‘Black Panther’ Breaks Box Office Records, Racial Barriers

The superhero film “Black Panther,” released last week, received critical praise and smashed box office records. But for some, the Marvel movie’s most notable impact is the emergence of an African-American superhero and lead characters.

Directed by Ryan Coogler, “Black Panther” is the first Marvel film with a predominantly African-American cast. If film executives were unsure of how audiences would react to it, the film’s box office performance and critical acclaim has established its relevance.

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In the U.S. and Canada, the movie made $201 million in its opening weekend – the highest ever for an African-American director and for a film released in February.

The film’s 96 percent rating on the movie review website Rotten Tomatoes is the highest ever for a live-action superhero movie. The site has placed “Black Panther” in the top spot of its Top 100 Movies of All Time list.

Chicago Tribune reporter William Lee, who has written about the film’s cultural significance, said the lead role changes the narrative on the portrayal of black characters, who are often framed by their white counterparts.

“You have a character like Black Panther, who is not just a hero, but he’s as noble and strong as Captain America is,” Lee said. “That’s what you really need: not just a black version of a white character, but someone with strength and stories all their own.”

The film follows the comic book hero Black Panther, whose real name is T’Challa – the leader of Wakanda, a technologically advanced fictional African nation.

T’Challa returns to Wakanda after the death of his father to assume the throne as king, but locks into conflict with a former nemesis upon his return.

Lee joins us in discussion.

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