By CYNTHIA BIDDLECOMB
Marvel Studios’ “Black Panther” is a visually rich and creative film. Like all Marvel movies, Black Panther is an action adventure flick—your typical, fast moving plot, where Good fights Evil, but with a definite underlying message.
Black Panther movie poster. Courtesy image
This time, we are taken to an idyllic yet isolated land, intentionally hidden from the rest of the world. The nation of Wakanda hides under a vast, East African, jungle canopy. The world thinks they are yet another impoverished African nation; our satellites can’t see through the trees to the peaceful nation with advanced technology thriving below.
Imagine, that you are Ryan Cooger, Director and Co-Writer of Black Panther, and are given nearly free rein to create the setting for Black Panther’s backstory. Marvel Comic books provide you with some clues. But you can decide what this African nation would look like, never having been colonized or stripped of its resources by another nation. Free to develop its rich source of “Vibranium”—a coveted metal with powerful properties to shield and power futuristic technologies—Wakanda has developed an impressive capitol city, while preserving pastoral African landscapes. It would be a stunning place to visit if a tourist were allowed to find it.
This king of Wakanda has an alter ego, the superhero Black Panther. When, in the movie “Captain America: Civil War”, Wakanda’s King T’Chaka died in a terrorist attack during his speech to the United Nations, his son T’Challa was forced to return to Wakanda to take his father’s throne. Chadwick Boseman—who starred in the movies 42 and Marshall—plays T’Challa in this movie. His portrayal convinces us of T’Challa’s humble and compassionate heart, and his iron will for justice.
Traveling with the future king as his bodyguard is General Okoye (Danai Gurira), leader of the all female Wakanda Guard. Another strong role model for female filmgoers is T’Challa’s love interest, Nakia, played by Oscar-winning actress Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave). She is an international Wakanda spy, infiltrating a terrorist cell in Nigeria when T’Challa takes her back home for his coronation ceremony. Back in Wakanda, we meet T’Challa’s now widowed mother Ramonda (Angela Basset) and his bubbly sister Shuri (Letitia Wright), the nation’s inventive tech master.
Surrounding his throne are the leaders of the tribes and the elders.
Marvel’s villain for this film is Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis). Apparently working for “Klaw” is Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan who starred in Creed), whom Everett K. Ross—the CIA operative reprised for this film by Martin Freeman (Sherlock: Watson)—says is an MIT grad, a former Navy Seal trained as an assassin.
Adult viewers, tired of the same old superhero Gotham-like city scenes and shallow backstories, will want to see Black Panther’s wonderful new take on the genre. The settings and tech invented for this film are cleverly integrated with deep tradition and a respect for African cultures rarely portrayed in film. Black Panther is “Rated PG-13 for prolonged sequences of action violence, and a brief rude gesture.”