Marvel Studios’ Black Panther is easily one of the most anticipated superhero films of 2018 and I must say, it was worth the wait. The film begins with a brief history of how Wakanda (a fictional kingdom nation in Africa) and the tradition of the Black Panther came about. Within a few flashbacks, we see that the kingdom of Wakanda is rendered heirless, with T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) next in power to become King of Wakanda. When faced with an unexpected enemy Erik Stevens (Michael B Jordan), T’Challa must fight to protect his kingdom alongside his main supporters, including his bodyguard and commander-in-chief Okoye (Danai Gurira), his sister and resident scientist Shuri (Letitia Wright), and his “ex” and an intelligence spy Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o).
Amidst the political atmosphere of hate crimes and police brutality against African Americans in the US, Black Panther is a superhuman social commentary on racism, oppression, colonization, and African diasporic experiences, raising questions about connection, responsibility, and identity. Writers Ryan Coogler and Joe Robert Cole excellently weave this underlying thread throughout the film, framing it as both a serious issue that demands attention and inserting it into witty one-liners as satiric comedy. Here’s hoping and wishing that a nation as technologically advanced and culturally rich as Wakanda exists not only in futuristic fantasy and science-fiction but can in due course become a reality in Africa, proving that Western industrialization and colonization need not be a benchmark for progress and development in the world.
Black Panther is a holistically African film, deriving visual elements from various different African countries, tribes, and subcultures. From village squares and streets resembling North Africa to jewelry and costumes like East African tribes, the makers of the film have clearly put in a great deal of effort in doing background research for this superhero spectacle. I particularly loved the connection to ancestors as a source of strength, support, and healing for Wakandans. The growth and use of the innovative technology of the imaginary element vibranium was also amazing to see onscreen.
Needless to say, the visuals and cinematography by Rachel Morrison is absolutely brilliant, giving folks who have been to Africa all the feels and a serious dose of nostalgia. In his background score, Ludwig Goransson uniquely combines an EDM base, hip-hop beats, and traditional African drumming, singing, and instrumentation to create a sound that is representative of African and African diaspora cultures.
Black Panther features all-star cast members who have all essayed their roles well. While the characters themselves may be fictional, fantastical, and transcend reality, their motivations, intentions, and actions are realistic and demonstrate the essence of human nature. One of my personal favorites is T’Challa’s sister Shuri (Letitia Wright), whose strength, power, and sass as a scientist steal the show.
Final Verdict: Black Panther is a unique superhero movie that traces the narrative of a historically ignored people through mind-blowing visuals and powerful thought-provoking storytelling. Bearing some resemblance to the Hindu epic Mahabharata and the recent multilingual two-part blockbuster Baahubali, Black Panther is so gripping and engaging that I wanted the film to continue. As always, stay till the very end for a sneak peak into Black Panther in Marvel’s next flicks!