Black Panther (2018)
Directed By Ryan Coogler
This was one of my must watch films in 2018 and I was happy that I was able to watch it with my sister when I went home for a weekend.
After the death of his father in the events of Captain America: Civil War, T’Challa returns to the kingdom of Wakanda to be crowned the new king. As the new king, his first order of duty is to bring back the black-market arms dealer Ulysses Klaue who has stolen an ancient artifact at a museum and has previously stolen precious vibranium from Wakanda. Yet bigger issues arise when T’Challa learns his father’s secret: he killed his own brother and that his brother had a son, N’Jadaka / Erik “Killmonger” Stevens, who he did not take with him back to Wakanda. Erik harbors hatred and visits Wakanda with his own ideas of how to rule it.
My initial reactions to this movie are “amazing,” “brilliant,” and “vibrant.” It’s a film that everyone should watch for its storyline messages on war, political power, family, and identity. Personally, it’s my favorite superhero movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Totally Like The Lion King
My sister and I couldn’t help but get “Lion King” vibes as the story of the Black Panther kind of resembles the story of The Lion King. The first similarity is how like Simba, T’Challa is the new king of Wakanda and he has to live up to his father’s expectations and become a great ruler. However, he needs to forge his own path as king and decide what he believes makes a great ruler. This testament is shown when he learns of his father’s secret. T’Challa did not like his father’s decision of leaving his cousin behind after killing his brother because it led Erik to have hatred towards Wakanda and the royal family. If T’Challa were in his father’s shoes, he would have taken the child and raised him in spite of the Wakanda laws.
Another incident that reminded me of The Lion King is when T’Challa goes into the afterlife to meet his royal ancestors. In that scene, we see T’Challa visiting his ancestors who are seen as black panthers in the wild landscape and under the twilight sky. This scene reminded me of when Simba sees his father in the stars and he asks him for some wisdom: “Remember who you are, Simba.” Now, my sister and I agree that if the live-action of The Lion King doesn’t have this cinematography then we will be disappointed. They need to take some lessons from Black Panther because the vibrancy and saturation of the landscape and costumes were spectacular.
War: What Is It Good For?
Another aspect of the Black Panther film that I enjoyed was its message on war and authority. T’Challa and Erik have two very different beliefs system. In the beginning, T’Challa is the peacemaker and doesn’t want to share the vibranium with other countries because he fears that it will be used for military weaponry, leading to more killing and violence. While Erik, who was a former U.S. black-ops soldier, has a more radical political perspective. He desires power and believes Wakanda can make every single country bow down to them, and so he wants to use vibranium as a threat against other nations.
When seeing these two individuals on opposite sides of the spectrum, it’s difficult to choose which ideology to side with. T’Challa is somewhat passive and wants to avoid war at all cost, but yet, he risks not making any positive changes to the world. However, Erik wants the people who have been oppressed to rise up and overthrow their oppressors. Erik acts rather than thinking thoroughly and his anarchy and power-hungry nature leads him to his own demise. Their political ideology and moral values are both right and correct, and so one cannot easily decide which to agree with. Yet, in the end, from his experiences so far, T’Challa decides not to be a passive king but rather a king that takes action and does good in the world. And so, he decides to create an outreach center that will allow Wakanda to help other nations and communities.
The Women of Wakanda
Now I appreciate the film, Wonder Woman, for its perspective on women empowerment but I do think the women of Wakanda deserve some appreciation as well. T’Challa may be the king, but it’s his entourage of women that raises him up. T’Challa’s love interest, Nakia, is an undercover spy for Wakanda but also is somewhat of an activist and humanitarian as she hopes that Wakanda will use its power and knowledge to help other nations. As for Okoye, she is the head of the Dora Milaje, the all-female special forces of Wakanda. Okoye has strong beliefs and remains loyal to the throne and whoever sits upon it. And lastly, Shuri, T’Challa’s younger sister, is a brilliant woman as she is the one that designs all the latest technology in Wakanda. As you can see, T’Challa is surrounded by beautiful, smart, strong, and independent women and that’s the type of role models we need for young girls.
Homage To Oakland, CA
Lastly, I would like to address the director, Ryan Coogler. This is my first time watching a film directed by him, but I researched him prior to the Black Panther‘s release because I wanted to know who he is. I learned that he filmed the movie, Fruitvale Station, which is a biographical drama on the Oscar Grant case. Ryan Coogler works closely alongside the actor, Michael B. Jordan who starred in all of Coogler’s directorial films so far.
The reason I want to mention the director, Ryan Coogler, is because I like how he gave homage to his hometown, Oakland, CA in the Black Panther film. Now, he could have picked any other city that has a strong African-American community but to have Oakland as the city to which the character, Erik, grows up in, feels great. Now I didn’t grow up in Oakland but I lived near the city a few years ago and I have a few friends that lived and grew up there and so, I know what the city means to them and the culture that resides there. The character, Erik isn’t just an African-American man, but he’s an Oakland guy. I think the message that Ryan Coogler is trying to convey through N’Jadaka / Erik “Killmonger” Stevens is that anyone growing up from the “Hood” can be somebody and that’s something truly amazing.
And so, if you haven’t watched the Black Panther, I strongly encourage you to go check it out. It’s amazing and one of the best superhero movies of all time in my opinion. There isn’t just action, but there’s a deeper story embedded in it involving family and identity that can inspire people of color.