The first-ever black superhero movie, “Black Panther,” has stolen audiences’ breath — and their expectations for superhero movies will never be the same.
“Black Panther,” the first superhero movie with a predominantly black cast to date, brought the superhero genre and real-life politics together in a way that has never been done before.
“Black Panther” follows the story of newly-ascended King T’Challa of Wakanda — The Black Panther, played by Chadwick Boseman — a week after the events of “Captain America: Civil War.” T’Challa is tasked with ruling the fictional nation of Wakanda, a land shrouded from the rest of the world by highly-advanced technology derived from the extra-terrestrial metal, vibranium.
Posing as a third-world country, Wakanda finds itself split between three ideologies: to remain isolated from the rest of the world; to open its borders and use its technology to help the struggling people of Africa and the rest of the world; or to assert itself as a global superpower using the advanced weaponry at its disposal.
King T’Challa finds himself struggling to choose between the first of the two, while his nemesis Erik “Killmonger” Stevens, who is played by Michael B. Jordan, challenges T’Challa’s right to the throne. Killmonger represents the anger of the black community for the historic injustice it has faced. He wishes to see his fellow African descendants avenged by completely reversing racial inequality — to have blacks on top and whites beneath them. It is the dichotomy between these three ideas that provokes the conflict in “Black Panther.”
It cannot be ignored that “Black Panther” plays heavily with modern-day political issues. This movie is thought-provoking and beckons the audience to answer questions about the morality of the characters’ actions.
Because of the film’s reliance on its political theme, the messages that it sends are not over-the-top or obnoxious — anyone from any background has something to take away from the film.
Whereas other superhero movies present the mortality of their heroes as a central point of contention, the Black Panther is seemingly immortal. A bulletproof vibranium suit protects King T’Challa, and Wakandan technology is apt enough to bring him from the brink of death, time after time again.
Instead, the main tension rises between the stakes Wakanda’s store of vibranium represents. Vibranium is an indestructible metal with seemingly infinite properties and capabilities. If these materials fall into the wrong hands, it could spark deadly conflict. The writers of the film used this to their advantage when they wrote the narrative.
There is no mistake that Director Ryan Coogler intended to compare the isolationist Wakanda with the present-day United States and the foreign policy of President Donald Trump. Additionally, the movie echoes stories such as the X-Men series — T’Challa is Professor Xavier and Killmonger is Magneto. This metaphor is based off the opposition between the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcom X in the real world.
Though the original Black Panther comic books preceded the Black Panther movement of the ‘60s, it cannot be denied that the film adaptation of T’Challa’s story investigated the reasoning and flaws behind the revanchist movement.
Critics applauded Boseman for his comedic timing — bringing an element of humor to the otherwise stoic and sincere character. His character’s rival, the charismatic and impassioned Jordan, supported his performance. The two thrived off each other, and their physical combat mirrored the clash of ideologies they represented.
Boseman and Jordan were supported by Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira as Okoye and Letitia Wright. It is clear that these three females represented different pillars for young black women to look up to. Nakia fought to free women in Nigeria, Okoye is a loyal fighter with resilient spirit and Shuri is a talented engineer. In an interview on interviewmagazine.com, Wright said that her character Shuri is “a young black girl who loves technology and she’s from Africa.”
White actors fulfilled only two main roles — Everett K. Ross and Ulysses Klaue, which were played by Martin Freeman and Andy Serkis respectively. Many jovial fans pointed out online that the two also starred in Peter Jackson’s adaptation of “The Hobbit” as Bilbo Baggins and Gollum, making them the “Tolkien white guys.”
The movie’s soundtrack was both moving and varied. Its numbers switched styles, from rap scores by Kendrick Lamar to traditional African-themed rhythms composed by Ludwig Goransson, complete with drums and flutes. The score was also dotted with classic orchestral overtures native to the superhero genre.
As of Saturday evening, “Black Panther” has grossed around $122,808,000 and was ranked 8th in single-day grosses, according to boxofficemojo.com.