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The first reactions to Black Panther promise a game-changing movie for Marvel

The first reactions promise a fantastic movie and one that might change the genre.

Alex Abad-Santos is a senior correspondent who explains what society obsesses over, from Marvel and movies to fitness and skin care. He came to Vox in 2014. Prior to that, he worked at the Atlantic.

Marvel’s superhero movies have always strived to represent the best of us. But while Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Spider-Man, and their colleagues have always exemplified ideals when it comes character, intellect, physical strength, etc., Marvel’s movie heroes so far haven’t represented the best of all of us.

The hard truth is that there have been 17 Marvel movies (including Spider-Man: Homecoming, Marvel’s joint venture with Sony), and none of them have had a woman or person of color as the titular or central character. That will finally change with Black Panther, the first Marvel movie about a black superhero. (Marvel Studios didn’t own the rights to Blade until 2013.) And judging by the first reactions to film, which had its world premiere Monday night, it’s a milestone many fans are more than ready to see Marvel pass.

One of the most prominent reactions among those who saw the film — aside from how awesome the movie is — was the feeling that they were seeing themselves onscreen for the first time.

Several viewers stressed that the movie showed how important and integral identity is to the human spirit:

In the comic books, T’Challa, a.k.a. Black Panther, is king of a fictional African country called Wakanda. Within the Marvel universe, Wakanda is one of the most technologically advanced countries on the planet (if not the most), one that has repelled every attempt at invasion — including intergalactic ones — from anyone silly enough to think they could defeat the Wakandan forces.

Pride, power, and grace are synonymous to Wakanda and its king. That’s a big part of what makes Black Panther so powerful, since these kinds of depictions of black identity — superheroes, royalty, geniuses, warriors who have never been colonized — have so rarely been seen in mainstream pop culture up to this point.

When it comes to superhero movie first reactions, Black Panther’s included, they all tend to shout the same chorus: that it’s the best superhero movie ever. But in Black Panther’s case, there’s something deeper happening in how it’s inspired these sorts of reflections on the power of representation. It may be a good movie, but more importantly, it may also be a movie that changes the game.

Black Panther hits theaters on February 16, 2018.

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