Photo credit: Marvel
By |Simone Williams
After nearly three years of intense anticipation, “Black Panther” opened in theatres this passed Thursday. The story follows T’Challa who, after the unfortunate death of his father, must take the throne and become the Black Panther to defend Wakanda against outside forces which threaten to destroy their way of life.
Much of the excitement surrounding this movie was based on its positive and genuine representation of afrocentric people. It is remarkable to see a distinctly African nation that is untouchable both physically and intellectually. It is equally as remarkable to see teenaged Shuri thriving as the smartest person in the Marvel universe–keeping in mind that this is a universe where inventors like Tony Stark exist.
The significance of this representation is not lost on the youth. Anderson Moore, a sophomore accounting student here at Florida A&M University, said, “[Black Panther] may be my favorite movie. Every black kid should watch it too. It unapologetically praises pure blackness and has so many deep messages.”
This depth of message was exactly what drew director Ryan Coogler to the film. At a live Cast Q&A, Coogler said that this project was an opportunity to explore themes that he was contemplating in his own life, including “identity, heritage [and] the impact of colonization.”
In order to adequately explore these themes, “Black Panther” takes creative liberties in telling a story that–while inconsistent with the comic series story line–proves instrumental in bringing this narrative into the 21st century.
In addition to updating the technology of the Black Panther suit and Klaue’s sound weapon, the movie revises Killmonger’s backstory to make him a former Black Ops soldier with childhood ties to Oakland, Calif. This updated story line allows the movie to tackle the question of how a people should respond to a system designed for their oppression.
In order to explore answers to this question, the movie juxtaposes major concepts, such as passivity vs action and tradition vs change. However, rather than choosing a side, this movie masterfully blends these elements, acknowledging them as equally valuable and allowing them to have equal influence.
This blend is represented in the interactions between T’Challa and Killmonger. The purpose behind Killmonger’s villainous plan is surprisingly philanthropic and, in the end, his beliefs positively influence T’Challa’s leadership. This influence forms the basis for one of the king’s most memorable one-liners of the entire movie: “The wise build bridges while the foolish build barriers.”
Despite being a thematically charged movie, “Black Panther” does not preach at you. Its messages only enhance its already breathtaking visuals, mind-bending fight sequences and heart-warming characters.
According to Deadline, a major entertainment news source, the movie is on track to have an astounding $213M opening weekend. And with such enormous social and financial success, many are predicting that a “Black Panther” sequel is only inevitable.
P.S.: Be sure to stay seated through the movie credits to catch not one but TWO critical end-credit scenes, which have major implications on the future of the Marvel universe and hint at the studio’s next slated movie, “Avengers: Infinity War.”