Black Panther is not just the biggest film of the year so far, it is nothing short of a phenomenon.
While other Marvel superhero movies have taken a huge amount of money at the box office, Black Panther has been more popular than the company could have ever wished for.
A direct sequel to Black Panther has already been confirmed by Disney and the T’Challa character will also crop up in the eagerly-anticipated Avengers: Infinity War.
But how did we get to a point where Black Panther is dominating the box office – and what is coming next for this superhero now it is such a mainstream success?
How Black Panther became a behemoth
It is odd to look back on now, but Black Panther was considered something of a risk for Marvel. While the movie company has yet to make a major box office bomb, handing over a huge budget to a mostly black cast and crew was seen as a leap of faith.
Marvel films have previously been criticised for a lack of diversity, while the Oscars So White campaign showed the industry was in desperate need of some change in this area.
So Black Panther came along at the right time, with audiences ready to embrace it. But it is important to note that Black Panther should not be considered to be just a black film. The success of the movie has been down to its appeal to just about everyone. At its heart, director Ryan Coogler and lead actor Chadwick Boseman have come up with a universal story.
Black Panther franchise set to take off
A huge amount of Black Panther merchandise is already on sale from Disney, with more likely to be released by the company over the course of the year.
Black Panther clothing and costumes are going to be particularly popular and this year’s Halloween will surely see a lot of fans choose to dress up as T’Challa. Action figures are on sale too, so kids can play out their superhero imagination with Black Panther toys along with sets from all of the other big Avengers characters.
Christmas will be massive for Black Panther merchandise, especially as the hit movie will be available to buy on DVD and Blu-ray by then, allowing people to enjoy repeat viewings. Black Panther will no doubt crop up on Netflix too, although Disney is launching its own version.
But it is not just products directly on sale from Disney where people can expect to see the Black Panther name cropping up, with various other tie-ins expected to be on the way.
Black Panther games to be released?
While Marvel has released countless films over the last decade or so, games are an area where there is a lot of potential for the company to grow further.
A Black Panther video game would no doubt be a massive smash hit, with Batman among the other superheroes to have already got their well-received video games in the past.
Imagine how much fun it would be to play as the King of Wakanda in a video game, with Avengers characters having plenty of chances to crop up in the story as well.
It feels like Marvel has been missing a trick in this area, with few games featuring characters licensed by the company, but perhaps things will change in the coming years. Mobile games are big business now so Marvel could just concentrate on making those, rather than spending a lot of money trying to bring its characters to PlayStation and Xbox.
What also seems likely is that the Black Panther characters will be licensed to appear in various other guises, potentially following other major superheroes into getting their own slot games.
Black Panther’s future role in the MCU
Chadwick Boseman will appear in Avengers: Infinity War as T’Challa but it is unclear at this stage how big a role the character will play in the battle against Thanos (Josh Brolin).
There is huge excitement around this film, with 15 million views of the trailer on YouTube already. Infinity War is set to be more packed with superheroes than any other Marvel movie, with the likes of Robert Downey Jr’s Tony Stark/Iron Man, Chris Evans as Captain America, Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow and Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange all appearing.
Avengers: Infinity War part 2 will follow next year – the name of the movie is yet to be confirmed – and Black Panther is set to be in that one as well. Given how successful Black Panther has been, audiences can expect to see a lot of this particular superhero in the coming years.
Fans of Black Panther can rejoice too – a direct sequel to the film is going to be on the way at some point in the near future, adding to its canon in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Presumably this means that Boseman as T’Challa will survive the events of the two Infinity War films that are coming up, but you never know what Marvel have up their sleeve.
Phase 4 of the MCU – will Black Panther take over?
Marvel boss Kevin Feige has already confirmed plans for a second stand-alone Black Panther film are being drawn up, which is inevitable given the massive success of Coogler’s film – it has already passed the $1 billion mark at the global box office.
“Nothing specific to reveal, other than to say we absolutely will do that. One of the favorite pastimes at Marvel Studios is sitting around on a Part One and talking and dreaming about what we would do in a Part Two,” Feige told Entertainment Weekly recently.
Obviously there are no details about cast and crew at this stage, but Boseman will be expected to reprise the title role as he signed a five-year deal with Marvel. The likes of Lupita Nyong’o as Nakia and Danai Gurira (The Walking Dead) as Okoye are likely to be back as well.
Infinity War is thought to be a bookend for Phase 3 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But Feige and other bosses at Marvel have been giving nothing away about their future plans. Could Black Panther spark a new era of movies, as well as a massive film franchise of its own? Possibly.
Disney chairman and chief executive Bob Iger has indicated he sees a big future for the superhero. But with thousands of Marvel characters to play with, the great thing about the MCU is it has a number of possible different directions to take, all as exciting as each other.
What is for sure is that with all the merchandising and future tie-ins around the Black Panther superhero brand, we are going to be seeing a lot of T’Challa in the years to come.