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‘Black Panther’ is a critical step toward representation in Hollywood

Even before making its theatrical debut this Friday, “Black Panther” has already been called one of the most successful comic-book films of its time, culturally and financially.

The film, directed by Ryan Coogler — the first African American filmmaker to helm a Marvel film in 10 years, after 17 movies — follows T’Challa, who is the Black Panther, king and protector of the fictional African nation of Wakanda, the most technologically advanced country in the Marvel universe. Resource-rich Wakanda sits on the largest repository of vibranium (the metal used to forge Captain America’s shield), has remained untouched by colonialism.

“Black Panther” assembles a predominantly black cast of some of Hollywood’s most bankable stars in the first major film centered around a black superhero since 2008’s “Hancock,” starring Will Smith, and before that, the “Blade” trilogy, which first starred Wesley Snipes as the Marvel vampire in 1998.

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