The Marvel Studios film “Black Panther” is set to have the largest-ever opening weekend for a Marvel superhero movie so far, and probably the biggest opening weekend of all time for a February release . According to Fandango and several media outlets, “Black Panther” (which opens on February 16, 2018) is projected to have an opening weekend of at least $150 million at the U.S. box office alone.* (“Avengers: Infinity War,” which is scheduled for release on May 4, 2018, could break that record.)**
“Black Panther” is Marvel’s first superhero movie with a black character as the headliner. (Let’s not forget that 1997’s “Spawn” starring Michael Jai White and 1998’s “Blade” starring Wesley Snipes were groundbreaking when it comes to black superheroes headlining their own movies.)
In “Black Panther,” Chadwick Boseman stars as the title character, an African prince named T’Challa, who leads a technologically advanced nation named Wakanda. The cast also includes several highly respected black actors, including Angela Bassett, Michael B. Jordan, Danai Gurira, Daniel Kaluuya, Sterling K. Brown, Letitia Wright and Oscar winners Forest Whitaker and Lupita Nyong’o. White actors in the cast include Andy Serkis and Martin Freeman.
Here are five ways “Black Panther” is a game changer in the entertainment industry:
1. “Black Panther” proves that a movie with black people in the majority of the prominent roles can be a major blockbuster without being a comedy.
Before “Black Panther,” the conventional wisdom in Hollywood was that any movie with mostly blacks in starring roles had to be a comedy if it had a shot of making more than $100 million at the box office. (For example, 2017’s “Girls Trip.”) Although black or multiracial actors such as Kevin Hart, Dwayne Johnson and Zoe Saldana have made great strides in having starring roles in big hit movies, these movies usually have casts of multiple races in the most of the prominent roles. “Black Panther” shatters the stereotype that hit movies with mostly black stars have to be low-budget and/or a comedy.
2. “Black Panther” proves that a movie with a mostly black cast can get outstanding positive reviews—and it’s not a heavy drama about racism or the oppression of poor black people.
Let’s face it. A lot of movies with mostly black casts are saddled with the negative stereotype of having substandard filmmaking or appealing to a limited audience. It’s why movies that star Tyler Perry, Gabrielle Union, Sanaa Lathan or anyone from the Wayans family tend to get reviews that are mixed but usually negative. “Black Panther” has been getting rave reviews from those who have seen it before the movie’s theatrical release. The Internet has made it much easier for people to share information and commentary about movies, so the advance positive buzz has only helped drive ticket sales.
On the flip side, critically acclaimed dramas with mostly black actors tend to be statement-heavy period films about racial or social oppression, such as “Twelve Years a Slave,” “Selma,” “Fences” and “Hidden Figures.” “Black Panther” is an entertaining thrill ride, first and foremost, and is not meant to be a history lesson on the black experience. Far from being poor and/or oppressed (which is often the case with most black protagonists in black-centric movie dramas) , the black protagonists in “Black Panther” are respected leaders, innovators and royalty.
3. Black Panther” proves that blockbuster superhero movies can and should have talented people of color working behind the scenes in high-ranking positions.
“Black Panther” is directed by Ryan Coogler, the critically acclaimed African-American filmmaker who previously helmed the 2015 boxing movie “Creed” (a spinoff of the “Rocky movies”) and the 2013 indie drama “Fruitvale Station.” Coogler co-wrote the “Black Panther” screenplay with Joe Robert Cole, an African-American whose previous screen credits were the 2011 independent film “Amber Lake” and two episodes of the 2016 miniseries “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story.”
Other African-Americans who have prominent behind-the-scenes roles on “Black Panther” include executive producer Nate Moore, production designer Hannah Beachler and costume designer Ruth E. Carter. In addition, several of the hair and makeup artists for “Black Panther” are African-American.
And just like “Wonder Woman” (directed by Patty Jenkins) proved in 2017, the biggest superhero movie of the year does not have to be directed by a white male. The type of inclusion shown for the “Black Panther” crew is a step in the right direction for blockbuster movies to have more diverse, qualified team members who work behind the camera. “Black Panther” is the type of movie that appeals to a diverse audience, and the people who make these kinds of movies should also be a reflection of that diversity.
4. “Black Panther” proves that a major blockbuster movie with a mostly black cast is not a “fluke” or a “fad.”
This is not a one-hit wonder. This not a passing trend. You don’t have to be a genius to know that “Black Panther” will spawn many sequels, prequels and/or spinoffs for years to come—not to mention all the money from merchandising, home video sales and other business revenue. “Black Panther” could also pave the way for more non-Caucasian superheroes to get their own headlining films.
5. “Black Panther” proves that a superhero movie with black actors in the most prominent roles can have massive international appeal.
Movies with a mostly black cast are often mischaracterized as appealing mainly to African-American audiences and hard to sell to countries outside of North America. The unquestionable global success of “Black Panther” blows away that stereotype. Movie audiences have spoken in their choices of what tickets to buy, and the message is loud and clear: They are hungry for more variety—and if it’s high-quality, that’s even better.
*February 20, 2018 UPDATE: According to Box Office Mojo, “Black Panther” had $202 million in ticket sales at the U.S. box office from February 16 to February 18, 2018, and $242 million at the U.S. box office from February 16 to 19, 2018 (counting the Presidents Day holiday). This breaks the opening-weekend box-office records for movies that opened in February; superhero movies headlined by a solo character; movies that opened on a holiday weekend; movies that opened on a four-day weekend; and non-sequel movies.
**March 1, 2018 UPDATE: Marvel has changed the release date for “Avengers: Infinity War” from May 4 to April 27, 2018.
The “Spider-Man” movie franchise is now in its third incarnation. And when it comes incorporating other major characters from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), the third time is the charm, because “Spider-Man: Homecoming” (directed by Jon Watts) is the first time that Marvel Studios has teamed up with Sony Pictures to bring other MCU characters such as Iron Man to a “Spider-Man” movie.
The “Spider-Man” franchise started with the original 2002 “Spider-Man” movie (starring Tobey Maguire as the web-slinging superhero), which spawned two sequels. In 2012, Andrew Garfield took over as Spider-Man (whose real identity is nerdy high-school student Peter Parker) for two “Amazing Spider-Man” movies. Now, in 2017, Tom Holland stars as Spider-Man, a role that Holland also played in Marvel Studios’ 2016 blockbuster “Captain America: Civil War.”
In “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” Spider-Man is being mentored by Iron Man/Tony Stark (played by Robert Downey Jr.), who often grows impatient with the over-eager Peter, who’s ready to rejoin the Avengers in their mission to fight crime worldwide. For now, Peter is stuck in high school in New York City’s Queens, where his social life revolves around his best friend, Ned Leeds (played by Jacob Batalon), and fellow members of the school’s debate team, which includes the sarcastic Michelle (played by Zendaya), competitive Flash Thompson (played by Tony Revolori) and “cool kid” Liz (played by Laura Harrier), who is Peter’s secret crush. “Spider-Man: Homecoming” also stars Michael Keaton as Adrian Toomes/Vulture (the movie’s chief villain) and Marisa Tomei as Peter Parker’s Aunt May.
At the New York City press junket for “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” Holland, Downey, Keaton, Harrier, Batalon, Zendaya, Revolori, Watts and producers Amy Pascal and Kevin Feige (who is also president of Marvel Studios) gathered for a press conference. This is what they said.
How excited are you to finally bring Spider-Man into the Marvel Cinematic Universe?
Feige: It was one of a handful of, “Well, this will never be possible but let’s dream about it moments” at Marvel studios … Having made the movie, it’s unbelievable. It’s incredible.
Pascal: It is incredible. It started with a lunch with me and Kevin, and I can’t believe we’re here now. It’s pretty exciting,
Jon, the biggest challenge was to not only make a fresh standalone movie but to make one that does fit into the MCU and does capture a unique tone that is delightful and hilarious. What were some of the challenges of capturing all those thins while staying true to the legacy of Spider-Man?
Watts: Well, I just tried to approach it as the biggest fan possible and the opportunity to finally put Spider-Man where he belongs in the Marvel universe, really just opened so many doors to all of the new kinds of stories we could tell. So if anything I felt like we were being as true as possible as anyone has ever been able to be about Spider-<an and how he fits into this world.
Tom, with great power comes great responsibility. What kind of responsibility did you feel playing a character that so many people love?
Holland: I think the thing that I had to remind myself most when I took on this character was that Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Man had such a huge impact on me as a kid. He was my role model growing up; he was my favorite character. So I had to remind myself that I’m going to have that same impact on kids of the younger generation. So I really wanted to do them proud, and be a solid role model for them to make a young, fresh version of the character we know and love so well.
The question that Jon and I asked ourselves was, “If you gave a 15-year-old superpowers, he would have the time of his life. And when I made this movie, I had the time of my life, so it really comes across on screen.
Robert, you’re like the godfather of the MCU. How do you feel about the way the MCU has evolved but expanded to now include the likes of Spider-Man?
Downey: Well firstly, I’m stoked that they got my memo to design the screening room like an old Miami Dolphins jersey. So that worked out. But Amy and them had done these iterations of Spider-Man previous. They really should do one of those breakdown, kind-of-boring-to-read-but-somewhat-important books about all the miracles that had to had to happen for us to be sitting here today … This turned out so well. It really comes down to, as Kevin says, “You’ve got to see the movie and love it. “This turned out so well. I saw it, I was in it for a little bit, but I loved it. I think that’s what’s exciting is that they’re still really working.
Michael, the thing about Adrian Toomes/Vulture in this film is that his motives are grounded because he’s motivated by wanting to help his family. What were your impressions when you signed on to this film, in terms of Vulture’s motives?
Keaton: I thought it was inventive and an interesting way to go. I’m not really familiar with a lot of the lore, so for me, I was trying to catch up. I just thought the simplicity of making this person approachable, it’s timely. Let’s not talk about why it’s timely, ’cause I want to blow my brains out.
Downey: He’s only threatening his own life right now.
Keaton: I thought it was a really unique approach and kind of obvious to make this person approachable and has a legitimate gripe and a legitimate argument. I thought it was really well-written. It was a fun gig.
Marisa, it seems like a fun gig for you as well. What was your take on playing Aunt May as completely different from what we know about the character?
Tomei: I didn’t really know what Aunt May looked like until after I signed up. I couldn’t understand why my agents kept saying to me “They’re going to make her sexy.” “Ugh, stop trying to coddle me. Oh, in contrast of another way to go.” These guys had this vision of how it would be revamped and everyone was going to be younger and she’s his aunt by marriage, so she can be any age at all.
Jacob, how do you feel about people reacting so well to your Ned character and his friendship with Peter?
Batalon: I’m not going to lie. I knew this was going to happen. Tom and really enjoy each other, and the cast and I enjoy each other, so it was easy to translate that into what you saw. I love them. I love all of them so much. It’s easy to be around them, and it’s easy to make the best things with them.
Zendaya, what was it like to make a big film like this one?
Zendaya: It was incredible. I’ve done a lot of things in my little career so far, but this is my first big movie, so I was terrified, but I suppressed it very well. It’s amazing to be here. I think all of us feel like it’s a bit of a dream. I don’t know when it’s going to feel real, but it definitely doesn’t feel real right now. I don’t mind living in this dream. I enjoy it here, so I think I’m going to keep doing it.
Downey: When the opening numbers come in, it gets real.
Laura, why do you think out of all the superheroes, Spider-Man means the most to people?
Harrier: Because I think he’s the most relatable. We all know what it’s like to grow up and go to high school and go through growing pains and have awkward moments of talking to someone you have a crush on. It’s harder to connect with superheroes who are completely outside of our world, I think. Spider-Man is first and foremost Peter Parker, whom everyone can relate to.
Jon, Spider-Man’s costume is the most high-tech we’ve ever seen. What were the challenges of keeping true to the Spider-Man mythology while evolving things in a way that it makes sense for 2017?
Watts: I got kicked off rather nicely by what the Russo brothers did in “[Captain America:] Civil War.” They had this really great premise that Peter Parker is going to get plucked out of obscurity by Tony Stark, given this really high-tech suit, and then get taken on a crazy adventure, and then dropped back into his regular life without another thought. So, to me, the challenge was an opportunity. If Tony Stark built a Spider-Man suit, what could it do that would be so amazing? There’s a little bit of precedent in the comics with the Iron Spider suit that gets built, so we used that as inspiration for all the bells and whistles that Tony would put into this thing.
Tom, can you talk about your experience going from the movie “The Impossible,” when most people first discovered you, to how you got to this place in your life?
Holland: I’ve been so lucky in my career. I felt like I’ve been in the right place at the right time at every turn. I’ve been so lucky I’ve got to work with I would consider the best of the best and learn from people. Every movie has been a different experience for me. I’ve been able to play different characters without having to go too far. Now I’ve now finding myself to go a little bit further. This job since day one has been a rollercoaster. It has never ceased to amaze me.It’s the job that keeps on giving.
The fact that I’m here with these guys promoting this movie is insane. Like Zendaya said, it does not feel real in any way possible. I read a comic yesterday that is based off my face. I mean, what the hell! Nothing has sunk in. Nothing has sunk in. It feels like I’m about to wake up and be very disappointed. But I’m very happy here, and I can’t wait for you guys to see the movie.
Robert, when we we asked Tom and Jacob if they could take anything from the set, Tom said he would take your Audi and Jacob said he would take your watch. How do you feel about that and what would you take from the set?
Downey: I’m sorry, which Audi and which watch? You know why I think this works? There’s something about the initial breaking the story and the concept. Whatever the mood board was for this movie, with all those different tones, it was creatively inspired. It’s really an inspired re-invention.
And what I would take is that moment where the creatives actually broke this story and said, “That’s it.” If it’s executed correctly, that’s what you see on the screen. And that’s why I love movies. I’m a huge fan of movies, and I always wondered, “How did they figure it out to entertain me this well?” The mood board!
Robert and Michael, since you know what it’s like to star as superheroes in blockbuster movies, what advice would you give o the younger members of the cast on how to deal with all the media scrutiny and fan love that comes with being in these types of films?
Downey: Every day you wake up, everybody’s even. All of this status or experience is all kind of a projection … It really comes down to, “Does [the director] like us? Does he think we know what we’re doing?” It’s all about having your feet on the ground, and realizing that you always start at zero MPH every day.
Keaton: I don’t have anything to say [to the younger cast members]. I’m listening to what these people are saying, and so far it’s impressive. Let’s keep an eye on them, but so far, they sound like pretty sane folks.
Tony, what was it like to work on this movie with a character that is so well-known to fans around the world? And can you compare it to working on a movie like Wes Anderson’s “The Grand Budapest Hotel”?
Revolori: It’s wonderful working with someone like Wes. He’s amazing and fantastic. But working on a project like [“Spider-Man: Homecoming”] is on a different level because you have so many fans and so many people who work so hard and put so much effort into it, you can’t help but want to do a good job. I’m very fortunate to be a part of it with a great cast. Thank you to Jon, Amy and Kevin for casting a 5’8″ brown guy to play a 6’2″ blonde, blue-eyed guy. Thank you.
Tony, how does it feel to represent the Latino community in this comic-book franchise?
Revolori: It’s wonderful. I think when you see the film, there’s not a single line of exposition to explain why I look the way I look. I think that’s wonderful. I just am in the movie. It’s not about being a certain race or doing anything. That’s the kind of diversity we need in Hollywood right now.
“Spider-Man: Homecoming” has one of the most racially diverse casts in a superhero movie. What was the inspiration for having such diversity?
Pascal: The inspiration was reality.
Downey: Our last resort!
Tom and Jon, what challenges would you like to see Spider-Man overcome in any future MCU movies?
Holland: I’m still getting over the first one.
Watts: I honestly try to think about this stuff one movie at a time, but I do feel like now that Spider-Man is part of this big, crazy universe, we can definitely tell some new stories, that’s for sure.
Tom and Robert, how would you say Peter Parker/Spider-Man’s relationship with Tony Stark/Iron Man has evolved since “Captain America: Civil War”?
Holland: I think the relationship between the two of us is more important from [Iron Man’s] point of view because he suddenly has someone to think about other than Tony Stark. He really cares about Peter, and one of the reasons why he doesn’t want Peter to become an Avenger is because he really doesn’t want the responsibility of something happening to Peter on his conscience. It’s a nice back-and-forth of [Spider-Man] saying, “Look, I’m powerful enough to be an Avenger,” and [Iron Man] saying, “But you’re not ready to be an Avenger.” It’s like a big brother/little brother. dad/son type of situation.
What do you hope teenagers will learn from watching “Spider-Man: Homecomng”?
Batalon: Our message is that you don’t have to be the jock, you don’t have to be the cool person in high school to be yourself. The coolest version of yourself is yourself. We’re nerds, and we love to be smart, and that’s okay. There’s nothing wrong with being yourself.
Harrier: You don’t have to apologize for who you are. Everyone in this movie is so different, but genuinely themselves, especially Zendaya’s [Michelle] character, who is very different but not ashamed of it. If teenagers could take that away, it would be great.
Zendaya, how much was your portrayal of Michelle inspired by Ally Sheedy’s character in “The Breakfast Club”?
Zendaya: Definitely inspired. I didn’t know what kind of character I was playing until I showed up. Everything is kind of top-secret. So I read the script, and I was like, “Okay, she’s interesting.This is going to be fun.” Then i met with Jon, and he had so many different references, and [Ally Sheedy in “The Breakfast Club”] was definitely one of them.
Just kind of making that distinct character, making somebody that I think is different, and embracing the weird. Like what we were talking about: Young people, it’s okay to be weird. It’s okay to be exactly who you are. I love that [Michelle] is outspoken, I love that she says what everybody’s thinking, but she just doesn’t care. I think a lot of young people should have that a little bit more. It was fun playing that dry version of myself.
Who was the biggest clown off set?
Batalon: I don’t think this is a good interview right now.
Holland: The amazing thing about Jacob is that he wrapped on the movie, he finished filming his part in the film, and he just moved in with me. It’s like, “Jacob, go home!” He lived with me and my best mate for six weeks.
Batalon: You’re talking as if you didn’t want me there.
Holland: We did want you there. [He says jokingly] And then we fell in love.
Batalon: It’s been great ever since. Don’t worry about it.
Robert, how does it feel playing Tony Stark as the connective tissue across so many Marvel films?
Downey: What happens is that things are presented to me that are really well-thought-out by folks who have been doing this correctly for a really long time. And I just go “check,” and then I attempt to take the credit at press conferences. [He says jokingly] I’m holding this whole thing together. It’s obvious!
Tom, how did you gymnastic and dance background help you in doing your stunts?
Holland: You can’t really master hanging upside down. It’s not something I really prepared for. But my dancing and gymnastic background was so helpful to the project because we were able to do things as Peter Parker that they probably hadn’t been able to do in the past. But with that said, sometime they would over-estimate my skill set. Jon would be like, “Can you back-flip off of that wall and land on that beam?” I’m like, “No, Jon. I can’t do that. I’m not that good, dude.”
Watts: You forget that you’re not actually Spider-Man sometimes.
Robert, did it feel like you were passing the torch to Tom Holland? And how long do you think you’ll keep doing Marvel movies?
Downey: I’ve been semi-retired since “Iron Man” opened in its first weekend. Speaking for myself, good things happen, and then you get inflated and you think, “Oh my God, I’ve created everything that’s going my way.” And then things happen, where you’re like, “Okay, there’s a little evidence to the contrary.” At this point, you go back and say, “It’s nice to be on this call sheet.” So as you can see, I’ve changed dramatically, and I’m an extremely humble individual.
Can you consider doing more “Spider-Man” movie scenes on location in Queens?
Watts: As much Queens as possible. For sure.
Keaton: In terms of getting action in Queens … Robert, you and I have gotten action in Queens in 2001, I think.
Downey: Yeah, we kept a flat there for a while. Dirty deeds done dirt cheap.
Michael, you’ve played both the hero (Batman} and a villain (Vulture) in a superhero movie. Which one do you prefer?
Keaton: They’re both fun. I think actors tend to drawn to villainous characters. It’s a cliche, but it tends to be often true that you want to delve into the dark side. It gets interesting. The reality is the lead [actor] or hero by very nature of the piece has to be not one-dimensional but has to represent a thing very strongly, whereas the supporting characters are more dimensional, without going into bullshit actor talk. It tends to be true.
Most of us have had experiences where you’re playing one role, and you’re looking at some of those minor roles, and you think, “Oh, man, I’d like to have a bite of that,” because it’s just so much fun. I’ve been fortunate. I’ve been able to play a lot of different things: little tiny parts, big parts. They’re both fun. They’re both different. It’s more iconic, and you make a hell of a lot more dough being the big lead guy, but they’re both fun.