Black Panther (2018) is a superhero film based on the Marvel Comics characters, directed by Ryan Coogler. Named one of the most anticipated movies of the year before it came out last month, it had raised a lot of expectations, being the first ever black superhero movie from the black community. After I got to see it in its first week of release, I can confirm it definitely fulfilled every one of these.
Black Panther tells the story of T’Challa (played by Chadwick Boseman) who has returned to his home country of Wakanda to become king after his father was killed in Captain America: Civil War (2016). In his journey to take the throne, he faces challenges from trying to save an ancient Wakandan artifact stolen by black-market arms dealer Ulysses Klaue, to facing his rival, Killmonger. At the same time, T’Challa is also trying to fix his relationship with his ex-partner, Nakia (played by Lupita N’yongo).
The movie served as a political statement and gave the black community an edge that has been long deserved. Coogler gives insight into his creative mind through cinematography, costumes, original score, contemporary music, and screenwriting, which tie together into an overall piece of art.
Black Panther is mainly set in Wakanda, a fictional country in Africa. Not the typical image of Africa commonly portrayed in Western media, Coogler saw an opportunity to shift the world’s perspective of Africa by bringing viewers a city filled with flying cars, trains, high technological advancements, and futuristic skyscrapers. The beauty of Wakanda also stems from its curation from real African cultures, traditions, and heritage. Most of the cultural references we see in Wakanda are derived from existing African countries such as Kenya, South Africa, Nigeria, and many more.
The women of Wakanda are shown in their natural state. Some of them are bald, and those who don’t have their natural African hair. This not only breaks Hollywood’s perception of how female characters should be represented, it also gives black women viewers a confidence boost and pride in their African heritage. The women in Black Panther also have strong, powerful characters. Unlike many narratives where the women are in danger and their boyfriends must save them, we see the women in Wakanda rise up when T’Challa is perceived dead, coming together to save the day.
When Okoye, one of the Wakandan soldiers (all of whom are women) is asked to choose between her lover and Wakanda—she chooses Wakanda. This was a beautifully done portrayal of a woman choosing something higher than romance. We also see a phenomenal strong female character in Shuri (played by Letitia Wright). Shuri is T’challa’s younger sister, and the brain behind all the technological advancements in Wakanda. She’s hyper-intelligent, and the fact that she is also a young black woman is groundbreaking.
One of the amazing things I found about the country of Wakanda is that it has never been colonized. There isn’t a single African country today that hasn’t been colonized in some way or another so this was a refreshing thing to see. Wakanda, although fictional, is a representation of what Africa could be like without western influence. It was also fantastic to see an all-black cast with diverse African skin tones.
This movie is not just another superhero film. It is an insight into how amazing African and black culture in general are. Black Panther has not only given black people an edge, it has also changed our narrative by showing the world what could be African, rather than what western culture perceives it to be.