FOR THE WEEK OF FEB. 19, 2018
‘Black Panther’ makes a big impact on movie screens and beyond
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The new Marvel superhero film "Black Panther" lives up to the hype in its year-long marketing campaign. Audiences, critics and cultural scholars like what they see, and the pioneering movie that opened last week fuels discussions about Africa, film industry changes and racial pride. Donations to more than 70 online fund drives let students see the film for free, and some groups pay for group viewings by African-American children. The reasons for intense social media buzz and other national attention are clear: This is a big budget ($200 million) Disney film with a black writer-director (Ryan Coogler) and a mostly black cast. Not a typical Hollywood blockbuster, in other words. "Simply going to the movie can be interpreted as a small gesture of protest and a grand expression of cultural pride," reporter Salamishah Tillet writes in The New York Times.
Here’s the basic story: The smooth, brilliant title character, also known as T'Challa (played by Chadwick Boseman), is king of the fictional African nation of Wakandan -- the globe's most advanced state. From drinking the nectar of a mystical flower, he has super-human strength. Wearing a suit woven of bullet-proof vibranium, he is virtually indestructible. His princess sister Shuri, played by Letitia Wright, creates technology that defends the advanced country untouched by war or colonialism. Killmonger, Black Panther's nemsis (actor Michael B. Jordan), is a warrior with exceptional intellectual power.
It's a special-effects thriller with inspiring themes – strong women, African self-development, black heroes. "In its emphasis on black imagination, creation and liberation, the movie becomes an emblem of a past that was denied and a future that feels very present," writes New York Times reviewer Manohla Dargis.
Actor says: "This Halloween, the first time I see a little kid -- a white kid -- dressed up as Black Panther, I'm taking a picture. You better believe I'm taking a picture, because that’s the crossover." – Sterling K. Brown, a star of the film
Professor says: "There's not a whole lot of black superheroes, so this is a really important thing, especially for black kids growing up." -- Brigitte Vittrup, associate professor of early childhood development and education at Texas Woman's University
Teen actress says: "I'm so fortunate that my younger brothers and I are growing up in the era of 'Black Panther' — an era in which our blackness is not only being normalized but honored." -- Yara Shahidi, 18, co-star of "Grown-ish," a cable TV comedy series
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