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Black Panther pounces

Black Panther hasn’t even been released yet and it’s already setting records. From Deadline:

After tickets went on sale Monday night, Black Panther is already outstripping Captain America: Civil War as Fandango’s best-selling MCU title in the first 24 hours of presales. Captain America: Civil War kicked off the opening of summer 2016 during the first weekend of May with $179M.

I have two major takeaways from this news. Firstly, it looks like the oft-predicted saturation point of superhero movies is still a ways off. As Marvel keeps tweaking the formula, introducing new characters to the mix and tinkering with older ones, audiences keep eating the films up. 2018 marks the 10th anniversary of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the box office totals are still on an upward trajectory, while entire other franchises have come and gone in that time. Will fatigue eventually set in? My assumption is yes, but it seems that this bubble is going to keep expanding for a long while before it bursts.

Secondly, and more importantly, this is proof that there’s an enormous appetite for a more diverse crop of superheroes in the cinematic landscape. True, there were three Blade films starring Wesley Snipes, and the MCU has prominently featured black characters like Rhodey and the Falcon before, but this is the first film of this scale to centre around a black superhero. The record-breaking presales indicate a huge amount of interest in Black Panther, but why is there so much excitement? There have been some great trailers featuring music by Kendrick Lamar, Vince Staples and Run The Jewels but it’s not as if the movie itself looks to be a radical departure from the Marvel films that have preceded it. It’s clear, then, that a large amount of excitement is down to a black superhero finally getting his own mega-budget feature. Like Wonder Woman last year, Black Panther is breaking new ground by depicting a badass hero from a chronically underrepresented demographic, and is set to reap similar financial rewards for doing so.

Hollywood has a well-documented diversity problem, with white men headlining most major films while women and ethnic minorities are relegated to supporting roles (if they’re lucky). Occasionally a film will boast a largely female or black cast, but they’re positioned as ‘chick flicks’ or ‘black movies’, films that serve some kind of special interest but that are for a certain demographic and nobody else. The (projected) financial success of films like Black Panther is a refutation of the concept that mainstream audiences won’t accept actors of colour in leading roles, a sign of the continued normalisation of minorities getting to save the day every once in a while rather than just helping Chris Evans do it. Black Panther isn’t going to be the film that solves racism but, along with Wonder Woman and other diversely-cast movies like the Star Wars and Fast & Furious franchises, it proves that the potential audience for films with minority leads isn’t just restricted to those minorities.

Will the actual film be any good? I don’t know! Ryan Coogler is an exciting young director, and he’s assembled a murderers’ row of performers for his movie. We’ll see if Black Panther lives up to its hype when it releases next month.

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