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When Kiwi in­die di­rec­tor Taika Waititi pitched Marvel Stu­dios on why the com­pany should hand him its third Thor film, he set his siz­zle reel to Led Zep­pelin’s “Im­mi­grant Song.” Marvel not only hired Waititi but also in­cluded the iconic rock an­them in both the cam­paign for Thor: Rag­narok and the film it­self, un­der­scor­ing Marvel’s de­light in non­in­tu­itive creative choices, which have made the stu­dio an un­par­al­leled suc­cess story in Hol­ly­wood. The movies in its in­ter­con­nected uni­verse con­tinue to en­er­gize the comic-book genre while reap­ing out­size re­wards at the box of­fice. “We’ll say, ‘We want to do a space movie. We want to do a high school movie. We want to do a heist movie. We want to do a thriller,’ ” says Marvel Stu­dios pres­i­dent Kevin Feige of the com­pany’s ap­proach. “The shared uni­verse is al­ways the fun, added in­gre­di­ent. But the ex­er­cise is: What’s the best in­di­vid­ual film that we want to make?” Marvel’s past three movies—guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 ($864 mil­lion glob­ally), Thor ($850 mil­lion), and Spi­der-man: Home­com­ing ($880 mil­lion)—all out­per­formed their fran­chise pre­de­ces­sors and sur­prised au­di­ences with dis­tinct tones and styles dic­tated by the films’ di­rec­tors. Up next is Black Pan­ther, the first su­per­hero movie with a black lead, di­rected by Ryan Coogler (Creed).

“I came to this movie not just as a comic-book lover,” he says, “but as some­one of African de­scent. Mak­ing the film made me think about what that meant.”

With Marvel’s Black Pan­ther, di­rec­tor Coogler says he’s made “a very per­sonal film about African iden­tity.”

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