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Black Panther (2018)Black Panther (2018)

First there was Superman in 1938. Then came Captain America in 1941. Fast forward to today and we have "Black Panther," which is the wildly anticipated 18th superhero movie by Marvel Studios. There are three trend lines that are noteworthy about this film. First, it has generated all sorts of box office buzz with over $1 billion in sales, and for good reasons. Second, if you enjoy the superhero genre, critics are unanimous that it's simply a fantastic movie. In the make believe African country of Wakanda, there's a new king called T'Challa. Among his other regal responsibilities, he must protect his country's unique natural resource called vibranium ("It's more than just a metal."). The king has his main man, Okoye, a romantic interest in Nakia, and his nemesis, Killmonger, who is a would be usurper to the throne. Rotten Tomatoes has given "Black Panther" a 97% approval rating. Third, and most interesting, is all the critical discussion about the movie as a uniquely and distinctly "black" film. The black director Ryan Coogler made his debut with the murder documentary "Fruitvale Station" (2013), and then the sports drama "Creed" (2015). "There have been black superheroes before," observes Anthony Lane, "but none have been given dominion over a blockbuster. Nor has the genre, until now, allowed black identity to be the ground bass of a single tale." This feels like a heavy burden to bear for a superhero movie, but if it has us talking about such an important issue for American culture, that's surely a very good thing.

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