director painting what they wanted.
We have to wait till November & February to fully see, but trailers alone prove that Thor: Ragnarok and Black Panther are keeping to this idea of bringing in talented directors and just letting them do what they want to do. Not holding them down to make sure that the film fully fits some Marvel mold. There will be connections, after credits scenes, and the like that keep it being a Marvel Studios film and connected to the world at large but each of the four films is their own thing.
The fact that director Taika Waititi is on record that most of Ragnarok scenes include the actors improvising their lines should easily speak to the change that Marvel has & is going through right now.
This is a familiar sentiment to be spoken of as it is one that Geoff Johns and Diane Nelson recently brought up in an interview with Vulture about the DC Films from Warner Bros. They also brought up the idea of needing to follow suit of their recently popular film, Wonder Woman, and stop trying to force films to all fit into a mold and just let the directors do their thing to tell a good story.
It seems like a minor idea, but as we see it taking effect it can only make for better films.
We were already in a geeky golden age where the things we all likely were shunned for liking as kids are now the center of pop culture. Everywhere you turn some comic book or video game or science fiction/fantasy thing we love is being turned into or is already a TV show, movie, game, or something else. Just about every network out there wants to have their comic book show to rival AMC’s The Walking Dead or The CW’s stable of DC shows.
Another aspect of this new attitude for comic films in the last couple of years is one that many non-comics fans will likely think of, but it’s there, is that the films are no longer seemingly being scared of embracing the comics too much. What that means is that while yes the films were taking inspiration from or were adapting comic stories there were changes made to sort of ground these films and not make them too out there for fans.
The X-Men franchise finally began to embrace the kooky nature of comics more with Days of Future Past time travel and some could argue with Apocalypse, but mostly with Deadpool and Logan. After spending a decade grooming their fans and growing a fan base that will show up anytime they hear Marvel has a film. Marvel has also embraced that idea of bringing in the crazier parts of the comic book world. That was proven with things like Ego the Living Planet and even with upcoming things in Thor with the giant fiery being Surtur and all of the Planet Hulk style things.
We’re entering a bold new era of comic book films that are bright, shiny, vibrant and break the mold on what came before. It’s a great time to be a fan.
Welcome to the second part of the Golden Age.