'Black Panther' teaser trailer debuts steals the spotlight, challenging LeBron James and 'Wonder Woman'

Key Points
  • Marvel's "The Black Panther" dominated the discussion on social media, and took the spotlight from a must win Game 4.
  • The movie centers on T'Challa, the super-powered ruler of an advanced African nation.
  • "Black Panther" is an "Avengers" spin-off, and debuts in February 2018.
Image from Black Panther movie poster
Source: Marvel

Hollywood's newest superhuman may have just pulled off his first legitimate act of heroism: Outshining real-life basketball icons LeBron James and Steph Curry in an elimination game during the NBA Finals, and challenging a certain Amazon warrior currently dominating the box office.

On Friday, Marvel debuted the highly-anticipated teaser trailer for "Black Panther," a spin-off character from the Marvel Cinematic Universe's blockbuster "Avengers" franchise. The movie, which is expected to premiere in February of 2018, centers around King T'Challa, the ruler of the fictional African nation of Wakanda.

Although James and the Cleveland Cavaliers were locked in a must-win Game 4 of the NBA Championship, the Black Panther dominated the conversation on social media for much of the night. With fans titillated by a promotional picture earlier in the day — and seemingly more interested in the trailer than the game — "Black Panther" was the top trending item on Twitter, even as the Cavaliers handily beat the Warriors in a do-or-die game.

*Goes to sports bar* Patron: You think the Warriors are gonna sweep the Cavs? Me: Did they show the Black Panther trailer yet?

After watching the Black Panther trailer for the 43rd time...

I'm really bout to drop 500$ on a black panther costume wow

'Heightened level of expectation'

Between 9 p.m. Eastern and midnight on Friday, the movie stirred up 109,000 tweets with the hashtag #BlackPanther, according to an analysis performed for CNBC by marketing technology firm Amobee. What's even more impressive is the fan reaction in those tweets: 86 percent were positive.

The hashtag #BlackPantherSoLit was used in roughly another 15,400 tweets.

"The real-time reaction to the Black Panther trailer was overwhelmingly positive on social media; reaffirming what the success of Wonder Woman has already proven — that fans of Marvel and DC movies are hungry for representation," Jonathan Cohen, principal brand analyst at Amobee, told CNBC in an email.

In fact, "Black Panther" generated 58 percent as much digital content engagement as "Wonder Woman," the most popular movie at the U.S. box office right now. Amobee's data suggest "Black Panther" is in excellent shape in terms of audience awareness.

Marvel Studios did appear to suffer a minor misstep with the promotional poster for "Black Panther," as some fans complained that it looked poorly Photoshopped. Tweets directly mentioning "poster" and "Black Panther" were 27 percent positive and 27 percent negative, with the rest neutral.

Some of that reaction may be down to high expectations for Marvel's first ever movie in its massively popular series of interconnected movies to focus on a black character.

"Audiences want to see superheroes onscreen that reflect their own diversity, and when that does occur, there's a heightened level of excitement and nervousness that the movie is going to measure up to expectations," Cohen said.

The movie stars Chadwick Boseman in the title role, picking up where 2016's "Captain America: Civil War" left off, and also features a list of Hollywood heavyweights like Oscar winner Lupita Nyong'o, Angela Bassett and Michael B. Jordan.

In the comic book upon which "Black Panther" is based, Wakanda is a highly advanced civilization, and the only country on the continent never to have been colonized. T'Challa — who was first introduced by Marvel through the "Fantastic Four" series in 1966 — is imbued with superhuman strength, stamina and speed through his connection with a mystical force called the Panther God.

"Based on the audience's reaction to the teaser, it appears fans have gone from cautiously optimistic about the Black Panther movie to feeling February 2018 can't come soon enough," Cohen told CNBC.