Wakanda Forever: Black Panther is a triumph

Photo courtesy of The New Yorker

A cultural revolution that defies all doubts
Photo courtesy of The New Yorker

Marvel’s highly anticipated Black Panther was released in theaters this past weekend, and it has shattered box office records by bringing in more than $241 million in its opening weekend.  Director Ryan Coogler has managed to create more than just a superhero movie and has exceeded all expectations with the film. Black Panther delivers as the best standalone Marvel installment to date and distinguishes itself from all other movies in the franchise, in the most effervescent way possible. 

Taking place in the fictional nation of Wakanda—a small nation in North East Africa—T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) returns home to ascend to the throne and take his rightful place as king after the death of his father, King T’Chaka.

The untouched hidden city of Wakanda thrives in all of its technological glory and features a myriad of Afrocentric influences. An African Eden, Wakanda’s spaceships  resemble tribal masks and the people’s dress favors tribes like the Dogon and Zulu are complex, patterned, and vivacious. Portrayed in the film as one of the world’s poorest countries, Black Panther imitates ancient African culture in a way that doesn’t look ‘savage’ but rather glorious and regal.

Coogler has displayed Africa as what it is rather than what it isn’t with his approach to the cinematography, which is visually stunning and never contains a dull moment. Each scene, from the Spirit realm T’Challa encounters to the warm sunsets on the horizon of the city, is vibrant, energetic, and full of life. Additionally, the film does a great job capturing the bigger picture when it comes to portraying shots of  the city of Wakanda or even the layout of a small casino in South Korea. But particularly during the fight scenes, audiences are given a new perspective as the film keeps up with the movement within the scene—with both aerial and angled shots.

While there are some movies that spend most of the film’s duration establishing the plot, Black Panther cuts right to the chase with its intense, action-packed scenes. There are no words that can accurately  describe the flawless performances by the stunt team,  and it is obvious that a lot of hard work and dedication was put into making every fight scene calculated and engaging. Even as the movie transitions through scenes, viewers are anticipating more with timely songs from the Black Panther soundtrack—produced by Kendrick Lamar—with songs like “King’s Dead” and “Black Panther.” Marvel does it best when bringing life to the images in the comics to the big screen, and has a skill for creating amazing soundtracks to go with them. For Black Panther, however, these tracks make it even sweeter.

It’s no surprise that celebrities like Kendrick Lamar, Lil Yachty, and Eminem  are buying out entire movie theaters  for people to go see the film, because Black Panther offers the representation the African-American community has long deserved. Paired with a star-studded cast and stunning cinematography, all the characters are given the opportunity to shine as sophisticated, strong, and beautiful people.

Starting off with the women in this cast who exude nothing but black girl magic, Black Panther showcases unmatched female representation as each female character carries rich depth and divinity in their own prestige.

Acting veteran Angela Bassett portrays T’Challa’s regal mother Ramonda. T’Challa’s sister, Shuri (Letitia Wright) is the breakout actor of the film. Shuri, who is an engineer and inventor in charge of Wakanda’s technology, stole the show with her much-needed comedic relief throughout the film and has smashed other portrayals of the modern princess as well. Danai Gurira, who plays Okoye, is the chief general and head of the Dora Milaje—an all-female royal honor guard—and maintains a perfect balance of fierceness and elegance. She is passionate about Wakanda, so much so that when faced with the unimaginable choice between saving a loved one and Wakanda, she chooses the latter. Lupita Nyong’o, who graced the screen as Nakia, is an undercover spy working to provide outreach to the neighboring nations of Wakanda. The integration of strong and complex female characters Coogler has created is brilliant and calculated, and the female characters are transcendent. With this representation, he has proven that female characters can exist independently of their male counterparts. 

Chadwick Boseman gave a striking performance as King T’Challa. Boseman, who has earned a  reputation from his previous roles such as Jackie Robinson in the film 42 and James Brown in the film Get On Up, has added a new complexity and depth to his repertoire as T’Challa—a loving,
determined, and committed king. The plot, in its originality and creativity, plays well with his character, as T’Challa assumes almost Shakespearean levels of doubt when he is challenged by an unexpected rival. In the end, T’Challa learns what it means to be a king and what it means to do what’s right, even if it means changing tradition.

Michael B. Jordan portrays the film’s primary antagonist, Eric Killmonger, with such ease and grace that audiences have a hard time deciding whether or not they hate him or love him. With previous roles in films like Creed and Fruitvale Station, Jordan is no stranger to working with director Ryan Coogler and is transformed anew in this new role. As one of the best Marvel Cinematic Universe villains yet, Eric Killmonger is a politically engaged opponent whose intentions mimic Malcom X while he works to liberate African-Americans beyond Wakanda from a system of oppression and marginalization. Jordan’s performance is altogether remarkable and vicious, and he still manages to be relatable and unlike anything audiences have ever seen. Barely scratching the surface, Black Panther’s thematic depth involves the legacy of colonialism, the tension between autonomy and social conscience, and the need for solidarity within an African diaspora at political and cultural odds with itself.

A week after its release, the reviews and ratings of Black Panther have included nothing but praise. Black Panther is a jolt of freshness in an action-heavy movie industry and flourishes as a film rooted in the celebration of black history. This film not only celebrates the heritage of the hero but also  visualizes an African nation that acts as a beacon of hope across the continent and beyond. Lush and impressively well-acted, Black Panther will go down in history as a timeless superhero classic for generations to come.

Black Panther shines with the beauty of  black imagination, creation, and liberation. It is an emblem of a past that is often forgotten but creates a future that feels very present. As this film continues to dominate screens across the world, Black Panther remains as an exhilarating, regal, and refreshingly thought-provoking film.

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