For comic book enthusiasts such as myself, we tend to forget the impact these comic book characters have on the social consciousness. Not just that, but the importance of the debut of these cornerstone characters into the movie sphere which can make or break the future of a character in terms of being socially relevant (look no further than Spawn or Steel). The introduction of Black Panther aka T’Challa to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War was welcomed with great enthusiasm and immediately locked-in the admiration of the black community. Between the half-dozen Black Panther hype hashtags on twitter and the consistent mindshare from fans (despite nearly two years wait between appearances) has been stunning to say the least.
First and foremost, the fate of Black Panther film represents the future of the MCU alongside the likes of Doctor Strange (and maybe even Ant-Man). With Avengers: Infinity War mere months after the release of Black Panther, this film will not just introduce the immediate events that will set the stage for Infinity War, but the future afterwards. The old guard of MCU mainstays will almost certainly die off in the conflict with Thanos and most assuredly new heroes must rise to the occasion and take their place. Newer characters are being groomed to take over these roles and become the new icons of the MCU after Cap and Tony take their leave and the success of this Black Panther movie will at bare minimum determine how the landscape will look and if T’Challa plays a bigger role or not.
Black Panther also represents a pivotal part for representation in the comicbook movie realm. As the first black superhero (in the comics), T’Challa holds a bit more weight than someone like Blade or Spawn and this movie will do, and has done, wonders for diversity on screen. Yes the MCU has had Falcon and War Machine however, they never really commanded their own presence like T’Challa. Black Panther isn’t just another diversity change character either, meaning a character where their race or gender isn’t integral to their identity. His homeland and ethnicity makes T’Challa who he is and how he commands respect. Children and adults around the globe can look to T’Challa in a different way than Valkyrie or Heimdall in the recent Thor: Ragnarok, and say “Now here is a hero who represents me and is bonafide badass.”
In film, we tend to typecast people based on race or gender, largely on purpose due to the very nature of film. They only have two hours to convey plots and deep character backgrounds into a digestible format. The result has been actors of color being typecast as gangsters, drug dealers and worse for a long time. In comic book movies, there’s been a tendency to play off black heroes as sidekicks rather than their own standalone heroes. Black Panther is positioned to shake up the status quo. He stands as a beacon of hope that we as a society are ready (and have been ready) for change.
Lastly, the success of this film allows the MCU to decentralize the action of the MCU from New York without treating Wakanda as just another action set piece. Part of this comes from how Stan Lee and company set up Marvel to have New York be this central location where the heroes congregate to allow for crossovers but on the silver screen New York seems to be the only place anyone meets up on Earth, which has the side effect of making other Earth-based locations come off as just another place to blow up. Sokovia, Lagos, Vienna, and Seoul all appear as bland location-hopping and never really establish themselves as unique. Wakanda is poised to change all that. With its own culture and history that is entirely unique to itself, having a Black Panther film set in Wakanda is obligated to explore said culture. With at bare minimum a dynamic design to the cityscapes, Wakanda is certain to establish itself as a unique location viewers will want to see again and again.
Black Panther is a key film for the MCU and the socio-political climate being as it is today, this is shaping up to be not just the film we deserve, but the film that we NEED for 2018. Don’t believe me? Just look at how Black Panther has already shattered records for pre-ticket sales compared to other comic book movies. Check out the twitter streets and see the genuine hope and good will towards this film from people all over the globe. I know where I’ll be on February 16th. Do you?