For several years now, Marvel has done a good job of generating excitement for their movies. A combination of the individual movies being done well in the first place, plus their expansion of their broad “cinematic universe” has captured a lot of people’s attention. So it should be no surprise that three of the top ten most-tweeted-about movies of 2017 were Marvel’s. What might be surprising, though, is that one of those movies was Black Panther, a film that won’t be released until next month.
I’ve been talking since August 2016 how this movie will generate excitement in a way that no Marvel movie has before. The film not only stars a primarily Black cast, but director Ryan Coogler is also Black. And so is Joe Robert Cole, who co-wrote the script with Coogler. And so is costume designer Ruth E. Carter. Not everyone involved in the movie’s production is Black, but a very good number of them that have a significant impact on the story and visuals are. That is a lot more representation than we saw in Ghostbusters or Wonder Woman, and that has a lot of people of color excited.
Because it’s not just that Black people are making a movie; the whole Blacksploitation genre is filled people of color. But Black Panther is a mainstream movie aimed at a broad mainstream audience, who will see it with the same level of excitement and enthusiasm that they saw the movies featuring Captain America, Iron Man, and Thor. By all accounts so far, it will be just as critical a success as those other movies, but this time, it is filled to the brim with representation.
When the first official trailer was released, people got more excited for that than the NBA playoff game it aired during. “The real-time reaction to the Black Panther trailer was overwhelmingly positive on social media; reaffirming what the success of Wonder Woman has already proven — that fans of Marvel and DC movies are hungry for representation,” Jonathan Cohen, principal brand analyst at Amobee noted at the time. He went on: “Audiences want to see superheroes onscreen that reflect their own diversity, and when that does occur, there’s a heightened level of excitement and nervousness that the movie is going to measure up to expectations… Based on the audience’s reaction to the teaser, it appears fans have gone from cautiously optimistic about the Black Panther movie to feeling February 2018 can’t come soon enough.”
This combination of general excitement about the next Marvel movie, coupled with the across-the-board representation, will make Black Panther a hit in a way that other Marvel movies haven’t been. Among broad audiences, it will probably do about as well as Thor or Spider-Man, but Black people are going to see this movie in droves. Repeatedly.
I’ve been trying to emphasize this in various venues for a while because I don’t think most people beyond the Black community really recognize the importance and significance of this film. I think a lot of (mostly white) people are going to be very caught off-guard by a movie that is moved from a good commercial success to a huge blockbuster on the basis of one subset of the overall audience. It’s just a subset that has been sorely underserved in Hollywood since its inception, and most people have been so ensconced in their privilege bubble to notice the extra levels of excitement from Black audiences.
This is going to be a much bigger movie than you realize. Just don’t say I didn’t tell you.