Dear Quiet Minds,
Last weekend, I went to watch Black Panther (2018) directed by Ryan Coogler and it was absolutely inspiring! Since I hadn’t watched the trailer or Captain America: Civil War, I went into this movie blind so I didn’t know anything about the Black Panther prior to seeing the film. Luckily, he needed no introduction because the film sucked me in from the start. This Marvel movie starts with T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) returning to Wakanda, a futuristic African nation, to become king after the death of his father. However, his rise to the throne is threatened unexpectedly by Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan). Although this synopsis sounds like a power struggle, it goes beyond power and focuses primarily on maintaining the integrity and morals of Wakanda. Both T’Challa and Erik seek a different future for Wakanda.
Recently, I haven’t been fond of the Marvel movies. They’re all competing on who can be the funniest, ultimately using comedy to undercut the dramatic and sincere moments in a hero’s journey. Black Panther; however, was funny at times, but did not undercut the moments of sadness and confusion that T’Challa was going through. We watched T’Challa struggle internally and externally without having it downplayed by unnecessary moments of comic relief. For once, the hero’s journey was serious and important. One thing I really loved about Black Panther was the fact that its villain wasn’t really a villain. Erik Killmonger had redeemable qualities. When we look at other Marvel films, most of the villains are evil and that’s it. In Black Panther, Erik Killmonger could have well been the hero. He felt that Wakanda needed to move away from isolationism and start helping the African people in other areas of the world. The only thing that turned him from a hero to a villain was how he wanted to execute his plans. In the end, T’Challa learns from Erik and Erik feels regret for seeking revenge. His redeemable qualities definitely shifted the dynamic in Black Panther and demonstrated the human behind the villain.
Another aspect of the film that I loved was the female representation and the costume design. Whenever T’Challa went on a mission, he chose women to accompany him. Throughout the film, Okoye (Danai Gurira), a general of the Dora Milaje warriors, and Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o), a Wakandan spy, are by his side. These two women were able to take down men with the determination of their gaze and their insurmountable skill. They did not need provocative attire or armor to get the job done, which brings me to costume design. Mostly in films like Wonder Woman, the woman are given short skirts to enhance their sex appeal, but in Black Panther, the women wore armor that was practical and protected their bodies. These costumes were designed by Ruth E. Carter who focused on creating an Afrofuturistic design. She incorporated the stacked neck rings worn by Ndebele women, the amazing prints of Lesotho blankets and other traditional African patterns in all her costumes. Watching this movie was a very beautiful experience because it expressed open-mindedness and acceptance through its celebration of different cultures. It made me feel so happy to be alive because diversity was finally being displayed on the big screen like it should have been displayed years ago.
In the end, Black Panther brought so much enrichment to the Marvel Cinematic Universe by touching on issues like colonization and power distribution. Even though it was a shame to imagine that Africa could have become something just as powerful as Wakanda in the future if not for colonization, I’m very glad director Coogler evoked this image. It can open people’s eyes and show them that every culture deserves space to grow and develop into something beautiful. Although history can’t be changed and movies can only do so much, I’m glad that the superhero world is becoming a more colorful place. With the majority of Black Panther‘s cast being African American, we are moving in the right direction. Hopefully, Marvel will start creating deeper and richer films that integrate superheroes from the Asian, Hispanic and LGBTQ+ communities into this expanding cinematic universe.
Here’s to a new era of film!