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The Antelope

Marvel revolutionizes superhero genre with new record breaker


Predominantly black cast of “Black Panther,” imaginary Wakandan nation cause global sensation over $13 billion Marvel franchise
By: Kaitlin Schneider

“’Black Panther’ isn’t revolutionary. This isn’t even the first time there have been black superheroes on screen.” This is a line I’ve seen online, and I’ve even a heard a few of my closest friends and family say something pretty similar, contesting the glory that is the protector of Wakanda.

Well to those of you who think this, you’re sorely mistaken. Sure, there’s Falcon, War Machine and if you want to go back further, Blade. While a vampire hybrid who kicks serious vampire ass presents his own epic storyline, and those other heroes I listed offer their own pluses, all fall short in comparison to Marvel’s latest release. And no, that’s not just my bias acting up again. In the first nine days of showing, the movie has leapt past the $500 million mark. It also has, as mentioned on, “pushed Walt Disney studios past the $1 billion mark” for the year of 2018, and it’s only February. However, the impressive profits aren’t what make this movie important to audiences the world over.

According to Time Magazine, “Black Panther” “is significant for many reasons.” Sure, the movie is furthering hype and building up to the release of Infinity War, but it’s about much more than that. For the first time in the history of the superhero genre, the cast is predominantly black, director included. Moreover, this film isn’t just your run-of-the-mill comic book flick; the gritty reality that grounds the narrative is what really drives the movie.

It isn’t the first successful movie to feature better levels of representation, but with this being a Marvel movie, and with Marvel being one of the largest film franchises in the world, people are going to notice the change. Maybe they will even continue down this path. There is a long way to go, though, before Hollywood is absolved of its whitewashed mindset.

Of course, there are some incredible characters with powers and awesome Vibranium catsuits, but look at the cast list. The titular character may still be a man, but this movie doesn’t just pave the way for African American roles; it also lays a strong foundation for female representation in movies, too.

These exceptional females, including Lupita N’Yongo’s portrayal of Nakia and Letitia Wright’s Shuri, are well written. They know how to hold their own, but on top of all of that, and more importantly, they are still very realistic characters. Shuri, as a scientist, helps Wakanda further their already advanced technology. I also must mention the Dora Milaje, the elite all-female guard of the Wakandan throne—there are no words to truly describe how awesome they are, wielding spears and standing up for what they believe in: the might of Wakanda. Every lady in this movie was a highlight, and I personally hope Marvel continues down this particular avenue.

Besides altering the face of Marvel’s traditionally white cast, this movie is a culturally infused 134 minutes of joyous entertainment. Ryan Coogler, the director, focuses on the notion of identity, bringing in African music and attire to add to the reality of the film, as well as the conflict arising in Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan).

Even the film’s world premiere was enveloped in African culture. “Royal attire requested,” read the invitation to the momentous event, but the cast didn’t show up looking like extras from a Bond film. Rather, they sported African headwear and patterns, a trend also especially apparent in some of the film’s more noteworthy battle scenes.

I’m not going to talk a lot about what actually occurs in the movie, because you just need to see it for yourself to really get the full experience. However, watching T’Challa stand up for his country, assume the mantle of both king and warrior, change Wakandan traditions dating back centuries to help improve the world, and do it all while cracking jokes with his sister and ex-girlfriend make for a fantastic film that feels completely different from other superhero movies. There’s no campy humor; the characters are real, the settings beautiful and the fusion of culture and comic makes this one worth seeing again and again. To this I say, “Wakanda forever!”

Black Panther clawed its way into cinemas on Feb. 16, 2018 and is now playing.

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