By: Grant Vance ~Staff Writer~
After many years of crime-fighting and world-building comic books have found their way from a humble collection of monthly panels to mainstream blockbusters on the silver screen. With anything that enters the realm of mainstream consciousness, there is much to be discussed and many opinions to account for.
Considered the modern day western due to sheer popularity and quantity, the superhero film is controlling the blockbuster market by a wide degree. Not only has it bled into television, with multiple shows inspired by comic book series currently airing and in development, but the genre is nearing a total of eight to nine films per year. This establishes the “cinematic universe” mold inspired by the “Avengers” films. Not only is Marvel competitor DC Comics soon to begin establishing its own cinematic universe with “Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice,” but this mold is also soon to be attempted by several franchises including “Transformers,” “Star Wars” and Universal Studios’s “Monster Universe,” beginning with “Dracula Untold.” The influence on the market is apparent, and now that they’ve reached mainstream status, it’s time they’re critiqued.
One of the largest complaints of the super hero film is the lack of female and minority characters in front and behind the camera. While some of the specifics of Marvel have been debated, such as Black Widow’s lack of a solo film and its frequent use of a minority character as a sidekick, what has really frustrated me is its attitude about talent behind the camera. Thankfully it’s moving in the right direction for the lead character issue, with a female-led “Captain Marvel” film and an African American-led “Black Panther” film announced and in production. However, its approach to talent behind the camera is less than stellar.
For one, Marvel has a troubled history with director relationships. Former “Ant-Man” director Edgar Wright stepped down from the project he devoted years to after creative differences with Marvel higher- ups. Wright isn’t alone in his complaints, either, as Joss Whedon, director of both “Avenger” films, spoke out about his disagreements with the company. A similar conflict happened when “Selma” director Ava DuVernay was courted by Marvel to direct the upcoming “Black Panther” film, but left the project after early creative differences.
DuVernay could have done a great job if she would have abandoned her artistic integrity to make another episodic, formulaic Marvel property. What’s troubling is that the studio thinks that since an African American character is leading the film, an African American should direct the film. The same can be said for DC in an almost identical situation with “Breaking Bad’s” Michelle MacLaren directing “Wonder Woman.”
There’s nothing inherently wrong with hiring a director of the same race or gender as the film’s lead character for a project. But rather than feeling obligated to shoehorn talent into a project because of race or gender, why not give directors creative freedom suited for any project they may take on, regardless of the characters?
Studios are giving these directors jobs because they fear growing political correctness and the outspoken public. This is not because they’re best for the job. I do not say that Maclaren isn’t the right choice for a “Wonder Woman” film. I’m sure she would do a fantastic job. The same goes with DuVernay and “Black Panther.” But why can’t these talented directors be hired for a “Batman” film or the next “Avengers” film?
The current renaissance of the comic book has been great, and it’s nice to see the growing diversity of the medium (especially on the page), but studios should stop trying to appease the public. Hire more diversity because of talent, not affiliated orientation.
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