Wakanda Forever

“Black Panther” proves it can stand up to the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Ethan Hurlburt and Matt Butler

Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), king of his city, king of his country, king of his homeland. “Black Panther” is one of the most hyped-up movies in all of 2018. By my standards, Black Panther lived up to its reputation, and the box office reflects this. For its first week in theaters, BP has made over $360 million dollars, with a $200 million budget for the film. Look for the movie to be one of the highest grossing Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) movies of all time. The whole crew did an incredible job. Director Ryan Coogler, known for his role in directing both “Creed” and “Fruitvale Station,” did an outstanding job in making the characters come to life. His ability to intertwine a superhero movie with Wakanda, a fictional country consisting of multiple diverse African cultures, creating a unique culture blast that was simply incredible.

King T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) returns home to the reclusive, technologically-advanced African nation of Wakanda to serve as his country’s new leader. However, T’Challa soon finds that he is challenged for the throne by factions within his own country. When two foes conspire to destroy Wakanda, the hero, known as the Black Panther, who is T’Challa, must team up with CIA agent Everett K. Ross (Martin Freeman) and members of the Dora Milaje, Wakanadan special forces, to prevent Wakanda from being dragged into a world war.

The roles of T’Challa and N’Jadaka (Michael B. Jordan) are important not only because they are the hero and villain respectively, but also because they both display different characteristics. Being born to the same family, both Black Panther and N’Jadaka would have had similar experiences and upbringings. But as N’Jadaka was left behind in America as a child, so he grew up as an African-American. While the nostalgia for family and blood ties can be seen in the actions and thoughts of T’Challa and N’Jadaka, their differences are what become apparent in their understanding of Wakanda and Black Panther’s place in the world.

The film also addresses the topic of African spirituality, from the beautiful sunsets of Wakanda to the passage of becoming the Black Panther. The movie is richly textured with spiritual ceremonies and symbolism. When the newly appointed king is buried, it is symbolic of him leaving his old life. When T’Challa was thrown into the water by N’Jadaka during their challenge, water was seen as a symbol of rejuvenation and that is where T’Challa must come back to life.

But make no mistake, when N’Jadaka hears about the death of his father, Prince N’Jobu (Sterling K. Brown), he is fueled with blood and vengeance and comes to take T’Challa’s spot as the proclaimed Black Panther. As with many great movie villains, we see elements of a righteous impulse twisted in N’Jadaka. The man has seen Africa exploited, misused and ignored. He knows about the injustices that the continent’s inhabitants had to endure for too many centuries, and he’s angry about it. T’Challa understands those realities too, and he looks toward the future, one filled with hope and reunion. As the protector of Wakanda, T’Challa is willing to sacrifice everything for his homeland. He recognizes the threat N’Jadaka poses to the rest of the world, and he is serious about stopping him.

A nice addition to the movie was the team of empowered women in it. The story supports a cast whose main characters are powerful women. In the film, women are equal to the men and can see their contributions matter. The group of women consists of a group of Dora Milaje, the special forces of Wakanda that features Okoye (Danai Gurira), the undercover spy Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o) and the princess of Wakanda, Shuri (Letitia Wright).

I have seen many Marvel movies, but none of them compare to the strong spiritual and cultural aspects that Black Panther displayed on the big screen. This is one of the most diverse superhero movies I’ve seen in years. And, to add to the movie’s prowess, Michael B. Jordan (N’Jadaka) may have been the best villain I can remember in a long, long time.

Kendrick Lamar also did a truly amazing job in creating the “Black Panther” album. His beat and lyrics in almost every song captured what “Black Panther” is. From “Opps,” a trap African sounding song, to “All The Stars,” a beautiful song with an amazing chorus performed by SZA, to “X,” a rap song made especially for “Black Panther” just a truly fantastic introduction to the album as a whole. Every song on there is one to remember. “Black Panther” is a perfect movie to watch to get you excited for the ending of phase three in the MCU, “Avengers: Infinity War.”