Black Panther, Marvel’s new superhero movie, now rated an astonishing 99% on Rotten Tomatoes, is out Friday. It's the first mega-­budget movie — not just about superheroes, but about anyone — to have an African-American director and predominantly black cast, TIME contributor Jamil Smith writes.

Why it matters: “Those of us who are not white have considerably more trouble not only finding representation of ourselves in mass media and other arenas of public life, but also finding representation that indicates that our humanity is multi­faceted."

Courtesy of TIME
  • "Hollywood has never produced a blockbuster this splendidly black. ... After the Obama era, perhaps none of this should feel groundbreaking. But it does."
  • "In the midst of a regressive cultural and political moment fueled in part by the white-nativist movement, the very existence of Black Panther feels like resistance.
  • "Its themes challenge institutional bias, its characters take unsubtle digs at oppressors, and its narrative includes prismatic perspectives on black life and tradition. The fact that Black Panther is excellent only helps.”
  • "It hasn’t even hit theaters yet and its cultural footprint is already enormous."

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