By Colin Froment & Justin Fosdick – News Editor & 1851 Staff
The film “Black Panther” was highly anticipated not just by Marvel fans, but also by the general public for highlighting one of the most racially diverse casts in a recent movie. This cast serves as one of the film’s main strengths, while combing dazzling visuals and underlying political themes to provide another entertaining superhero adventure.
One week after T’Challa’s (Chadwick Boseman) involvement in 2016’s “Captain America: Civil War,” he returns home to his native country, Wakanda, to claim the title of king. When an outsider arrives to overthrow T’Challa, he must don the mantle of the Black Panther once again to take back the throne with the help of his royal family and the Wakandan warriors.
The fictional land of Wakanda is gorgeous on screen. Choosing to mix elements of both mysticism and technology creates appealing imagery and strong visual effects throughout the entire film. “Black Panther” offers a refreshing turn from other superhero films that showcases generic origin stories. The film is more of an origin story of Wakanda and the royal bloodline, rather than focusing on T’Challa’s origin.
Ideas of oppression and the current power structures of America are questioned through symbolism and well-delivered performances throughout the film. The main conflict of supplying Wakandan technology to foreigners (an act forbidden by Wakandan culture) so that they can oppress their government leaders is relatable to modern politics. This conflict is fueled by an energetic performance from Michael B. Jordan as Erik Killmonger, one of the most developed villains in Marvel history. Audiences will leave the film debating the ethical actions of both Black Panther and Killmonger and what is appropriate for strong leadership. Black Panther, himself, has a conflict of whether his well-natured attitude is enough to lead a nation, a coming-of-age character development that those who are unsure of their place in society can connect with.
The film puts a lot of emphasis on diversity without it feeling forced. There is plenty of screen time given to a wide variety of African-American actors and actresses that is necessary to fully capture African culture. T’Challa’s relationship with his charismatic and tech-savvy sister, Shuri, (played by Letitia Wright) is comedic and accurately depicts sibling affection. Winston Duke’s M’Baku reminds viewers that it is a kingdom, not just a king, that successfully creates solutions. The all-female Dora Milaje warriors make strong allies for Black Panther and are powerfully portrayed as highly dedicated warriors, regardless of race or gender. Even the booming soundtrack features modern African-American hip-hop artists including Kendrick Lamar, Anderson Paak, and Vince Staples.
While the themes in the story are well-developed, the basic plot that they lie beneath is not as complicated as some of Marvel’s best. Boseman is also overshadowed by more of the supporting cast, with hope that he becomes more impactful in future Marvel outings.
With an exhilarating portrayal of Wakanda and a strong focus on characters and themes, “Black Panther” is another Marvel gem that can be appreciated by all audiences. It is one of the more thought-provoking superhero films out there, where viewers will learn to value equality and leadership.