Thursday, February 8, 2018

Is Black Panther Really the Best, Most Popular Movie Ever?

         The next big-screen installment in the Marvel's superhero universe is the upcoming Black Panther. I really hope it is a good movie, because one of my sons has been excited to see it for months and I don't want him to be disappointed. But I'm a little nervous because of the engineered hype over this movie and comments such as this one from a writer at the Huffington Post: "Wakanda [the fictional African country in the movie that also happens to be the most technologically advanced country in the world] presents us with a glimpse of where Africa could have been had it not been for colonialism, as well as a glimpse of where Africa could very well be with the proper leadership." I don't particularly want to sit through two hours of social justice warrior propaganda, so I hope that this is merely representative of the author's opinion and not the gist of the movie.

         As for an example of what I consider to be hyperbole, I've seen numerous articles and news stories over the last week touting a headline that Black Panther has the highest pre-release ticket sales of any movie. (See, e.g., this article from Variety). That is all well and good, but how many of those sales are manufactured rather than representing grass roots' interest? I only bring this up because there is the #BlackPantherChallenge, which goal is to raise money to purchase tickets for "Harlem children" to see the movie, with similar efforts in other locales. Surely these campaigns have had an impact on pre-release ticket sales.

         I've also seen articles like this one from Yahoo News, proclaiming "'Black Panther' Reviews Roar With 100 Percent Rotten Tomatoes Score." How is that relevant? The value in Rotten Tomatoes is the score from actual moviegoers, of which there are none as of the time of this writing ... because the movie has not yet come out. All we know right now is that the professional movie critics--or a select subset that were invited to early showings of the film--liked it. However, we saw near universal praise from movie critics for The Last Jedi, only to see the ratings from actual movie-goers score much lower.

       So, is this a movie that will succeed on its merits, or is it being hyped merely because it has black protagonists?

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