Let’s get this out of the way: Black Panther is worth all of the hype; go see it.
Director Ryan Coogler has created a unique installment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe; the super-hero action, dramatic confrontations, and ideological character juxtaposition, against the backdrop of the ongoing Marvel narrative is present and forefront. They have created an Afro-Futuristic epic that is intelligent, complex, and filled with so much commentary, blatant and Meta, that DZI would have to give me a few months to unpack it all. There was a taste of the potential of both T’Challa, as Black Panther, and his homeland of Wakanda during Captain America: Civil War. Although we anticipated the wonder and spectacle, we are wowed by the grandeur of the film.
Chadwick Boseman is charged with the gargantuan task of portraying a man of many simultaneous emotions and responsibilities. His T’Challa is, at once, a mourning son, transitioning from prince to king, striving to become the political and spiritual leader of his country, and striking a balance between the traditions of his people with the inevitable urge to develop contemporary philosophies. More than most leading characters, the often-opposing forces that define the drama are at play from the very beginning. Boseman captures these varied emotions with confidence, humility, and nuance, throughout.
As the major antagonist, Michael B. Jordan’s Erik Killmonger serves as a perfect foil to T’Challa. The relationship between the two is very personal, and complex. Killmonger’s actions throughout the film are, “villainous,” and his plans, a bit naïve. But the pain and disillusionment, the philosophy that underlies his drastic actions… T’Challa and the audience are hard-pressed not to understand and empathize with him, even in opposition.
The other remarkable success is that there are no secondary characters, in the traditional sense. The narrative is centered on T’Challa, but nearly all the characters around him are given relatable motivations, grounded in realistic complexity. The caliber of the cast, including Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Daniel Kaluuya, and Forest Whitaker lends to this success. From the regal Angela Basset’s Ramonda, to the callousness of Andy Serkis’s Klaue, none are two-dimensional.
Super-hero storytelling relies on suspension of disbelief. Marvel has always relied upon a very real grounding in reality, when it comes to the portrayal of their characters. The MCU has, likewise, grounded their movies in a similar philosophy. Black Panther has intentionality in every scene, exchange, and conversation. While the audience is enjoying the action, the running commentary on politics, colonialism, imperialism, abandonment, imposed culture, and more, are not lost.
What if there was an African country that did not suffer the “isms” above? How would those people view themselves and the world around them? Also, how would their descendants, those of the Diaspora outside of that haven, view such isolationist philosophy, especially given the many hardships that they had endured?
If Wakanda existed, would you be T’Challa or Killmonger?
“In troubled times, wise men build bridges, while fools build walls.”
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Black Panther is now playing in theaters nationwide. Check out the film’s trailer below.