New Black Panther Movie Touted As Cultural Milestone, Box Office Hit
With a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 97%, audiences are loving Marvel’s new Black Panther movie and critics call it a cultural milestone.
Like last year’s Wonder Woman, the new Black Panther movie is breaking barriers for previously underrepresented groups in the superhero film genre. It’s also proving its worth on critical and commercial merit alone. Is this a preview of more groundbreaking films to come?
The new film directed by Ryan Coogler is the story of T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) who, after his father’s death, becomes king of Wakanda, an African country that hides the fact it’s the most technologically advanced nation in the world. The new ruler has to defend his throne from both internal and external threats, including villain Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan).
The film is based on the Marvel comic book character created by Stan Lee and his colleague Jack Kirby in 1966, a time when African-Americans were battling for civil rights.
New Black Panther movie breaks ground and opens doors.
The film has been aptly touted as a cultural milestone even before its wide release to theaters on February 16: it’s a major film that explores what it means to be black, centered on a black superhero, featuring a mostly black cast, and helmed by a black director.
Hype for the film swept the nation prior to its release, with teachers planning on taking entire classes to see it, and Oscar-winning actress Octavia Spencer announcing that she’d buy out a movie theater for viewers who otherwise could not afford to see the film.
“Having studied at Howard (a historically black university in Washington, D.C.) and having various different experiences within our culture, I knew it was an opportunity to pull from real things, real achievements, real African culture and place it in this movie to make it real,” Boseman, the star of the film, said. “If anybody believes that Africa didn’t have an empire, didn’t have architecture, didn’t have art, didn’t have science, you see it in this movie.”
Co-star Michael B. Jordan told CNN the movie is “super important” and “impactful for our culture moving forward.”
“It’s humbling and very surreal that this is a major introduction, almost a reintroduction of black fantasy, sci-fi, mythology, for the generation growing up,” Jordan said. “I can’t wait for Halloween to see everyone dressing up as the Dora Milaje (the female special forces in the film), Black Panther and Killmonger (the super villain Jordan portrays).”
Although there have been a slew of black superheroes in pop culture recently—including Marvel’s Luke Cage for Netflix, the Blade movies and currently the CW’s Black Lightning, Black Panther has reached unheard of heights, financially and critically.
Black Panther hits it big on opening weekend.
Its domestic opening weekend of $192 million was the fifteenth-highest of all-time and also set the record for biggest debut by an African American director. The movie broke Fandango’s pre-sale ticket record for Marvel Cinematic Universe films in its first 24 hours, one previously held by 2016’s Captain America: Civil War.
It currently has a a 97% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, which was the best approval rating for a live-action superhero film, beating The Dark Knight and Iron Man (both 94%, released in 2008).
The film is bound to have crossover appeal beyond comic book fans as well. “It’s going to bring in a lot of people who don’t even really go to comic-book movies,” says Jamie Broadnax, editor in chief and creator of the online community BlackGirlNerds.com. “They’re going to see themselves reflected in a huge way that they just haven’t been able to see before.”
Gil Robertson, co-founder and president of the African American Film Critics Association, said: “The black community is certainly bursting at the seams for this film to be released. It’s a gate-opener opportunity for other black-centered projects.”
“Just imagine the impact it’s going to have on the lives of children from every background to have a major tent-pole film with a black lead,” Robertson said. “That in and of itself just speaks to how far we’ve come in terms of equal opportunity and representation in cinema. I couldn’t be more thrilled about that.”
Reginald Hudlin worked on Black Panther as a comic book and animated series, and said it’s inevitable that the new Black Panther movie will create opportunities, as Wonder Woman has.
“It’s really a natural extension,” he told Vulture. “There are so many superhero characters. If you don’t diversify, then the market kind of eats itself.”
The film has an all-star cast that includes: Chadwick Boseman as the title character; the actor has portrayed the likes of Jackie Robinson, James Brown and Thurgood Marshall. Michael B. Jordan of The Wire, Creed and Fantastic Four stars as the movie’s primary antagonist. Academy Award winners Forest Whitaker and Lupita Nyong’o, Academy Award nominees Angela Bassett and Daniel Kaluuya, and the Emmy award-winning star of NBC’s critically-acclaimed This is Us, Sterling K. Brown, are prominently featured in Black Panther.
Black Panther is in theaters now.