Black Panther wins Marvel its first Oscars

Black Panther poster

Marvel Studios, which has had a major impact on movies since it began making its own films in 2008, won its first Oscars thanks to 2018’s Black Panther.

The superhero film won Oscars for costume design, production design and its score. Black Panther was set in the fictional African nation of Wakanda, which had technology unknown to most of the most of the world.

Wakanda and its ruler T’Challa were introduced in a 1966 issue of Fantastic Four by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.

The film version of the Black Panther character (Chadwick Boseman) was introduced in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War. The Black Panther film was released in February 2018, generating worldwide box office of $1.35 billion.

The movie was also nominated for best film. It lost to Green Book.

Separately, Stan Lee, who died last year at age 95, was included in the In Memoriam segment of the Oscars show.

Marvel’s Avengers: Infinity War was nominated for best visual effects but lost to First Man.

Also of note:

–Daniel Craig and Charlize Theron presented the Oscar for best supporting actor. The James Bond Theme played as they came on stage. Mahershala Ali won in the category for Green Book.

–An instrumental version of Live And Let Die was played following an early commercial break on the broadcast. The title song for the eighth James Bond film was nominated for best song but didn’t win.

–Rami Malek, who reportedly is of interest to Eon Productions to play the villain in Bond 25, won the Oscar for best actor in Bohemian Rhapsody.

How Black Panther may be the future of Marvel films

Black Panther poster

UPDATE (Feb. 19): Black Panther’s U.S. box office for Friday-Sunday ended up at $201 million, Exhibitors Relations said on Twitter. 

ORIGINAL POST (Feb. 18): Black Panther, the newest Marvel Studios film, is being celebrated as a huge moment for black America. Examples include The New York Times Magazine (“a vivid re-imagination of something black Americans have cherished for centuries”) and The Guardian (“The film is already being regarded in the US as a positive force for social change”),

It may also be a sign of Marvel’s future.

Black Panther’s estimated Friday-Sunday U.S. box office is $192 million, according to Box Office Mojo.

That figure would be (unadjusted for inflation or higher ticket prices), the No. 2 U.S. opening for Marvel. Here are the other movies in Marvel’s top five (all of which eventually topped $1 billion at the worldwide box office):

Marvel’s The Avengers (2012): $207.4 million.

Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015): $191.3 million.

Captain America: Civil War (2016): $179.1 million.

Iron Man 3 (2013): $174.1 million.

Of the Marvel top five, Black Panther (starring Chadwick Boseman) is the only one not to include Robert Downey Jr. playing Tony Stark/Iron Man.

It was 2008’s Iron Man where Marvel began making its own films, instead of licensing the rights to others. The movie became the building block upon which Marvel built is movie universe. Four years later, with Marvel’s The Avengers, the notion of a “shared universe” became big business.

Some have wondered whether Marvel could withstand Downey’s eventual departure. The actor turns 53 in April and it’s not the kind of thing you can keep doing forever. Other major Marvel actors such as Chris Evans (Captain America) and Chris Hemsworth (Thor) have reached the end of their contracts.

What’s more, the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War and an unnamed Avengers film in 2019 is intended as a kind of finale for Marvel films up to now. So, a decade after its first movie, Marvel Studios has reached a transition point.

Black Panther already is a popular and critical (a 97 percent “fresh” score on the Rotten Tomatoes website) success.

Beyond that, Black Panther shows that Marvel is capable of extending itself beyond its first decade of making movies. Black Panther seems destined to join Marvel’s billion-dollar club (it’s at $361 million globally as of this weekend). The movie also is broadening Marvel’s appeal. We’ll see what happens.

The Black Panther’s 007 vibe

Black Panther poster

No meaningful plot spoilers but the extremely spoiler adverse should skip.

Black Panther, which is debuting this weekend in the United States, also has a James Bond vibe.

Director Ryan Coogler, was quoted in stories appearing in January like this one and this one as saying Black Panther was intended to be the Marvel film universe’s version of 007.

Black Panther features Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa, the new king of the technologically advanced African nation of Wakanda.

The country is the only source of vibranium, a material with various properties which is the reason why Wakanda is so advanced. Wakandan leaders have long kept the country’s technology a secret. All of this is established in a short prologue that takes the form of a story being told a child.

T’Challa’s sister Shuri (Letitia Wright) develops weapons and gadgets. Shuri is clearly this movie’s Q.

Because the movie is dealing with a fictional material, Shuri’s devices are more science fiction that what you see in a Bond movie.

What doesn’t work in a Bond movie (Die Another Day’s invisible car) is kid’s stuff compared to Black Panther, including a uniform with vibranium for T’Challa that stores kinetic energy that can be redirected against his opponents.

It’s similar to what director Christopher Nolan, a Bond film fan, did with his trilogy of Batman films.

In those films, Morgan Freeman’s Lucius Fox kept Christian Bale’s Bruce Wayne supplied with devices. Some of the Freeman-Bale scenes played very similar to their 007 counterpart sequences, where Wayne can’t wait to play around before Fox completes his briefing.

More broadly, Black Panther has espionage undertones. Because Wakanda is trying to keep its technology advances secret — and keep control of its vibranium — it employs a large network of spies deployed throughout the world. As a result, there’s an element of international intrigue. The movie has a lot more going than that, but it makes an interesting subtext.

UPDATE: I should have noted this earlier. At the very end of the film, after the final post-credits scene, there was something displayed that would warm the heart of old-time Bond film fans.

“BLACK PANTHER will return in AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR.” It’s not the first time Marvel has done this sort of thing, but first-generation Bond movie fans probably appreciate it. In this case, the next Avengers film will be out in less than three months.

Black Panther gets raves as critics weigh in

Black Panther poster

Black Panther, the newest Marvel Studios film, received a surge of positive reviews as critics began to weigh in on the movie.

The character, the ruler of a technologically advanced African nation, was introduced in a 1966 issue of the Fantastic Four by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) became part of the Marvel movie universe with 2016’s Captain America: Civil War.

What follows is a non-spoiler sampling. The movie is due out Feb. 16.

TODD MCCARTHY, THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER:  “With uncanny timing, Marvel takes its superheroes into a domain they’ve never inhabited before and is all the better for it in Black Panther…(T)his entry sweeps you off to a part of it you’ve never seen: a hidden lost world in Africa defined by royal traditions and technological wonders that open up refreshing new dramatic, visual and casting possibilities.”

MANOHLA DARGIS, THE NEW YORK TIMES: “Part of the movie’s pleasure and its ethos — which wends through its visuals — is how it dispenses with familiar either/or divides, including the binary opposition that tends to shape our discourse on race. Life in Wakanda is at once urban and rural, futuristic and traditional, technological and mystical.”

IRA MADISON III, DAILY BEAST: “To describe Black Panther as a black superhero film doesn’t do enough to praise how utterly disinterested it is in appealing to a white audience. At its core, (director Ryan) Coogler’s film feels like a love letter to every black person who will step into the movie theater to see it, be they of American or African descent. It is a film that honors the history of black bodies on our entire continent, from the kingdoms they built, to the bondage they were shackled in, to the world that has treated them with cruelty at every possible turn.”

PETER DEBRUGE, VARIETY: “Coogler makes good on the landmark project’s potential by featuring a predominantly black ensemble, casting some of the best young actors around — from Chadwick Boseman (who proved his dramatic chops playing James Brown, Jackie Robinson, and Thurgood Marshall in recent years) to Michael B. Jordan (even more buff, and twice as charismatic, than he appeared in the director’s two previous features, “Fruitvale Station” and “Creed”) — as well as such legends as Forest Whitaker and Angela Bassett. But historical significance aside, what superhero fans want to know is how ‘Black Panther’ compares with other Marvel movies. Simply put, it not only holds its own, but improves on the formula in several key respects, from a politically engaged villain to an emotionally grounded final showdown.”

JIM VEJVODA, IGN: “It may utilize the mix of action and humor that now defines the Marvel movie formula, but Black Panther refuses to blend into the crowd of superhero films. It stands out boldly, in part by opening up a beautiful new corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but also with its topical themes. Not everything works across the board, but when it sets this fantastic cast of relatable heroes on one side of real-world ideological debates and the MCU’s most compelling and dimensional antagonist in years on the other, a huge amount of it works wonderfully.”