Director Ryan Coogler’s “Black Panther” slashed multiple box office records following its theater debut on Feb. 16, earning $235 million during its opening weekend.
“Black Panther” proves the power of representation, by featuring likable, dynamic characters, incorporating racial politics that address the current political atmosphere in the plot and depicting a narrative of Africa that is innovative and imaginative. Coogler’s choice to include a cast, writers, artists and musicians who have mainly African-American backgrounds, disproves the old Hollywood myth that films with black protagonists and talent are not economically successful.
“Black Panther” chronicles T’Challa’s progression as the ruling monarch of the fictional East African nation of Wakanda. It escapes the clutches of colonialism and racism in its early history by shielding itself away from the rest of the world to develop massive reserves of vibranium, the strongest metal in the Marvel Comics mythos. T’Challa faces the challenge of whether his legacy will follow seclusive Wakandan tradition or if it is time for his country to expose itself to the world.
“Black Panther” surprises viewers through its plotline and progression of rising action and climax. T’Challa’s first mission as the Black Panther involves stopping Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis), one of the film’s antagonists, from distributing a Wakandan artifact to a U.S. CIA agent in South Korea.
Despite how Klaue consistently threatens this society’s isolation, Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) is revealed as the true antagonist in the film. Killmonger threatens T’Challa’s position as heir to the empire.
“Black Panther” allows for each individual character’s story to be broadcast. Nakia, T’Challa’s love interest, is constantly his sidekick throughout the film; however, her work as a spy to help refugees is persistently touched upon. Okoye, the female general of the Wakandan army, is both powerful and strong-willed yet loyal. Despite her differences in ethics with Killmonger, she does not challenge his position as the Black Panther after he defeats T’Challa in combat. Shuri is the technological genius of the whole empire; however, her dialogue throughout “Black Panther” could be seen as a source of comedic relief during challenging scenes.
Political dialogue encompasses and revolves around the entire composition of “Black Panther” which gives the film a platform to address movements in today’s society, like Black Lives Matter. During the opening scene, Killmonger’s father establishes that in the United States, African Americans are subject to unfair racial discrimination through poverty and a larger percentage of incarceration sentences. Throughout the film, the theme of colonialism is drawn upon. Shuri calls CIA agent Martin Freeman a colonizer; whereas, Killmonger relates to the plight of his ancestors during slavery before his final scene. “Black Panther” and its ability to relate to the racial climate gives it a different form of reality than most Marvel films.
The director’s creative elements choices, from the colors to certain symbols, are used to touch upon African history or tradition. During T’Challa’s coronation ceremony, multiple distinct tribes are shown to compose the threads of African society. W’Kabi, the leader of security for the Border Tribe, is depicted wearing a royal blue wardrobe and as the caretaker of a large Rhinoceros. Whereas, M’Baku, the leader of the Jabari tribe, has a completely different set of attire that encompasses fur throughout his arms and legs. Both tribes are from the same region, but they touch upon a different set of wardrobe and belief system with Wakanda.
Coogler is successful in exposing the true power of representation for viewers and for filmmaking making studios as well. The film goes beyond the typical plotline found in most Marvel films and gives a dose of reality through its incorporation of racial politics. It expresses that each character’s narrative is essentially different yet important to be heard.