“Black Panther” was a success

Alexandra Apatiga, Editor-in-Chief

Marvel Studios just released its newest addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. “Black Panther debuted over the President’s Day weekend to an astounding success, not that anyone is surprised.

Black Panther is a true gem in a sea of action movies and comic book films that rely too heavily on unnecessary drama or action to move to plot forward. Normally character development is pushed to the side in favor of flashy fight scenes or diabolical villains that don’t hold any weight for the audience. Black Panther is different in that it provides the audience a truly authentic world, with action that makes you hold your breath and a story that does justice for the film’s message and characters.

Even the antagonist of the film Erik Killmonger, played by Michael B. Jordan, plays a monumental role, as it is his actions that push the story forward. His message and ideas of how the world operates deeply affects both the characters and the audience in a way that I’ve not seen done in a very longtime. Despite being the villain our hero needs to defeat, Killmonger comes off more as an anti-hero, believing his actions will help people. Sentiment audience members couldn’t help but agree with given the evidence he had to validate his claims.

In short, the Black Panther presents themes, ideals, characters and views in a way that hasn’t been done in a Marvel film in years, and respects the audience in presenting those ideas and trusting us to figure out what it all means for ourselves.

And that isn’t even pointing out the fact that this is Marvel’s first film featuring a predominantly black cast, with the main character T’Challa, being played by Chadwick Boseman, ruling as king over the fictional African nation of Wakanda.

The world that director Ryan Coogler breathes life into is one filled to the brim with cultural significance, strong and memorable characters, a story full of tension and excitement, and themes that deeply resonate with issues our world, and our society, face even today.

The film depicts the vibrant culture of Africa with colors, language, art, and designs that were inspired by real-life nations and cultures. Even more impressive was how positive and respectful the film was in presenting these elements, showing a way of life and detailing the history of a continent long viewed as “desolate.”

Since its release, the film has dominated pop culture and given rise in the empowering and positive portrayal of Africa and those of African heritage. The amount of representation in the film doesn’t just stop at being black, however, but extends to show a number of strong, solid female characters and parental figures who serve as an example for audience members.

A personal favorite of mine was T’Challa’s younger sister and the princess of Wakanda, Shuri, played by Letitia Wright, whose brilliant mind shines as she holds the title of lead scientist within Wakanda. All of the technology within the film was designed and built by Shuri, and we are shown just how creative and clever this young teenager is with every new trinket she builds.

Everyone in the movie, even the supporting cast, has their own ideas, goals and attitudes towards Wakanda and the world, everyone save for the only two white characters. But this is no accident, in fact if I may be so bold, I would say the way these two were written to mirror the way many black characters have been treated throughout Hollywood’s history; playing supporting roles to help the main white characters achieve their goals, while serving no other purpose in the film. A brilliant and ironic comeback that works narratively and structurally, while also addressing Hollywood’s problem of including people of color in their film when they aren’t even important to the overall story.

Overall, Black Panther is a revolution not just for Marvel, but for Hollywood as a whole. It proves that people want characters that can stand out on their own, stories that hold meaning and relevance, and even villains that can affect and challenge heroes to hold themselves to a higher standard.

Diversity in films is, even in 2018, still lacking but with the instant success of Black Panther, it spells hope that the film has set a new standard for film makers to achieve. One that includes POC characters, an engaging story, and a celebration of ideas and people that connect with those of us who’ve seen so little representation in media. Wakanda Forever!