Welcome to a revolution. The 18th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (yes, eighteen and still going) is a cultural tour de force, a reckoning for how African cultures are portrayed, as well as providing a platform for black people that’s been sorely needed. Beyond that, the film is very good, throwing up some interesting moral questions and giving us what is, so far, the most serious MCU film yet, without delving into territory of the ultra-bleak films of the DCEU.
Chadwick Boseman is the titular Black Panther, though perhaps more importantly, he is King T’Challa, recently crowned ruler of the reclusive African nation Wakanda. From what I can gather, Black Panther is set very soon after the events of Civil War, though I could be wrong about this. It makes sense though, with T’Challa being crowned, as opposed to already being King. Without giving away the plot, the film seamlessly merges traditional African culture with advanced technology, whilst also presenting an interesting and challenging quandary, which comes to the fore in the shape of Michael B. Jordan’s Erik Stevens, also known as N’Jadaka, also known as Killmonger. Stevens’ life is shaped by his experiences as a child and as a soldier, leading him to be embittered about the world and especially about the Wakandan refusal to get involved in international affairs. Once more, without giving too much away, there is the question of how to help one’s people, as well as the question of who exactly qualifies as ‘one’s people’, not to mention what the best means of help actually is. There are no easy answers presented here, with Stevens continuing to present his own, determined beliefs, right up to the very end.
There are black women in this film who are given vital roles of spies, warriors and scientists. Lupita Nyong’o is a name Star Wars will recognise – here she is T’Challa’s former lover and Wakandan spy Nakia, who is not pushed into the trope of love interest, but instead front and centre because of her skills. Letitia Wright is Shuri, T’Challa’s younger sister and outright genius. She is responsible for developing the technology that keeps Wakanda ticking over.
Another name that will be very familiar is Danai Gurira, who is in The Walking Dead, but here is the leader of the Dora Milaje, an all-female special forces unit dedicated to defending Wakanda. One thing is very clear – she is utterly loyal to her country and more than capable of defending it!
So, Black Panther provides role models for black boys and girls and to be honest, roles models in general. Anyone can watch this film and take something away. With the power to do good, not through waging war or fighting, but through reaching out and providing help, we can make this world a better place for everyone. 9/10.
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