The latest installment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), “Black Panther” delivers a superhero movie that goes above and beyond the formula to a message for our world today.
Of course, it doesn’t say that in so many words but in the times of ‘America first’ and the threat of a wall on our border with Mexico, this film stands as a testament that nations are not meant to exist as isolated entities but as part of the human community, that is, the people of earth – all of us together for the betterment of everyone.
Beginning a week after the events of “Captain America: Civil War,” “Black Panther” catches up with T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman), the prince of fictional Wakanda, who has been thrown into the throne through his father’s untimely death. With the kingship comes the protection of the Wakandan people through the power of Black Panther, made strong by a special flower that only grows there. Refreshing in the superhero genre is the strength of Wakanda’s women. The Dora Milaje warriors, who are the king’s personal bodyguards, are all women led by General Okoye (Danai Gurira). T’Challa’s ex-girlfriend (who he still carries a flame for), Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o), is a spy for her government.
Also falling on the king’s shoulders is Wakanda’s secret. The world doesn’t know that the vibranium they mine (the same stuff Captain America’s shield is made of) has enabled them to build a technologically advanced society. To the outside world, Wakanda is believed to be a third world country, not accepting aid from any other nation nor offering aid to others. The question of whether or not it’s time for the Wakandans to share their technology becomes a major point of conflict for the film.
Enter in a long-lost cousin that T’Challa never knew he had, Eric Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan). Killmonger’s a great villain, with a believable background that makes him a tragic figure, one who could be great if only he weren’t seeking revenge for the wrongs done to him.
“Black Panther” celebrates the beauty of African cultures and offers a superhero that young African-Americans can look up to, just like “Wonder Woman” did for women. The mostly-black cast give stand out performances, especially Letitia Wright as Shuri, T’Challa’s little sister-slash-science whiz. Shuri’s like Q of James Bond fame, excitedly showing Black Panther the latest gadgets she’s made to aid him, not only as a superhero, but as a king.
The next paragraph contains a spoiler for the film so read with caution! The film contains all the things we love about superhero movies: a great villain, lots of chase scenes, getting the bad guys, and well-choreographed fight scenes. What “Black Panther” does better than any of the MCU films that came before it is present the idea of discernment and a sound political view. Wakanda has done well for itself but the world could greatly benefit from their technology. T’Challa, Shuri, Okoye, Nakia, and even the Queen Mother, Ramonda (Angela Bassett), talk about the pros and cons of sharing their tech with the world. They come to realize in the struggle with Killmonger, that (yes, here comes the famous cliché) with great power comes great responsibility. The technology they possess can help a struggling world, therefore they have the responsibility to share it. They can no longer stay isolated, thinking only of themselves but need to be an active part of caring for all of humanity, not just those within their national borders.