Review: How Black Panther Revolutionizes the Superhero Narrative
Black Panther, Marvel's newest film and arguably one of the most anticipated releases of 2018, has already seen record-breaking box office success. Of course, movies released in the Marvel universe are almost always surrounded by a certain level of buzz, but the hype around Black Panther reached heightened levels of interest, especially since several casting announcements in 2016 made it evident that Black Panther's cast would be almost completely made up of black actors.
And just a glance at the talent stacked cast list will give you extremely high expectations for this film, with actors like Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong'o, Danai Gurira, and Forrest Whitaker taking on the lead roles. So did Black Panther live up to my incredibly high expectations? It definitely did.
The film centers around a fictional African country called Wakanda which, thanks to a very large supply of the super metal vibranium, is the most technologically advanced hub on Earth. Because of their large stores of precious vibranium, however, they choose to isolate themselves from the rest of the world, posing as a third world country and adopting a sort of "Wakanda first" mentality. Our main character T'Challa, finds himself as the king, or Black Panther, of the nation after the unexpected death of his father. And in his new position of power, he struggles with the ethics of leading a luxurious and fulfilling life in a hidden country, when black people in the rest of world continue to be oppressed because of the color of their skin. This problem is aggravated with the introduction of the film's villian and perhaps most entertaining character, Erik Killmonger, marvelously portrayed by Michael B. Jordan.
This ethical dilemma is in the background of almost every scene in the movie—a thread tying together all of the epic fights scenes and the more tender family moments. It's heavier subject matter than you would expect to get for a superhero film, but in a movie like Black Panther, it works and adds so much depth to the narrative that I found myself wondering, why aren't all superhero movies like this? Best of all, the film celebrates blackness in different parts of the world, whether with badass female warriors in Africa or little boys in Oakland. This comes at a time when Hollywood is constantly under fire for white washing cinema, and visibility in film and television is widely discussed. Black Panther continues to receive waves of support for this reason, and in my opinion, is well deserving of all of its praise. With its great soundtrack, stunning visuals, and effective acting, Black Panther isn't just your everyday superhero movie--this one is something special.
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