Black Panther succeeded beyond everyone’s estimations. There’s absolutely no denying that.
Prior to the character’s MCU debut in Captain America: Civil War, most of the general public simply wasn’t aware of the hero. Now, audiences can’t get enough of him and he’s a core part of the marketing for next week’s superhero smash-up Avengers: Infinity War.
The character’s cinematic success was by no means assured, of course, but Disney CEO Bob Iger has now explained in an interview with Vogue how important he felt the film was, saying that he pushed to get it made.
“I badly wanted this movie. To have a black director, a black producer, a black cast. Look around. It means something. … On the business side, there is a case to be made for your product reflecting the world you’re trying to do business in, but of course, there’s also an ethical side. I felt that Marvel needed to turn its afterburners on in terms of developing movies based on more diverse characters, and that led directly to Black Panther and Captain Marvel. It was time to take a leap forward, and I exhorted them to do that.”
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It’s a credible position for a man who’s inarguably one of the most powerful people in the entertainment business. He goes on to explain that he considers his stewardship of Disney to not just be about satisfying the company’s shareholders (though he also does that, too), but having a certain sense of social responsibility to change the world for the better. And if that means taking a chance on a film that the analysts insist won’t appeal to overseas markets, or on a less bankable superhero, then so be it.
Marvel Studios head honcho Kevin Feige sings from the same hymnbook as Iger, too, and it seems like the pair have formed a close relationship that’s going to bear fruit in just a couple of days from now via Infinity War. It’s also a subtle jab at Feige’s former rival at Marvel Studios, Ike Perlmutter, who was notoriously stingy with budgets and had a very conservative opinion on which characters should receive movies and reportedly opposed the promotion of any non-white, non-male hero (he’s also rumored to be taking a position in Trump’s cabinet – make of that what you will).
Right now, Feige and Iger are riding high and Perlmutter has been demoted to being in charge of Marvel TV, so it’s pretty clear who won that battle. Still, if monolithic, litigious and IP-voracious mega-corporations have to have a CEO, I’d rather they be like Bob Iger and at least try to achieve something positive, which he did with Black Panther.