By John Paul
Even prior to it’s release earlier this year on February 16th, people of all races were excited to see Marvel’s Black Panther. Every time there was a new picture, trailer or clip released social media was set ablaze with hype.
When the day of release came, the film smashed records left and right. It became not only Marvel’s most acclaimed movie to date but also the all time best reviewed superhero film with a 97% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, not only that but as I am writing this, the film has grossed over $1 billion dollars worldwide.
To say that King T’Challa and the nation of Wakanda made a good first impression on audiences around the world would be the understatement of the century. To think that a film with a predominantly black cast and an unapologetic love for African culture front and center would be this big of a hit was previously thought to be unreachable.
I talked to my good friend, Trent Brown, about what kind of impact the film had on him. When he went to see the film in theaters, he was amazed at how many black people turned out for it. “The theatre I went to was PACKED”, he said, “and everyone was going to see Black Panther.” But it’s not only young people that were cheered on the King of Wakanda, a lot of older generations came out full force to see the film. One notable viewer was civil rights legend C.T. Vivian. Vivian was impressed with the films premise of an “afro-futurist” nation that had never been conquered and as he puts it, “It’s kind of for older black people as well. We’ve seen so little of really being in charge, in fact we enjoyed that as much as younger people. Maybe even more!”
The film had a spectacular cast of African American actors from seasoned ones such as Chadwick Boseman and Lupita Nyong’o, to newcomers such as Letitia Wright. Some of the most notable breakout roles from the film were Michael B. Jordan playing the villainous Killmonger and Danai Gurira as the general Okoye. “I knew it was going to find a big crowd with black audiences, but to know that internationally it got pushed to a billion dollars. It’s just incredible.” Brown said with an impressed sounding tone. C.T. Vivian stated that the all the records that the movie has broken shows that there is definitely a demand for more diversity on the big screen. “It’s a wonderful thing.” He stated warmly. “It shows how hungry we are to have things that represent us. We have never had it since we were kids. When the black films came out early when I was in high school or when we had a black singer that made us happy because it was black stars. And we never had that before.”
Vivians daughter, Denise Vivian Morse, also added her thoughts on why the film is resonating with so many people. “What’s so cool about Black Panther is that not only do we have a movie that black people have starred in and written, but it was directed and controlled by us.” She beamed, “So the black people made it the way they wanted it, none of it is through a white lens.”
Now if there is anything that I know about Hollywood, is that it has a big follow the leader mentality. And with Black Panther turning in a huge profit for Marvel Studios, other studios in the film industry are undoubtedly taking note and it will not be surprising if we see more black led blockbusters in the near future. Not only that, but it will also open up the door for more diversity behind the camera as well as in front of it. “We’re definitely in this time where people want more diverse casts, more diverse directors and writers. You know Wonder Woman kinda already helped pave the way but Black Panther was the crowning moment, that showed Hollywood that yes, if you have a good enough story and you have the right team behind it people are willing to go watch things with a more diverse cast. And there is a demand for it.” Brown said.
Regardless of all the positives of a post Black Panther world, unfortunately there be some drawbacks to it. Remember when I said earlier that Hollywood has a big follow the leader mentality? Whenever one studio finds major success with a movie, naturally other studios will want a piece of that pie. Why were most animated films in the 90’s musicals? Because of Disney films such as Aladdin and The Lion King. Remember that wave of found footage horror films? Yeah, you have The Blair Witch Project to thank for that. Now we arrive to the cinematic universe trend of today thanks to Marvel’s success.
Obviously DC has their own universe, but aside from Wonder Woman, the reception of their films is not something to write home about. Especially the aftermath of Justice League, which not only bombed critically but financially as well. Universal tried to reboot their classic movie monsters with a new franchise called the Dark Universe, but it was dead on arrival when last years The Mummy bombed. The problem here is mostly agreed to be that studios are so quick to jump on a bandwagon that they forget to care about the quality of their films. This could be an unfortunate side effect once films following in Black Panther’s footsteps begin to emerge. As Brown states, “Some executives may get the idea that ‘Hey, black people! Let’s put them in things! Don’t worry about the quality, just put them in things. People will go see it because they’re black people.’” However, Mrs. Morse doesn’t seem to be worried as she went on to say, “We will see more movies where even though they’re financed by white companies, they will allow blacks to direct, star, they will step aside and allow blacks to be the creative arm.
Why? because the movies need the diversity.
Finally, I asked if there are any other black superheroes Brown, Vivian and Morse would love to see on the big screen one day. Unfortunately, the Vivian family didn’t know that many superheroes but Brown has already thought of one he’d love to see. “First and foremost is Static. I just need something new with him,” he laughed.
As I listened to how much this movie meant to these people, I saw that Black Panther is definitely more than just a movie, it truly is a movement. And I, along with millions of other fans worldwide, cannot wait to see him team up with his fellow Avengers to take on Thanos next month.
Image Source: teepublic.com