Marvel Movies Are Cinema’s Last Line Of Defense

Black Panther Marvel

Snug within the electric anticipation surrounding Black Panther, it dawned on me that Marvel may be the last studio precluding the death of the "theater-going experience". The majority of Marvel films are at the very least “pretty good”, but every couple of years Marvel will release a film that transcends your standard superhero-flick-hype and stumble into cultural regard. Sometimes the justification owes itself to innovation, as was the case with 2012’s The Avengers. Other times to risks, like with Guardians Of The Galaxy. Now, Marvel’s latest tentpole Black Panther leads us neatly to social empowerment.

Last year’s Justice League proved the novelty of watching comic book icons leap from the panel to the screen has worn thin. Studios are steadily running out of tactics to inveigle us into theatres. On any given weekend, I can think of an innumerable amount of movies, shows, podcasts and even radio dramas, available for easy instant streaming from the comfort of my own depression-fueled hermitation. You seriously want me to summon the energy to put on pants to go out and see Jumanji? Pass.   

Even The Last Jedi (which I liked) seemed bereft of that famous Star Wars buzz. There was controversy, sure, but it was the first film in the series that didn’t feel quite like an event. As movie ticket prices rise, so must the spectacle. We’ve built up a tolerance for CGI pandemonium. Tinnitus isn’t enough to wow me in the theatre anymore. It needs to feel sensational—it needs to feel significant.

Black Panther has everything going for it in this regard. Its director, Ryan Coogler, is a young African-American auteur with two of the best films of the last five years under his belt (Fruitvale Station, Creed). His latest boasts a significantly black cast, including the impossibly endearing Lupita Nyong'o. Nevermind the fact that Black Panther itself leads us directly into Avengers: Infinity War. If you’re not dead, old, or racist, you'll likely see this movie before Sunday. It takes a lot for a film to feel like a blockbuster anymore.

Sweeping cosmic vistas aren’t enough. Barring a few exceptions (maybe three) movie stars and directors don’t really have drawing power anymore. Even the appeal of nostalgia is depleting beneath the weight of an endless slew of disappointments. What’s left is the only studio that makes you feel like you have to see all their films to enjoy any of them—Marvel has redefined movie magic by formulating it. That's what people want from blockbusters, with a dash of audacity for good measure.

Go out and see Black Panther three more times and we’re even.

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