More than 25 years ago, Wesley Snipes vocalized his desire to become Black Panther. Throughout the years it seemed as if the project wasn’t going to happen due to various obstacles, as well as the possible hesitation that it wouldn’t be well received by both black and mainstream audiences. Fast forward to 2018. With a turbulent political climate, police brutality against black and brown bodies, in addition to, other travesties, it appeared that the time was now to drop the pro-black film.
Written and directed by Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station, Creed), the excitement surrounding Black Panther partially stemmed from its predominately all-star black cast. Stellar actors and actresses such as Chadwick Boseman (Black Panther/T’Challa), Michael B. Jordan (Erik “Killmonger” Stevens), Lupita Nyong’o (Nakia), Danai Gurira (Okoye), Daniel Kaluuya (W’Kabi), Letitia Wright (Shuri), Winston Duck (M’Baku), Forest Whitaker (Zuri), and Angela Bassett (Ramonda) dominate the roster.
Michael B. Jordan and Chadwick Boseman
The plot is a sub-story of Marvel Cinematic Universe’s (MCU) Captain America: Civil War where King T’Chaka of Wakanda is killed in a bombing at the United Nations (UN) by Bucky Barnes (Winter Solider). Wakanda, although incorrectly viewed as a third-world country by the UN, possesses a precious metal called vibranium, the same metal used in Captain America’s shield as well as in Black Panther’s suit. Vibranium’s kinetic energy allows for technological advances that could both harm or solve many of the world’s issues.
After the death of his father, T’Challa returns home to become king. Within the nation of Wakanda, there are five tribes; however, there is one who refuses to join the others in unison which causes a schism later due to their desire to further advance Wakanda’s national interests. Surrounded by the comfort and safety of Wakanda, when a black market deal goes bad between Agent Everett K. Ross (Martin Freeman) and Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis) over a stolen piece of vibranium that antagonist Erik “Killmonger” Stevens assisted in stealing, the plot thickens, forcing T’Challa to make a choice in fighting for what he believes is best not only for himself, but also his country. It is here, that Coogler’s directing genius comes into play weaving both Marvel’s significant storyline against a 21st century context.
Lupita Nyong’o and Letitia Wright
Produced by Marvel Studios, the film’s visual and cinematic qualities are breathtaking. Working with previous colleagues such as Rachel Morrison (cinematographer) and Michael B. Jordan (actor), there is a unconscious consistency and confidence that is amplified on the silver screen. Coogler also stays true to his approach of reaching moviegoers by pulling on heartstrings with a sentimental narrative contrasted with bursts of comedic intervals to break up the seriousness of what is unfolding before the audience. With Academy Award nominated costume designer Ruth E. Carter, whose work has appeared in black awareness films like Malcolm X, Amistad, Selma, and Roots, as well as eleven-time Grammy Award winner Kendrick Lamar executively producing the soundtrack, Black Panther is thoroughly affiliated with black artistic excellence.
As one of the premiere comic book Hollywood blockbusters that in its majority is black mandated, delegated, and executed, Black Panther, since its inception in July of 1966 by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, amplifies the pride black Americans have consistently felt to a doubtful mainstream media. Nonetheless, for this phenomenon to occur, a seat for inclusion had to be offered at the table. Black Panther sits tall and confidently at that table with its undeniable presence planting seeds for generations to come. Finally.
Photos courtesy of Walt Disney/Marvel Studios