This is it. Black Panther. The final piece of the puzzle and the last movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to be released prior to Avengers: Infinity War. So far, we've looked back at every single movie in the MCU to date, from Iron Man to Thor: Ragnarok, but we're not done yet. Even though the movie was released just a few months ago, Black Panther has become one of the most beloved, successful and important movies in this franchise to date.

Black Panther hasn't really been out long enough to have an introspective, deep look back at it. But what the movie has accomplished is truly staggering and it gives us a possible window into what's ahead for Marvel Studios beyond Infinity War and Avengers 4. Not so much in terms of specific titles, save for Black Panther 2 which is all but guaranteed at this point, but in terms of what types of choices Kevin Feige and Co. may make and what doors this movie opened up.

In the modern entertainment landscape, inclusion and equality are major themes with creators. That is a good thing. Audiences have a desire to see themselves represented on screen in exciting ways. Black Panther isn't the first comic book movie to feature a black hero, as the Blade trilogy did that years ago, but it is the first ever to feature a predominantly black cast. There were plenty who felt this was a risky bet in some ways, even for Marvel Studios, who have earned a ton of good faith with audiences over the years. Risky or not, it's a bet that paid off handsomely and one that provided Hollywood with an important lesson.

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As of this writing, Black Panther has earned $1.32 billion at the worldwide box office. That makes it the tenth highest-grossing movie ever. Period. And it has a great chance of overtaking Star Wars: The Last Jedi for the number nine spot. Nobody would have dared predict such a thing even a couple of weeks ahead of the movie's release when the hype was truly starting to build. This proves that audiences are hungry for something different and a great many people around the world are starving for representation. Black Panther gave many of those people that representation.

Representation is all very good and well, but what Marvel made sure to do with Black Panther is deliver a very satisfying movie. The MCU, for the most part, has not had an issue in delivering quality movies and this is no exception. Much has been made of how great this movie is, but it bears repeating. Director Ryan Coogler made something very special here. Michael B. Jordan's Killmonger is one of the best villains in all of the MCU, Chadwick Boseman already perfectly embodies T'Challa and has given the world a hero to truly love and the world of Wakanda has captured the imaginations of moviegoers. This movie has a stacked cast, amazing visuals, a totally unique setting, real emotional drama, social commentary and great performances to spare. Because of that, audiences really responded to the movie and that helped propel it to such success.

Looking at Avengers: Infinity War, Black Panther is massively important. While the movie doesn't actually do a lot to directly tee up the ball for Thanos' impending quest for universal dominance, Wakanda is set to be a major location in Infinity War. That makes familiarizing the world with these characters and the land of Wakanda very important. Plus, the post-credits scenes help set up the fact that Wakanda is now opening itself up to the world more, as well as showcasing Bucky no longer being on ice and getting back to being one of the good guys.

But what does the success of Black Panther mean for the MCU moving forward? A theme in the MCU, really since Captain America: The Winter Soldier, but especially Guardians of the Galaxy, has been doing distinctive and risky things with these movies. These are no longer paint by numbers comic book movies. But Black Panther has opened up a whole new world of possibilities. The outlandish success of this uncompromising movie allows Marvel Studios to make more bold, progressive and interesting choices in the future. More than anything, Marvel Studios now has the opportunity to do some truly exciting, groundbreaking filmmaking like they never have before. No matter what Phase 4 holds, Black Panther is truly the king of the MCU now and will be in the future. Wakanda forever indeed, Marvel fans.

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Ryan Scott