The hype for the Black Panther solo film next February is real, and rightfully so. He made a big impact in his debut in Captain America: Civil War, and as seen with the astounding number of views director Ryan Coogler’s teaser racked up, fans are eager to see how T’Challa’s journey continued since. His kingdom of Wakanda is blessed with huge stores of vibranium, the metal used in Captain America’s shield and a prime factor in Ultron’s attempt to destroy the planet. However, Coogler clearly hints that in his film, a lot more lies beneath the surface of this beautiful African nation and its king. After all, as the trailer stated, a good man with a good heart does not necessarily make a good king.
In Civil War, we saw that T’Challa answers to no one, and simply does what he thinks is right. He fought alongside Team Stark in order to capture his father’s killer, whom he thought was Bucky, only to later find out that it was Helmut Zemo. He apprehended the terrorist, but allied with Team Cap by the end of the movie, placing Bucky Barnes in stasis in Wakanda for his scientists to try to heal. With this uncertainty over his allegiance, one must wonder if the state of the Avengers will be reflected in Black Panther. How divided are Earth’s mightiest heroes? How strong is T’Challa’s relationship with Tony Stark and Thaddeus Ross, the main men behind the Sokovia Accords? And how has T’Challa’s positioning impacted on Wakanda’s global status?
These are big questions being asked and what makes this film even more important is that it leads directly into Avengers: Infinity War a couple of months later — which all but guarantees big statements from Earth’s protectors as the stage gets set for Thanos’ arrival.
STRENGTH IN DIVERSITY
Black Panther debuted in Fantastic Four #52 in 1966, and his first solo film is set to break new ground at a time where there’s a lot of whitewashing in Hollywood (as seen in the Ghost in the Shell controversy and similar problems also arose in Doctor Strange), and too few opportunities for black actors or directors. Marvel Studios, however, wanted to ensure they got this one right with a black director and a predominantly black cast. Ryan Coogler has some impressive directing credits; he’s garnered major acclaim for Fruitvale Station and Creed. Then there’s Chadwick Boseman, who’s been great as the regal warrior created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. He’ll also be the first black superhero lead since Wesley Snipes’ Blade and offers fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe a true black lead as opposed to a supporting role like Falcon or War Machine.
Michael B. Jordan (Chronicle, the Fantastic Four reboot) is another noteworthy casting. A frequent collaborator with Coogler, he’ll be playing a villain, Erik Killmonger, and will be joined by the likes of Danai Gurira (The Walking Dead), Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out), Angela Bassett (Green Lantern) and last but not least, the Academy Award winning duo of Lupita Nyong’o (The Jungle Book, Star Wars: The Last Jedi) and Forest Whittaker (The Last King of Scotland, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story). From these names, it’s very clear that this isn’t just a cast of color, it’s one of class, and helps steer the MCU into a more ethnically diverse direction.
From the trailer, we saw Wakanda portrayed as a hideaway that’s highly advanced in terms of technology, infrastructure, and defence. Usually, Hollywood paints African countries as slums and ghettos, so to see this one as a world power, or in this case a superpower, is a breath of fresh air. Another interesting concept we want to see tackled is that of foreign borders. Andy Serkis’ Ulysses Klaue was seen in the crosshairs of Everett K. Ross (Martin Freeman’s CIA character) and T’Challa himself, heavily implying he’s still into illegally mining and selling vibranium on the black market. Klaue even likens Wakanda to the mythical city of El Dorado as he mentions it being a place that’s more than just “third-world” and “textiles and cool outfits.”
This exploitation angle draws parallels to real-world issues where countries are exploited by the oil and gas industries, and with a message that can run even deeper when it comes to the history of places that are invaded and razed for their precious materials. We’re anxious to see all who are interested and going after Wakanda’s resources, which may well be why they tried to remain hidden for so long. These all have potential political issues that can be addressed, and from which real-world parallels are sure to be drawn.
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