Having just returned from seeing Marvel’s Black Panther, I’m here to tell you that the MCU’s latest movie is the richest, most detailed, and thoroughly researched production yet. That’s to say nothing of the incredible cast and crew, or the action-packed and emotional story that fans will enjoy in droves this weekend, but I mention it with the hope that people seek out the hard work of people like Oscar-nominated costume designer Ruth E. Carter and Emmy-nominated production designer Hannah Beachler. There’s so much detail hidden away within the folds of the narrative that there’s no way you can pick up on all of it, but Marvel’s decision to provide Ryan Coogler and his team with the necessary resources to bring Wakanda to life was an important one for a number of reasons.
Marvel Studios boss Kevin Feige is well aware of the cost of Black Panther, and is equally tuned into just how important it is to bring the highly anticipated hero and his homeland to the big screen the right way, whatever the cost. For fictional characters battling it out in largely fictional areas of our world, sometimes a setting that feels familiar or provides an emotional connection helps to ground the story; think about The Avengers‘ Battle of New York and how much that has impacted the MCU. The same can be said for Wakanda, a fictional nation that I desperately want to be a real place, and which becomes a character in its own right in Black Panther.
But bringing a disparate nation that’s past the bleeding edge of technology to life isn’t easy, and it’s certainly not cheap. In speaking with Vulture, Feige commented on the necessity of ponying up the appropriate amount of dough to do Black Panther justice:
“I hope you can tell from watching the movie, but the resources devoted to this movie are equal to and in fact surpass our last couple of movies. It’s a big story that deserves to be told in a big way, for all of the cultural and political reasons that people talk about, but also because it’s such a key corner of our Marvel universe, and has been for decades and decades. We wanted to do it justice, and we have a studio with Disney, and leaders with Alan Horn and Bob Iger, who supported us a hundred percent.”
Since Captain America: Civil War‘s reported $250 million budget, the last four Marvel films (including the co-production of Spider-Man: Homecoming with Sony) ranged between $165 million and $200 million. That probably puts Black Panther in the $190 million range. The thing is that you can see every cent of that money on the screen, from the costuming, to the production design, to the talent both in front of and behind the cameras. It’s money well spent. But in addition to spending big money for a big movie, there’s a more important thing at play here: Representation.
Obviously Black Panther boasts a nearly all-Black cast, which is an amazing feat and long overdue, but the MCU is planning to be even more progressive in the movies ahead. Feige spoke about how important it was to have Tessa Thompson step forward as Valkyrie in Thor: Ragnarok and hopes to see a similar positive reaction regarding the casting choice of DeWanda Wise (She’s Gotta Have It) opposite Brie Larson in a significant role in Captain Marvel. Feige is also surprisingly aware of how the history of comics and their on-screen representations have heavily favored one particular demographic of viewer:
“It’s something that’s easy to take for granted, growing up in the United States as a white male, that my cinematic heroes look like me. I never thought they looked exactly like me, because I’m not a big athletic hero, but they do. It’s something that over the course of these ten years, having a certain amount of power over what type of movies are made and what type of actors we hire, I want everybody to have that feeling. We don’t take it for granted that people want to see themselves reflected in our heroes and our characters. That’s been the case in the comics for years, and, finally, that’s the case in the movies, and will only continue from here.”