Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Tilda Swinton star in the Marvel movie “Doctor Strange.” Marvel
SAN DIEGO — The Marvel Cinematic Universe just became a bigger and more diverse place.
At Comic-Con Saturday, recent Oscar winner Brie Larson was announced as the title character of the upcoming Captain Marvel film (in theaters March 8, 2019), Marvel Studios’ first female superhero project. And its efforts in expanding its scope was also on display with the impressive cast for Black Panther (Feb. 16, 2018), which focuses on the black superhero played by Chadwick Boseman, and the multicultural classmates of Tom Holland’s Peter Parker in Spider-Man: Homecoming (July 7, 2017).
“These films really represent diversity in cinema, and that’s clearly the crucial part: that we represent the world we live in and the different people and genders we encounter,” says Chiwetel Ejiofor, who stars as Mordo opposite Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sorcerer Supreme in Doctor Strange (Nov. 4).
In playing soldier-turned-superheroine Carol Danvers, Larson “knows and understands and takes to heart the importance of what this role is,” says Kevin Feige, producer and president of Marvel Studios. “When you start with Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark, it’s a high casting bar. And Brie is obviously spectacular.”
Black Panther director Ryan Coogler (Creed) has been surrounding Boseman’s warrior from the African nation of Wakanda with talented castmates for the past few months, and he introduced Marvel fans to his supporting players: Michael B. Jordan, who plays villain Erik Killmonger; Lupita Nyong’o, who took the role of Nakia; and Danai Gurira as Okoye, head of the female warriors of the Dora Milaje.
“As a black comic-book fan, I couldn’t help but to be excited about that,” Coogler says. “And it’s really overwhelming to think about, honestly, but I’m really excited about us opening up the world a little more.”
“Black Panther” stars Lupita Nyong’o, Michael B. Jordan and Danai Gurira share the stage at Comic-Con. (Photo: Kevin Winter, Getty Images)
Jordan sees Marvel as “super-progressive” in that way. “We get a chance to tell this point of view and perspective and the characters who inhabit that world.”
Adds Gurira: “What they do is beautiful and epic and stunning and tells nuanced powerful stories about human beings who are fractured and flawed in extraordinary situations. So to see that done through various types of individuals is how you would hope something would look but you never quite know if it will. And they make it that.”
With director Jon Watts’ high school story in Spider-Man: Homecoming, the goal was to create an “authentic and real” landscape of teens, says Laura Harrier, whose Liz Allan is the crush-worthy object of Peter’s affections.
“What Jon has told us is he wants to cast people who would really be in Queens right now, and that’s us,” says Tony Revolori, who plays Flash Thompson — a white bully in the original Spider-Man stories who’s getting an update. “I know how important the character is to the comic-book fans, so I’m trying to do him justice.”
Tom Holland attends the Marvel Studios Comic-Con panel with “Spider-Man: Homecoming” classmates Laura Harrier, Tony Revolori, Jacob Batalon and Zendaya. (Photo: Kevin Winter, Getty Images)
Seeing the diversity and so many fellow women is inspiring and empowering for Zoe Saldana, who returns as Gamora in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (May 5, 2017). “This universe appeals more to a younger audience primarily (and) we’re giving them stronger examples of more accurate depictions of life around them. It makes you feel like you’re not alone.”
In addition to being proud of having a wide scope of actors and characters, Feige also figures it’s about time.
“As the comics have done, we want everyone to recognize themselves in every portion of our universe,” he says. “With the Black Panther and Spider-Man casts especially, it really feels like this is absolutely what has to happen and continue.”
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