Jennifer Somers | Editor
During its opening weekend, the 2018 film adaptation of Marvel’s “Black Panther” drew in an estimated $192 million in the U.S. and Canada alone, making it the fifth highest-earning opening of any film, according to The Associated Press.
What sets the film apart from its counterparts is the diversity of its cast and crew members. It centers around a black superhero, features a predominantly black cast and was directed by black director Ryan Coogler.
The soundtrack to the movie, “Black Panther: The Album,” was produced by Kendrick Lamar, alongside Anthony “Top Dawg” Tiffith, and debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 chart. Lamar appears on many of the songs alongside notable black artists like SZA, Khalid, Vince Staples, Anderson .Paak, The Weeknd and Travis Scott. Though only a few of the tracks made it into the actual film, each song is injected with some aspect of the Wakandan spirit.
“Black Panther” takes place in the fictional African country of Wakanda. There are five tribes within the Wakanda kingdom, and the leaders of each tribe serve as a council to the king. The secret nation, isolated from the rest of the world for preservation, is unmarked by Western colonialism and defined by its bountiful natural resources, rich culture and cutting-edge technology.
Upon the assassination of Wakanda’s king T’Chaka (John Kani) in “Captain America: Civil War,” young T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) takes on the throne and the role of the Black Panther, one that must be earned through a ritual combat ceremony where any Wakandan from royal blood may challenge him for the throne.
The ceremony scene in the film, which occurs at the edge of a waterfall, exhibits the amount of attention to detail that went into the visuals. Wakandans from the five tribes can be seen wearing traditional African lip plates, headdresses, hairstyles and robes with modern flare as T’Challa wins the title of Black Panther. The imagery shown on screen alone, with its bright colors and fluid graphics, would leave any audience member gasping in awe.
As the new leader, T’Challa must decide whether or not Wakanda should share its superior resources – particularly its supply of vibranium, the strongest and rarest metal in the Marvel universe – with black people from all over the world who are experiencing the hardships of racism and inequality. Though sharing would allow many struggling people of color the ability to fight back against their oppressors, exposing Wakanda and its resources to the world could jeopardize the country’s safety.
Behind T’Challa is the Dora Milaje, a powerful army of female warriors who serve as protectors of both Wakanda and the Black Panther. The army is led by Okoye (Danai Gurira), who saves T’Challa’s life just moments into the film and proves to be a heroine in her own right. With costumes emulating the Maasai people of East Africa, her fighters stand tall and fierce with bald heads, tribal tattoos, neck rings and vibranium-powered spears.
Long after the film’s overwhelming presence in theaters has diminished, these are the images that will remain with audiences – strong, educated and influential people of color thriving in a place unaffected by colonialism and white supremacy.
This type of representation will open the eyes of young black people around the world to the potential they are capable of achieving. Insteading of having to decide between whether they would prefer to be Captain America or Iron Man, both of which fail to represent a growing non-white population of the U.S., there is now an option of a hero that looks similar to how they look and shares the same culture.
“Black Panther” was created by an impeccable cast and crew, and the storyline is something even a superhero novice could find captivating. Though just recently released, the film has already left a lasting impression on its audiences and the future of Hollywood cinema.