Illustration by Abby LeForge.

Black Panther pounces on box office expectations


The anticipation for this movie has been building since Marvel made its initial announcement. With everything being promoted – the soundtrack, the trailer and the cast – the hype surrounding Black Panther was at stake.

The opening weekend finally arrives and the movie itself is beautiful and exciting.

Black Panther is an exploration of afro-futurism disguised as a superhero movie. Afro-futurism is a genre of science fiction that shows the future of the African people beyond colonialism.

The fictional nation that takes place in the film, Wakanda, is hidden away from the world to protect its resources. Inside Wakanda is a greatly advanced nation with technology far superior to any other nation on Earth.

Wakanda is the primary source of vibranium, the strongest fictional metal in the Marvel universe. This metal is the source of all technological advancements in Wakanda and makes up the armor of the main character, King T’Challa, who is the Black Panther.

Black Panther takes the throne after his father’s death, shown in the previous Marvel installment “Captain America: Civil War.” T’Challa must protect Wakanda from the outside world as villain N’Jadaka, also known as Killmonger, tries to take vibranium in hopes of helping the oppressed people of the world.

T’Challa has to learn how to be a king on his own terms and not take from his father’s mistakes. An ongoing question as the film develops is if it’s possible to share one’s resources without the threat of a hungry nation trying to take from another country.

The story is an analogy to colonialism, or outsiders trying to take over a country for its resources and knowledge. This ongoing act has been repeated all over Africa, the Americas, Australia and throughout Asia in the film.

Afro-futurism is a speculation of what the future would look like if colonization didn’t happen and a country was allowed to progress without outside influences. That is Wakanda. Its residents, army and monarchy have strong influences from various African nations in its costumes and through its technology.

Black Panther’s suit has subtle African designs. The ships look like traditional African masks and creatures. There are even armored rhinoceros that look intense and awesome.

Wakanda’s warriors are primarily women, which defies Western ideas of an army. The general, Okoye, is a highly trained warrior who is dedicated to her country. One of Wakanda’s spies, Nakia, is intelligent and empathetic.

T’Challa’s sister, Shuri, is a tech genius who makes weapons and is constantly improving her technology as she’s cracking jokes. None of the women are sexualized or have their abilities downplayed. All the women are equally badass than their male counterparts, if not more.

Killmonger is a complex villain, as he is torn between his Wakandan roots and upbringing in Oakland. He is angry about his father’s death and takes it out through murder, hence the name Killmonger. Black Panther and Killmonger represent a battle of colonized ideology versus traditional values.

There are some tidbits that prevent it from being a great film. There are some inconsistencies with the technological capabilities. The story is a little weak and the villain’s motivations are unclear whether the need for resources is either for selfish reasons or the greater good.

Although the landscapes are beautiful and imaginative, the cinematography was uninspired and didn’t maximize the beauty of the film. However, the vast amount of work and attention to detail on the appearance of the film and its characters overshadow nitpicking observations.

The future does not belong to Western civilization. The future can have roots in tradition and can honor ancestors. If this film is influential enough, there could be a multicultural future in science fiction and possibly in real life.


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