Should We Believe the ‘Black Panther’ Hype?

Drew Dietsch
Movies Marvel
Movies Marvel MCU

Black Panther is shaping up to be one of the biggest successes of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The first day of ticket pre-sales surpassed the first day sales of Captain America: Civil War and the anticipation online is at a fever pitch. It’s clear that audiences are stoked for this movie.

But, are they too stoked? What are the dangers of getting too hyped for a movie?

Expectation vs. Reality

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Never forget.

This doesn’t apply specifically to Black Panther but rather a more general approach to dealing with excitement about an upcoming movie. It’s very easy to get wrapped up in what we want out of a project and not be able to gauge what the film actually delivers.

That perspective ends up skewing our judgment of a film. Too often, fans feel entitled to certain perceived story beats or character motivations because of what they see in promotional material. The modern obsession with picking apart trailers and other slices of advertising has led to a culture that builds a presupposed narrative out of elements that exist outside of the actual narrative structure of the product they’re selling.

It leads to people believing certain moments will happen in a movie and getting amped for confirmation of those moments. When they don’t — or those moments don’t play out exactly how fans believed they would — there’s a feeling of disappointment or even betrayal. It’s important to keep this in mind with all films and Black Panther is no exception.

The Marvel Comfort Zone

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There's a pattern forming...

We also need to acknowledge that the Marvel Cinematic Universe films have found a very comfortable formula that guarantees a satisfying experience on a lot of safe levels. Quippy humor, stylish action sequences, a grounded but poppy filmmaking approach, and an overall tone that emphasizes fun. These aren’t bad elements when taken on their own, but it’s hard to deny that they’ve become a checklist for every Marvel Cinematic Universe movie.

It’s likely that Black Panther will appease that checklist. Again, that’s not an inherently negative viewpoint but it is a critical appraisal that merits discussion. If you think Black Panther is going to deviate from this, just take a look at how its villain is shaping up. And that adherence to formula needs to be a part of managing expectations.

Plenty to Be Excited About

With all that said, this isn’t some hit piece telling you to get bummed about Black Panther. There are lots of reasons to champion the film and to be hyped about. As a huge fan of Blade, I’m stoked to see a black superhero as the lead character in a major motion picture again. Plus, director Ryan Coogler made the utterly incredible Creed and his involvement is immensely encouraging.

As with most Marvel films, the cast of Black Panther is a murderers’ row of talent. Personally, this writer can’t help but hug his DVD of Critters 4 when he sees Angela Bassett up on the big screen. And it’s going to be awesome seeing Daniel Kaluuya again after his incredible work in last year’s Get Out. That doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of this film’s amazing cast.

Probably the most exciting potential of Black Panther is the possibility of how it will inspire younger fans. A GoFundMe campaign to screen the film for Harlem children is the kind of uplifting story you want to hear when it comes to superhero fiction. If nothing else, that’s a reason to believe in the power this film could have.

It’s okay to be hyped for Black Panther but make sure you aren’t hyped simply because of how you think the story will go or because you want those familiar Marvel beats to get repeated once again. Get excited about the filmmaking potential, the excellent cast, and how it could positively affect the next generation of fans.

And that soundtrack. Definitely that soundtrack.

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