Tickets are actually already selling out for the new Black Panther movie, in part because of buy outs of complete theaters for children like these Ron Clark Academy students in Atlanta:
For those who don’t know (bad nerds) the Black Panther is a superhero in the Marvel Universe who is also the king of the African nation of Wakanda. Wakanda is secretly the most technologically advanced country in the world, the sole source of vibranium in the world (magic metal, Captain America’s shield is made of it), but projects an image of just being another African nation in order to avoid interference. In the marvel universe it had an all out war with the Submariner’s Atlantean army a few years ago and currently auteur Ta-Nehisi Coates is taking a turn at writing the series and problematizing it (which I don’t totally like but tastes and all that).
The history of the series is basically the usual Marvel thing – Marvel takes advantage of racial trends and exploits them (like with Luke Cage, Iron Fist and Shang-chi) and end up creating something kind of miraculous. In this case, a kingdom of black people who are more advanced than anybody else, culturally and technologically.
If I can talk race and gender a little (feel free to squirm) according to a friend, it does for black people what she assumes Wonder Women did for white women. You get to see yourself in an ideal way without any cultural or political baggage. How do you create a movie hero without any cultural baggage or identity politics attached – you create a fictional country like Themyscira or Wakanda and make your characters come from there – that way they don’t become walking political arguments but instead just _are_.
So after seeing Wonder Woman, my wife asked me if that’s what it’s like for men to see movies, and I think, yeah, pretty much. I’m not Thor, but he’s an ideal projection of myself when I watch the movie and he gets to drink and carouse and hang out with his buddies and women admire him and no one ever neggs him for it. And my wife said she’s learned to watch and enjoy those kinds of movies but Wonder Woman showed her what that experience could really be like.
At the risk of overselling — Black Panther is going to do that for race, according to a friend who got to go to the Hollywood premiere. No white guilt, no resentment, no countries getting called sh* holes, just gorgeous, powerful black people and a reprieve from our crazy mixed up world for a while. Plus, again according to the friend, it’s also another fun Marvel movie.
And here’s the catch for lovers of VR and AR – obviously there’s going to be lots of great Cinema4D faux-holograms used to show how advanced Wakanda is. Not only did Marvel movies pioneer this, but holograms are the chief way movies and tv show “advanced” societies (e.g. Black Mirror, Electric Dreams).
But more importantly, when we talk about “virtual” immersive experiences I think we implicitly know it means more than just having objects in a 3D space. The world is a given and stuck thing, while virtual reality frees us from that and lets us see it differently. The killer AR/VR app is going to do that at a very deep level. I think Black Panther is going to provide an ideal/target/goal for what we want to achieve with all of our headgear. An artificial experience that alters the way we see reality – if only for a few hours plus the afterglow period. Great virtual reality needs to alter our real reality – and make it better.