Marvel’s representation long overdue in ‘Black Panther’

Marvel’s latest box office success “Black Panther,” starring Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, and Lupita Nyong’o, acts as a long overdue inclusive space with its predominantly Black cast./ Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The first movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe that I saw was “Iron Man.” It was a great movie and I enjoyed it, but never would I have imagined that after 10 years, the Marvel Cinematic Universe would still be thriving and producing major movie blockbusters. From “The Incredible Hulk” to “Thor” to “Captain America to Guardians of the Galaxy,” each movie added its own story to the overall plot of a group of heroes called The Avengers coming together to stop the powerful villain, Thanos. Out of all these movies, the latest installment “Black Panther” has been by far the best Marvel movie, exceeding all of my expectations. “Black Panther” is about T’challa, who returns to his isolated, technologically advanced country Wakanda and is crowned king after the death of his father. As the film’s hero, Black Panther, T’challa has to deal with the pressures of being king and fighting a new enemy, Erik Killmonger, who threatens to change Wakanda forever.

The beautifully woven and incredibly crafted storyline of “Black Panther” is part of the reason it has become such a worldwide success. The summary does not do the movie justice because it is so much more than T’challa coming back home to Wakanda. Additionally, despite thrusting viewers into an opening scene that was particularly confusing, director Ryan Coogler was able to tie it into events that occurred later in the movie. The plot progressed at a fine pace, with plot twists that made the two hours and 14 minutes worth sitting through. The action was accompanied by instrumentals from an absolutely sensational soundtrack. Curated and produced by Kendrick Lamar, the music amplified the impact of the actions scenes. Another aspect of the film that I loved was the humor. Even in a superhero movie, it is nice to have a mix of other genres, and “Black Panther” excels in infusing the film with comedic elements that make it all the more enjoyable.

When the first trailer for “Black Panther” dropped, it generated a lot of buzz, but as the premiere got closer and closer, publicity exponentially spiked. People were lining up to see it as soon as it came out, given the unprecedented move of having a big-budget superhero movie with a predominantly Black cast. Marvel movies typically feature all-white main characters, with people of color only occasionally cast in supporting roles in a rather tokenizing way. The long overdue representation was likely to stir excitement amongst people of color, especially considering the film’s setting in Wakanda, a fictional African country, whose culture somewhat resembles that of West African countries such as Ghana and Senegal.

“Black Panther” has also been extremely popular because, unlike previous Marvel movies, it discusses some key issues that are relevant to our world today. While other Marvel movies attempt to accomplish this, “Black Panther” does an astounding job of doing so. One issue that comes up is the idea of combating racism. The villain, Erik Killmonger, believes Wakanda should give its advanced weapons to Black people all over the world so that they can use them to fight oppression against the oppressor. Unlike T’challa, he grew up in Oakland, CA, not only bearing witness to the Black struggle but being caught right in the middle of it as a Black man himself who has extensively experienced racism. He is unable to grasp the reason why Wakanda chooses to remain isolated rather than showing the rest of the world what they have, and using their resources to help struggling Black bodies everywhere. This connects to the issue of whether countries are obligated to interfere in the problems that occur in other countries.

Chadwick Boseman plays T’challa, our hero; Michael B. Jordan plays Erik Killmonger, our villain and Lupita Nyong’o plays Nakia, T’challa’s love interest. The cast also includes Angela Bassett and Forest Whitaker. The superb acting of these five actors contributes to the immense success of “Black Panther.” Boseman turns out to be a perfect fit for T’challa, Jordan’s performance immerses the viewer in his character and Nyong’o’s portrayal of Nakia’s sends a larger message about female strength. The chemistry that all these characters share is exceptional, as they act their hearts out to bring a comic to life. With phenomenal direction, minority representation and breathtaking visuals and costumes, the film was an absolute feat.

So far, “Black Panther” has been shattering box office records everywhere. Ranked 15th in money earned on opening weekend, and it has already grossed over $470 million in the United States and Canada. Pre-sales for tickets were the largest ever for a Marvel film, and, already two weeks in, it has grossed $704 million worldwide. Of course, there are some people who claim that “Black Panther” is just another Marvel movie and that it is not really a movement. I disagree because “Black Panther” is a Marvel movie that finally has some much-needed representation, sending out a message about how films don’t have to feature predominantly white actors to be successful.

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