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Why ‘Black Panther’ will possibly beat ‘The Last Jedi’

Wakanda may hold all the world’s vibranium, but does it have the might to take on Luke Skywalker?

Everything “Black Panther” has accomplished so far — from its stellar box-office performance to its total dominance of American pop culture — would recommend that the new Marvel superhero movie is gonna leave its sci-fi competitor frozen in carbonite.

Just look at the flick’s big earnings.

“Black Panther’s” four-day domestic gross is the second-highest of all time at $242.2 million — just a sliver above “The Last Jedi’s” $241.6 million.

While not exactly a “KO” number, it’s still remarkable considering the “Star Wars” series’ incomparable brand recognition. The franchise has nine ginormous films, with more on the way.

Stan Lee’s Black Panther character, on the other hand, has never had his own dedicated film until now — unlike Spider-Man, Wolverine, Iron Man and the Hulk, all of whom have been done to death.

But even though they’ve barely met T’Challa — the main character of “Black Panther” played by Chadwick Boseman — moviegoers are already chanting “Wakanda forever!” before screenings, and taking selfies with the poster after. A meme of an airport gate displaying a flight headed to the fictional African nation is spreading wildly across the web. And I’d wager “Black Panther” is all your friends are talking about. (Fans talked a lot about “The Last Jedi” in November, too, but the chatter wasn’t so nice: It has a 48 % audience approval score on Rotten Tomatoes.)

But its road to success is not just about what’s going on inside the cinema. “Black Panther” has taken the plunge in just about every subset of culture — music, fashion and even politics — in a way that no other property has since the Broadway musical “Hamilton.”

An album of music inspired by the film, by major artists such as Kendrick Lamar and The Weeknd, is presently the second highest-selling album on Amazon.com.

A former White House resident digs it, too. Like she did with Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical, on Monday Michelle Obama tweeted out her approval of director Ryan Coogler’s film.

“Congrats to the entire #blackpanther team!” she posted. “Because of you, young people will finally see superheroes that look like them on the massive screen. I loved this movie and I know it will inspire people of all backgrounds to dig deep and find the courage to be heroes of their own stories.”

The action flick has even infiltrated fashion — a fussy world that, for the most part, sticks up its nose at comic books and superheroes. At a New York Fashion Week party I attended earlier this month called “Welcome to Wakanda,” hundreds of invited guests were turned away because the venue, Industria, had instantly reached capacity. Inside, models wore “Panther”-inspired looks by major designers such as Cushnie et Ochs, Fear of God and LaQuan Smith. The party, which was anything but Disney, arranged to not only protect that glamorous world’s endorsement of “Black Panther,” but conversely had fashionistas craving its approval.

“Black Panther,” of course, still has a long way to go. For the film to surpass “The Last Jedi,” it will need to become the sixth highest-grossing film of all time domestically, pulling in about $619 million. But its legions of fans knows what happens when you count out T’Challa.

 

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