Black Panther: King of the Box Office

So, Black Panther happened, and if you have not seen it, what are you even doing? The movie is based  on the Marvel Comics character, Black Panther. There has been some talk of creating the film since the 90s, but they finally decided to take flight with it back in 2005. Why did it take Paramount Pictures 13 years to get the film out? Who knows. We got it though, and I must say, it was pretty amazing!

The movie tells the story of Prince-turned-King, T’Challa, played by Chadwick Boseman, who returns to the African country of Wakanda to take over the throne after his father’s death. The country is made up of five tribes and poses as a third-world country to maintain the discretion of their technological advances. In order for a warrior to obtain the status of being the Black Panther, they must battle for it against members of the other tribes. T’Challa battles with M’Baku, a leader of the Jabari Tribe. T’Challa wins the battle and becomes the Black Panther, meaning he can ingest the “heart shaped herb” and gain superhuman powers, and they live happily ever after!

Or so we thought because there is some tea that has not yet been spilt. It turns out T’Challa has a cousin, N’Jadaka, aka Erik Stevens, played by Michael B. Jordan.  His father was killed while he was still a kid, therefore he grew up in the United States, never knowing where he came from – but that is not the tea. It turns out, T’Chaka (T’Challa’s father) killed his brother, N’Jobu (Erik’s father)! Erik wanted to seek revenge not only because his father was killed by his family, but Wakanda had the power to end a lot of the oppression in the world being brought upon people of African descent. Erik tries to overthrow T’Challa, and succeeds — but not for long because things began to tumble. T’Challa, along with the help of other tribal leaders, comes back to reclaim his title as king. He regains power and Erik kills himself to escape the punishment to come. In the end, T’Challa begins to make changes to how Wakanda operates and those changes reflect some of Eriks wishes. T’Challa presents Wakanda to the United Nations ,exposing all of their resources, and opens several Wakanda Outreach Centers to begin to make change in the world. Marvel really outdid themselves this time. I appreciate how well thought out the plot and the overall theme was. They captured a lot of cultural features in this movie and although maybe not very accurate, it painted a great picture. Black Panther was also Marvel’s first movie with a predominantly black cast, and it ranked the highest grossing film by a black director. They made $1.3 billion, breaking numerous box office records while receiving tons of awards and nominations.

Black Panther was more than just a movie; it was a much needed win for black people in the entertainment world. Usually we see black actors and actresses receiving awards for playing roles that aren’t necessarily positive ones, such Denzel Washington in Training Day or Oprah Winfrey in The Color Purple, but now we have Chadwick Boseman winning best hero awards and Ryan Coogler winning best Director awards. It’s new, it’s different and it’s a positive reflection on who black people really are in the actual world. We’re not all “thugs” or just descendants of slaves, we’re doctors, we’re teachers, we’re artists, we are everything that any extraordinary human being could be, but growing up I would always watch these Marvel movies where the superheroes were almost always white and although race does not make me love Spiderman any less, it’s nice to see that there can be a superhero that looks like me for a change. Black Panther also brought on a huge wave of cultural pride. People showed up to theaters in their African Dashikis to watch this movie. It gave people the chance to show off the motherland and all its beauty.

This was the first Marvel movie that I’ve watched and have felt conflicted on how they portrayed the hero versus the villain. I had a few discussions on this topic, but if you have seen the movie, think about this: was Erik really a villain? Yes, he wanted to break Wakanda’s isolation policy, but his reasons were for the good of all humanity. There is a lot of unjust in this world, but especially in America, against people of color and this movie reflected it. All Erik wanted to do was put an end to that. I can agree that there was some vengeance in his actions and how he went about doing things, but his motives were in the right place. I consider him a hero. His last words before removing the sword from his heart were, “Bury me in the ocean with my ancestors who jumped from the ship because they knew death was better than bondage.” and that bondage is is still prevailing in society. I know if there is an African country posing as a Third-world country with technological advantages that could put an end to that bondage, I would want them to come out of hiding!


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