When the Marvel film “Black Panther” debuts in theaters Thursday, Feb. 15, it will arrive surrounded by hype, hope and praise, its story of an African prince turned superhero prompting some critics to describe the film as a masterpiece.
You’ll find no argument from “Black Panther” fan Winji Mesadieu, who will be in line on opening day at the AutoNation IMAX Theater at the Museum of Discovery and Science in Fort Lauderdale.
Mesadieu is stoked to see a film adaptation of the first black superhero in mainstream comics, but he has another reason to be excited: His “Black Panther”-inspired art exhibition will go on display Feb. 15-19 at the theater. Twenty-five illustrations of T’Challa, leader of the African Eden of Wakanda, and his superpowered cohorts will decorate the theater’s lobby, each created by comic-book artists commissioned by Mesadieu.
“I have so much love for the character, I just wanted to see different artists with different styles all doing their version of Black Panther,” Mesadieu says.
As the creative director of Florida Supercon, a pop-culture convention that visits Fort Lauderdale every summer, Mesadieu knows plenty of comic-book illustrators. After meeting actor Chadwick Boseman, who portrays T’Challa, during the 2016 San Diego Comic-Con, Mesadieu says he brought a sketchbook to the convention hall and commissioned drawings from illustrators such as Sanford Greene (“Power Man and Iron Fist”), Chris Visions (“Dead Letters,” “Spider-Gwen”), Afua Richards (“Mad Max,” “World of Wakanda”) and George Perez (“The Avengers,” “Wonder Woman”).
Fans such as Mesadieu have been anticipating “Black Panther” since the Marvel Cinematic Universe revealed the adaptation in 2014. Since then, it has broken box-office records and advance sales on the ticketing site Fandango and inspired social-media campaigns such as #BlackPantherChallenge, a GoFundMe campaign that aims to send young people to see “Black Panther” in theaters.
“I think one of the reasons the Black Panther resonates with the audience is that T’Challa is a highly skilled scientist and inventor, as well as a brilliant tactician and strategist,” says Marlene Janetos, the Museum of Discovery and Science’s marketing spokeswoman. “It’s fascinating to see his mind in action.”
During opening weekend, the AutoNation IMAX Theater also plans to feature a cosplayer dressed as the Black Panther on Feb. 15, Feb. 17 and Feb. 18. The theater’s screen, billed as the largest in South Florida at 60-by-80 feet, will also play a role in the movie: the Ryan Coogler-directed “Black Panther” reportedly will feature an hour of footage formatted specifically for IMAX screens, offering a taller picture compared to those at standard movie theaters.
“Black Panther” will open in theaters nationwide on Thursday, Feb. 15. Go to MODS.org/IMAX.
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