'Black Panther' is Officially the First Best Picture Contender of 2018

Could a superhero movie actually go the distance this year?

Black Panther United Nations

Could a superhero movie actually go the distance this year?

Buried in an Oscars write-up over at Deadline is a choice tip about Disney’s confidence in Marvel’s latest. When discussing next year’s awards prospects, a top Disney executive told the article’s author, Pete Hammond, that the Mouse House will be running a Best Picture campaign for Black Panther.

The film also has the support of Christopher Nolan, who backs Ryan Coogler‘s superhero opus as an early contender. Nolan is, of course, the director responsible for so much of the superhero-Oscars talk. It was The Dark Knight‘s notorious Best Picture snub that led to the expansion of the Best Picture category. And yet, in the intervening years, we’re still waiting for a comic book movie to make the cut. But if anyone knows prestige superhero fare, it’s Nolan.

As to what Black Panther has going for it, the movie has been critically celebrated, earning the highest Rotten Tomatoes score for a live-action superhero film (97%), besting The Dark Knight and Iron Man. It’s set fire to the box office — already placing in the top 10 domestic earners of all time (not adjusted for inflation) and, once it passes Toy Story 3‘s $1.1 million worldwide box office total (Black Panther is currently at $900 million already), it would be the highest grossing Best Picture nominee since Avatar in 2009, if so honored.

Also, unlike, say, Wonder Woman — which missed out on a nod this year, despite early awards chatter — Black Panther was released early enough that the film’s popular stars dominated the red carpet at this year’s Oscars ceremony, with the likes of Chadwick Boseman, Lupita Nyong’oDanai Gurira, Winston Duke, and Best Actor nominee Daniel Kaluuya stealing the limelight. This may linger in voters’ memories come next year. We are, of course, a long way out from awards season proper and a lot can change in 12 months. But as Get Out, another buzzy, socially conscious genre film, showed us, it is possible to ride a wave of hype through a full calendar year. Jordan Peele’s firecracker of a film ended up with four nominations, resulting in one much-deserved win for his blazingly original screenplay.

Disney, being Disney, in’t putting all of its bountiful eggs in one basket, however. That same unnamed executive also waxed lyrical about the upcoming Mary Poppins Returns, the trailer for which dropped during Sunday’s ceremony, particularly regarding Emily Blunt‘s star performance. Is it possible she could follow in Julie Andrews footsteps and win Best Actress for playing P.L. Travers’ most famous creation?

Who knows? But with Black Panther already out there, we can say with certainty that the movie has captured imaginations all around the world. The most eager awards pundits already have it pegged as a contender, but for Black Panther to have such vocal support from the high-ups, even at this very early stage, is promising.

UK-based freelance entertainment journalist for the likes of Bloody Disgusting, Vague Visages and The Digital Fix.