Sunday, July 14, 2024



The extraordinary success of “Black Panther” has cast a spotlight on truths about people of African descent.

The verdict is in, and audiences around the world have arrived at it quickly: “Black Panther” is already one of the most successful movies of all time.

Directed by Ryan Coogler, the newest installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is a super-powered response to a Hollywood narrative that has historically depicted black life as rooted in slavery and despair — and in near-constant need of a white savior. “Black Panther” has become a global phenomenon, in part, because it portrays people of African descent as they see themselves: brilliant, strong, powerful, and resilient people who are descended from royalty and fearless in the face of adversity.

Audiences have embraced the film with a speed and passion perhaps never seen before for a film with a black director and a primarily black cast. Millions of people are wearing African fashions to multiple showings, organizing group screenings, and adopting the greetings and catchphrases being popularized by the film.

“The diversity in the Marvel Cinematic Universe goes back to the Marvel comics,” said Marvel Studios president and “Black Panther” producer Kevin Feige. “I’ve always said we’re just trying to emulate what the comics have been doing so well for so many decades and one of those things is representing society as it exists. When Black Panther character debuted in the ‘60s it was daring move for the Marvel bullpen Stan Lee and Jack Kirby to introduce this new character, an African character who is smarter than  many of our other heroes and is stronger than most of our other heroes. To be able to put that on the big screen fifty years later is incredibly exciting for us.”

“Black Panther” centers on T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman), who after the death of his father, The King of Wakanda, returns home to take his rightful place on the throne in the isolated, technologically advanced African nation.

But when a powerful enemy appears, T’Challa’s mettle as king — and Black Panther — is tested when he is drawn into a formidable conflict that puts the fate of Wakanda and the entire world at risk. Faced with treachery and danger, the young king must rally allies and release the full power of Black Panther to defeat his foes and secure the safety of his people and their way of life.

Boseman leads a cast that also includes Michael B. Jordan, Daniel Kaluuya, Academy Award winners Lupita Nyong’o and Forest Whitaker, and Oscar nominees Angela Bassett and Daniel Kaluuya.

The film’s lead was excited to portray the King of Wakanda. “T’Challa is smart. He’s a strategist and that has always been something that stood out to me, even in the comic books, said Boseman. “He’s a world leader and with that comes the responsibility for an entire nation and considering its place in the world. That’s something that other superheroes don’t commonly have, but he must also uphold his legacy. It’s an interesting combination. If you’re going to do a superhero, you want to do one where you can really act and where you can do something that’s going to make you a better artist as well. And I think, culturally speaking, that there are not a lot of opportunities to play a black superhero. It’s breaking new ground, and to be a part of that is a special thing.”

Jordan, who plays T’Challa’s nemesis Erik Killmonger — who has designs to take over the Wakanda throne — says the movie can open eyes to realities outside the theater.

“It’s the introduction to the world and giving the voice to the people,” said Jordan. “The culture of Wakanda is very old. There is history and traditions and how they’re used to doing things. I loved the way they tied in the old-school traditions and how they’re used to doing things. I loved the way they tied in the old-school tradition with what today is and how important foreign policy and how we interact with one another is.”

Nyong’o, who plays Nakia, was drawn to “Black Panther” by several different elements. “The fact that the movie was going to be Marvel’s first black superhero and that he would be an African king, and the fact that we were going to be creating this really dope African country, and populated it with all sorts of badass African characters — it was no-brainer, honestly.”

She elaborated on how she identified with her character. “I love a woman who goes her own way and is independent, and I am also really someone who depends on my family, friends, feels a connection to my people and maybe a responsibility to ‘make them proud.’ So I really related to that balancing act within oneself. I feel like all the actors really owned this story and wanted to do right by it. There was a militancy with which we showed up every day to put in our work.”

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