How 'Black Panther' will Redefine Gritty Superhero Movies


Thanks to films like Batman v Superman, the word “gritty” is an overused term in the realm of superhero comic book movies. But Marvel’s Black Panther might make that descriptor really mean something once again.

At San Diego Comic-Con, Chadwick Boseman described 2018’s Black Panther from Ryan Coogler as “grittier” than most of Marvel’s work. That alone isn’t significant, but consider what Black Panther comic Coogler identified as influencing his film: Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Black Panther, currently running a political rebellion storyline “A Nation Under Our Feet.”

“I’m glad that the tone [of ‘Black Panther’] may be a little grittier,” Boseman told CBR. “I just wanted to establish that from the beginning, that thats what we were doing. That that’s what I intend to do. I feel like we’ll end up in a place that I’ve always wanted to be when I look at superhero movies. Those are the ones I like the most. It’s exciting to do that.”

SAN DIEGO, CA - JULY 23: Director Ryan Coogler (L) and actor Chadwick Boseman from Marvel Studios’ 'Black Panther” attend the San Diego Comic-Con International 2016 Marvel Panel in Hall H on July 23, 2016 in San Diego, California. ©Marvel Studios 2016 (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Disney)

Getty Images / Alberto E. Rodriguez

Boseman also brought up Coates’s series, saying: “I think his work, whether it be directly or not, it’s already affecting where the film goes, and the film is probably affecting him, as well. I think that’s a great conversation between the two mediums.”

Boseman wasn’t alone citing the National Book Award winner as a predominant influence. Coogler told Vulture that Coates’s book is “inspiring” to himself and co-screenwriter Joe Robert Cole.

“[W]hat he’s doing with Panther is just incredible,” said Coogler, “You can really see his background as a poet in some of the dialogue. And what Brian Stelfreeze is doing with the visuals in that book. And some of the questions that its asking.”


In Coates’s Black Panther, T’Challa is challenged by Wakandan citizens hostile towards the crown. Wakanda is weary of T’Challa’s reign, which has seen disasters like Skrull invasions (2008’s Secret Invasion) to mass floods by Namor (2013’s Avengers vs. X-Men). Two defectors of the Dora Milaje — the Wakandan elite royal guard — obtain power suits they use to lead a rebellion against T’Challa.

One of the most biggest questions Coates has touched upon in his Black Panther run has been loyalty. What does it mean for a nation as scientifically advanced as Wakanda to retain a monarchy?

“What’s so great about Panther is he’s a superhero who, if you grab him and ask him if he’s a superhero, hell tell you, ‘No,’” Coogler told Vulture. “He sees himself as a politician, as a leader in his country … I think starting at that is really so interesting. If you look at that, anything that’s happening in the world right now, or in the world in the past, in the political realm and how people deal with each other, it can be an inspiration.”

Black Panther will be released on July 6, 2018.

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