Picture: AFP
Picture: AFP

The Black Panther just kicked Superman’s butt. And Batman’s. And Iron Man’s.

The movie chalked up the fifth-biggest US opening of all time, leaving the other superheroes in the dust and raking in well over US$200m.

It strikes a big blow for Disney, which is in a war for eyeballs with rapidly rising Netflix.

Netflix just upended the traditional movie-release model by announcing during half-time at the Superbowl that The Cloverfield Paradox would be available for viewing right after the game.

With no previews, no publicity build-up, no release hype, this was a serious shot across the bows of the traditional film industry.

But Black Panther represents far more than just another salvo in the battle for audience.

The plot unfolds in the technologically advanced mythical African kingdom of Wakanda, which escaped colonisation to rise as a major power.

The original Black Panther — King T’Chaka — is played by none other than SA’s John Kani, while his successor and the current Black Panther, T’Challa, is played by Chadwick Boseman.

Yale law professor and novelist Stephen L Carter, writing for Bloomberg, had this to say: "The character was introduced in 1966, the year before Stokely Carmichael and Charles V Hamilton would publish Black Power. By choosing to call him what they did, the character’s creators, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, were casting their lot with the younger generation of activists in the struggle for racial justice."

But, before you get out your beret, Carter pours cold water on the revolutionary credentials of the movie.

"Revolution is what much of the literature of the era that produced the Black Panther comic was ultimately about, and it’s what the film, with its vision of bold yet peaceful change, ultimately isn’t. The film’s T’Challa is a pragmatist; though he never says so explicitly, he seems wise enough to understand what the US has learnt and Killmonger hasn’t, that should war ever come, advanced technology is no guarantee of victory."

Besides, the real movie revolutionary is Netflix.

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