Rachel Morrison is now basking in her historic, breakout moment. She earned the first Oscar nomination for a female cinematographer for the poetic beauty of “Mudbound,” and now has shot the opulent-looking “Black Panther,” starring Chadwick Boseman as the first African-American superhero. It’s the most significant Marvel movie since “Iron Man,” and could have impact on Morrison’s Oscar run.
But, in reuniting with director Ryan Coogler (following their fruitful collaboration on “Fruitvale Station”), Morrison proved that her craft is more about versatility than gender. They’ve graced the MCU with an essential political consciousness and warmth to go along with smart spy fun and requisite superhero action.
“For me, the best part was spending time again with Ryan,” Morrison said. “Our approach was to really find a way to ground it, to make it of this world even though there are elements that were [fantastical]. But, unlike other Marvel films, it’s not like you’re floating in space. It’s a fictional African country [of Wakanda], but we looked at references of everything from ‘Planet Earth’ to ‘Samsara’ to ‘Baraka,’ films that are big in scope but boiled down to humanity.”
“The Godfather” Meets James Bond
As the new king of Wakanda, Boseman’s T’Challa/Black Panther must grapple with family and legacy in finding his place in the world. “The Godfather” was an obvious reference, but there’s also a nod to James Bond as well, with globetrotting spy thrills, not to mention Martin Freeman’s CIA agent Ross evoking Felix Leiter, and T’Challa’s teenage sister, Shuri (Letitia Wright), giving off a hip Q vibe. There are even some “Skyfall” riffs.
Funnily enough, Morrison never discussed Bond with Coogler. “We didn’t think of that per se, but James Bond has some pretty cool things in that way,” she said. “The goal was to blend the epic with the intimate.”
But first Morrison had to learn about making a VFX-intensive actioner, learning more about process and management. “As a result, I took myself off of camera operating privileges,” she said. “There were going to be so many levels with second unit and plate units. It’s a very different beast. I went in somewhat intimidated by how much I didn’t know about how these massive VFX films are achieved.”
Geoffrey Baumann, the production VFX supervisor, sent Morrison side by side comparisons of before and after scenes from many of the different Marvel films to …read more