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Marvel Studios has experienced years of success, but the reality is that they've never produced something quite like Ryan Coogler's Black Panther. Since The Avengers back in 2012 it's been expected that the franchise's big team-up movies would rake in all kinds of crazy dough, but never have we seen anything like the performance from the latest solo film. In only 10 days it has managed to make $700 million globally, and it's on its way to potentially join the rarefied air of the billion dollar club. Suffice it to say, in an industry where box office results mean everything, it's the kind of phenomenon that has the power to change things in a major way.
These shockwaves are going to be felt everywhere in Hollywood, but Marvel Studios is going to be at the epicenter. Certain ideologies have defined the last decade of moviemaking at the comic book movie company, and while they obviously won't change entirely (it's not as though they weren't considered successful before), there are some perceptions that will surely be altered. Looking at the performance of Black Panther and taking the appropriate lessons from it, audiences should not only start to expect more diverse storytelling from The House of Ideas, but also potentially further cultural exploration, and more exposure for the many newly-minted fan favorite characters that the film introduces.
As many have pointed out, Black Panther is not the first comic book movie with a black lead character -- having been beat to that punch by the Blade trilogy and Steel -- but it is the first to be made with a $200 million budget, and by a primarily black cast and crew. In the case of the latter, there's no denying that it lent the new film an entirely new flavor and feel, and the essence of that is something that audiences can expect Marvel to chase. To date, Ryan Coogler and Taika Waititi (Thor: Ragnarok) are the only non-white directors hired by the studio, but that shouldn't be such an exclusive club for much longer. The metaphorical glass ceiling is also coming down in terms of gender, as Anna Boden, who is co-directing Captain Marvel with her filmmaking partner/husband Ryan Fleck, is the first woman to helm a Marvel Studios project. There is a growing understanding that diverse voices are needed to tell diverse and interesting stories, and while Marvel Cinematic Universe Phase Four titles remain largely a mystery, there is a growing expectation reflection of that idea in the future.
Of course, given the immense importance of cultural representation, the protagonists being showcased in Black Panther are a huge part of the movie's incredible impact, and it should change things in terms of the diversity of characters that get their own solo blockbusters in the near future. Again, even before the release of the new blockbuster this was starting to become a thing at the company -- with female-fronted flicks Ant-Man & The Wasp and Captain Marvel given their respective green lights years ago -- but now there are dollar figures to demonstrate the real potential and advocate expansion. Surely not all of them will click like Black Panther has (that's asking far too much of any project), but it would be crazy for Marvel to not try and find a way to make great heroes like White Tiger, Kamala Khan, and Amadeus Cho click with audiences.
On beyond the matter of diversity, truly one of the great attractions Black Panther offers is its journey into the unique country of Wakanda -- and that story approach is certainly something that we could potentially see a lot more of in the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Not only is it a special way of finding new and different stories to tell, building worlds within worlds, it could even be a hook for attracting new filmmakers (joining a major franchise is daunting, but the opportunity to go hog-wild creating new environments, cultures, and personalities negates that negativity). Admittedly this is a touch harder to do with Earth-based stories, as there aren't too many secret nations tucked away on our planet in the Marvel Universe, but there are hundreds if not thousands of cosmic stories just waiting to be told.
This isn't just a conversation about influence, however. Sure, Black Panther will inspire the folks at Marvel and Disney to make different considerations when it comes to developing new projects, but fans should also probably get ready to see a lot more of the film's brilliant ensemble. Similar to how Robert Downey Jr.'s Tony Stark is now regularly popping up in Marvel movies, it seems entirely within the realm of possibility that we could start seeing Black Panther's immensely popular supporting characters showcased in other branches of the franchise. For example, fans have been talking about Letitia Wright's Shuri potentially becoming the new Iron Man (Iron Panther?) -- but even if that's too extreme it's certainly wonderful to think about what kind of adventure she might go on with Tom Holland's Peter Parker in a future MCU story.
With Phase Three of the Marvel Cinematic Universe coming to an end next year, it won't be long until the studio starts revealing details about the future -- and when those details arrive, you can bet that there will be a specific Black Panther influence. After only 10 days it's clear that the success is too big to ignore, and the words "Game Changer" have been uttered too many times. And while it's hard right now to imagine anything matching the on-going phenomenon, the next chord-striker could be right around the corner.
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