Since its worldwide release on Friday, Feb. 16, “Black Panther” has broken down barriers and shattered records in just one short week. It is Marvel Studio’s eighteenth straight box office number one and if the trend continues, “Black Panther” will likely take the spot for fifth highest grossing second weekend for a film in U.S. box office history.
According to Variety magazine, in its first week alone, “Black Panther” has made $292 million domestically, with a total $520 million worldwide. If the projections hold true for the coming week, the film is looking at $380 million domestically in the first 10 days in theaters. This number has only ever been reached by 32 other films in history.
“Black Panther” is the first Marvel Studios film to have an African American director. It also surpassed the previous record for the largest opening for any African American director which was previously held by F. Gary Gray for the film “The Fate of the Furious” in April 2017.
In its first week, the film has been well received by critics and audiences alike. Rotten Tomatoes has scored the film with a 97 percent overall rating making it one of the all-time best reviewed superhero movies on the site.
According to CNN media, “Black Panther” has broken down “cinematic barriers” with a full cast of African American actors as well as director. With so many records broken in the first week, the film will likely leave a lasting impact on the industry and encourage diversity both behind and in front of the camera.
In particular for students and faculty at WCU, the film itself is a marker for the evolution of cinema. The representation alone is exemplary: The portrayal of a group often stereotyped and written off as the token character transformed into a depiction of strong leading roles that encompass an entire culture will have an impact on the way Hollywood moves forward.
WCU student Lexi Jennings has yet to see the film, but plans to in the coming days. She knew as soon as she saw the ending of “Captain America: Civil War” that she needed an answer to the connections that film made to Africa and who the Black Panther was.
Jennings was made even more excited for the film when the full cast was announced. Jennings stated that oftentimes, white actors are cast as other ethnicities in films, so to know that the full main cast would be played by people of color made her feel that “Black Panther” would instantly be iconic. “Not to say that there is anything wrong with white actors, but if you are going to portray someone from a culture, get someone from that culture,” said Jennings.
“I don’t think I have ever seen a movie with this many black people in it, and on top of that, the main character is an African American man . . . I think it shows to be a good actor, you don’t have to be white, you don’t have to be Meryl Streep. You don’t have be this one thing,” said Jennings.
Jennings continues by saying, “I think for me personally it was love for black pride in a movie.” “Black Panther” is a film that is so groundbreaking because it pushes the envelope on what it means to represent black culture in Hollywood. Jennings then adds, “It is not even just about the actors; they have the music, there is Kendrick Lamar, they are getting the best of the best of this generation, of these artists. They are submerging you in the culture so that you can’t hide it and you can’t push it aside.” This is possibly why this film is so impactful, because it demands to be seen and heard.
As a young woman identifying as both African American and Latina, Jennings is glad that the movie is sparking a conversation. “I think race is a common subject that not a lot of people like to talk about, but the only way for you to understand it and to be more knowledgeable is if you do talk about it. And accepting the fact that ‘I may not know about this, but that’s okay because I am willing to learn’ . . . it is important to be willing to take that step,” said Jennings.
Along with students, faculty of WCU are also excited about the film. An already avid fan of Marvel Films, Justin Brown, the resident director of Allegheny Hall, saw the movie opening night.
Brown was instantly blown away by the film. “It was great to see strong—not only African American men, but especially people of color—in strong, prominent roles where they were the heroes,” said Brown.
As an African American male, Brown says that the film itself will make an impact on the culture because “we can’t go back.” Of course, there have been superheroes of color before and Brown touched on that, saying we cannot forget those individuals; however, he made a point by stating, “The way that these individuals were played [in] such a prominent role, it has a big impact on the culture . . . it shows people in western society as well as all over the world that black people can be more than what they are perceived, as stereotypes not only in the news but in the media and what you see on social media; there are other ways that we can be portrayed.”
Most importantly, the film creates a path for a younger generation. Seeing someone that you can relate to on the big screen is so important. Brown commented that seeing someone that you can relate to helps you to know that you are just as capable of doing that thing. If that representation is not there, it can be discouraging.
“I thought the movie was very diverse. Not only did it show a fictional place, a.k.a. Wakanda, but a lot of things that were actually in Wakanda were real; real language, real culture, real clothing, real dances, real people, real artifacts. I mean, all of those things were portrayed,” said Brown.
Something else Brown found important in the film (do not worry, no spoilers) was that not only was it important how the hero was portrayed in the film, but also the villain. “I think the hero side is great, but I also think that they played a good role in representing the villain and what he stood for. Depending on how you see a particular image, you could have been rooting for the villain in this movie or could have been feeling the exact same way as the villain,” said Brown. So, he poses an important question to end his commentary on the film: “So was the villain really a villain or did he just have a different perspective based upon how he grew up and his perception?” This is something to consider when seeing the film.
Both Lexi Jennings and Justin Brown strongly encourage everyone to see the film no matter who you are; they believe that “Black Panther” is just the beginning of Hollywood films with predominant portrayals of people of color. We cannot move backward from here. All there is left to say, as Brown concluded his discussion, is “Wakanda Forever.”
Kaitlin Brinker is a fourth-year communication studies major with a minor in journalism. ✉ KB835149@wcupa.edu.