Is this your king? Why yes, yes, he is! Wakanda Forever. Eighteen films, it took eighteen films for the Marvel Cinematic Universe to finally crown it’s king. And long shall he rule. Looking back to 2008, a decade prior when the first Iron Man kicked off this shared universe, nobody but one man could have predicted this moment would come. The first non-white lead hero and cast certainly wasn’t thought to be possible, but times change – society evolves. The year 2014 arrives and phase three is announced by Kevin Feige with the logo for Black Panther. We can now begin to lose our minds.
Luckily for us, we were already introduced to Prince (at the time) T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) in the previous film Captain America: Civil War. And by far, Chadwick nearly stole that movie with his on screen charisma and presence. By his appearance in the film and his mid-credit scene, the world was patiently waiting for his time to shine in the spotlight. That spotlight came with somewhat of an origin story feeling but the outcome is far superior to what Marvel Studios has done in the past.
Following the events of Civil War T’Challa returns home to officially become the next king of Wakanda. Four of the five tribes that make up Wakanda as a nation find no objections or challengers for the throne except the Jabari tribe, who live in the mountains and don’t share in the wealth that Vibranium can bring them. T’Challa learns that Vibranium was stolen from an Art Exhibit in London by Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis) and will be sold in South Korea. It’s after Klaue is taken into custody by T’Challa and Everett Ross (Martin Freeman) that Erik ‘Killmonger’ Stevens (Michael B Jordan) makes his presence known.
Killmonger makes his own claim to the throne of Wakanda as it’s his birthright to challenge for it. T’Challa and Erik are cousins where Killmonger’s father N’Jobu (Sterling K. Brown) is killed in America at the hands of T’Chaka (Atandwa Kani) because N’Jobu helped Klaue steal Vibranium to aid oppressed African Americans. With Killmonger on the throne thinking T’Challa was dead, Shuri (Letitia Wright), Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o), Everett Ross and Ramonda (Angela Bassett) resurrect the true king and stop Killmonger from arming Wakandan war dogs with the precious Vibranium.
“Wakanda will no longer watch from the shadows. We can not. We must not. We will work to be an example of how we, as brothers and sisters on this earth, should treat each other. Now, more than ever, the illusions of division threaten our very existence. We all know the truth: more connects us than separates us. But in times of crisis the wise build bridges, while the foolish build barriers. We must find a way to look after one another, as if we were one single tribe.”
Black Panther is a special film in more ways than one. The first is the all-star cast consisting of 95% people of color. Director Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station, Creed) is at the helm and writing the script with Joe Robert Cole (American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson) – the two easily make this film feel authentic to not only the comics but Africa as a country and a culture. T’Challa, in Civil War has already shown how morally loyal to Wakanda he is in keeping the values passed down from his ancestors channeling through him. He is a stoic character who trusts in his own resolve.
Coogler turns to his go to in composer Ludwig Göransson to score the film. It does help that the two have worked together previously and were college roommates. Göransson creates a beautiful masterpiece of music for this film that tells its own story. The score fells authentic to African culture as Göransson got his inspiration for the music by traveling to Africa. Just like the music from Guardians of the Galaxy, the music in this film pushes boundaries on what a score for a comic book film could be. On the other hand, music icon Kendrick Lamar curated the soundtrack of original songs that are featured throughout the film under Top Dawg Entertainment. Kendrick was chosen because his music fits into the construct of the story that Coogler is telling – The score and the soundtrack blend perfectly to create this masterpiece of a soundtrack.
Chadwick Boseman took a relatively unknown superhero (unless you read the comics) and turned him into a cultural icon. Black Panther is culturally significant in African American culture as it allows people of color, specifically children to see themselves as a superhero and a king. Chadwick embodies the character of T’Challa flawlessly in body, mind and spirit. Just as Robert Downey Jr. is born to be Iron Man, Chris Evans as Steve Rogers, Chadwick Boseman will forever be T’Challa.
Black Panther also deals with a geopolitical landscape as Wakanda has strictly enforced a policy of isolation. To keep that isolation from the rest of the world, a king must tell lies, keep secret’s and create demons. Killmonger is a product of hatred and deception and frankly he’s not wrong with some of his motivations. Marvel does have the long standing issue of its villains being the poor man’s doppelgänger of the title hero but the buck stops, well pauses here. Killmonger is easily relatable in how he goes about making Wakanda’s presence known. He wants justice and equal rights for those that feel oppressed around the globe.
“Why, so you can just lock me up? No. Just bury me in the ocean with my ancestors that jumped from the ships, because they knew death was better than bondage.”
It’s brave of Marvel to put out a film with these motivations and theme’s and it pays off because of how the film is executed. This film celebrates African heritage, culture and history and allows people of color to be proud of who they are and where they come from. The cinematography is spectacular with all those shots of Wakanda and the African landscapes. Cinematographer Rachel Morrison captures that look and feel of the continent perfectly.
As majority of the film is centered around T’Challa and his struggles with his identity, Black Panther equally focuses on the female characters as they play just as big of a part in the overall story. Shuri is highly regarded as the smartest human in the universe as a whole. The Dora Milage are some of the fiercest warriors in Wakanda and the fact that they are tasked to protect the king has them held in high regard.
Overall, Black Panther has some of the best fully realized characters, it’s regarded as a cultural icon and does right what a lot of origin films does wrong – it makes the villain sympathetic in recognizing their point of view and motivations for their actions. Black Panther has incredible performances from its ensemble cast and pushes the boundaries of what a comic book movie can possibly explore. If I were to rate Black Panther, I’d rate it a 4.8 out of 5.
So, tell me guys, have you seen Black Panther and if so, what do you think about it? Do you agree or disagree with me? Comment below or send me an email and let me know what you think.
Black Panther is written by Ryan Coogler & Joe Robert Cole and directed by Ryan Coogler is Rated PG-13 and has an 96% on Rotten Tomatoes. Black Panther was released on February 16th, 2018 and has a runtime of 2 hours and 15 minutes. Black Panther can be streamed on Disney Plus.
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Black Panther will return in Infinity War
Rest in Peace, King. Wakanda Forever!