Photo courtesy of Marvel Cinematic Universe Wiki
“Black Panther” changed the game for superhero movies in its premiere weekend Jan. 16-19. In just four days, “Black Panther” grossed 201.7 million dollars in the U.S., making it the fifth largest movie opening of all time. Since hitting the black box last month, the movie has been a hit, receiving a 97 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. This rating is well deserved, given the fact that the movie is not just a grand celebration of African and African-American culture, but it is also a truly captivating film that is able to both entertain and inspire its viewers.
The movie begins with the history of Wakanda, the nation over which the Black Panther rules. From the outside, Wakanda appears to be a third-world African country. However, in reality, the country is a bustling metropolis hidden by their advanced tech. Since its creation, Wakanda has maintained this secret to protect its citizens and avoid being exploited for its resources, such as the precious metal called vibranium.
Despite its efforts, a few non-Wakandans know of its existence, which creates the conflict in the film. T’Challa, the newfound king of Wakanda, must find a way to protect his people, but also no longer ignore the people all over the globe that Wakanda could be helping.
From start to finish, the movie is both well thought-out and easy to follow but takes unexpected turns to keep the viewer on the edge of their seat. Since the creation of the character Black Panther in 1966 by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby (Marvel Studios), the character was not a featured figure in any of Marvel’s works, only occasionally popping up in comic books. Now, the story told in the “Black Panther” film provides the character and his constituents with a backstory, and they are expected to be seen in other upcoming Marvel films.
All elements of this film combine to make it as great as it is, but what sets “Black Panther” apart from the rest is its wonderful cast. Chadwick Boseman (Black Panther/T’Challa) creates the king Wakanda has always needed. The Black Panther is both a strong and down-to-earth character that allows the others around him to grow and shine as well, such as his sister Shuri (Letitia Wright). Shuri is a young and intelligent girl who entertains the audience with her quick wit and fascinating knowledge of technology. She creates T’Challa’s suits and other gadgets he uses in action, even using the powers of vibranium to heal a fallen outsider. She is a terrific role model and one that is not common in films. Although there is no lacking of strong black women in “Black Panther.” Lupita Nyong’o’s character, Nakita, is a willful, kind, and headstrong woman whose goal is to help others in need. Okoye (Danai Gurira), leads the warriors of her country and is loyal to her cause, which is to protect her people.
Other stars making up the cast include Angela Bassett (mother of T’Challa), Sterling K. Brown, and Winston Duke. But another staple of the film is Michael B. Jordan’s character Erik Killmonger. Killmonger is the most challenging villain T’Challa faces in the movie, but one can’t help but sympathize with this character and understand why his tragic past led him down a dark path.
The world created in Wakanda is beautiful and advanced, but also displays traditional African culture and wardrobe. While buildings reach up to the sky, in the streets below people talk and smile in bright, colorful robes and dresses, and peruse street markets. T’Challa walks among his people, giving a sense of community.
Ultimately, the movie is as touching as it is entertaining, and will leave you wanting to see more of the story. The film not only features many talented black actors and actresses but shows them striving for a better tomorrow. It poses the question of what we as a society can do to help those in need, no matter how much or little we have ourselves.