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The king is here: “Black Panther” debut is Marvel-ous

Shalah Russell, Staff Reporter

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“Finally!” That was the first word out of my mouth when I first found out that the fictional character, Black Panther, was getting a solo movie. Other superhero fans around the world shared this same excitement when the announcement was made. However, for many people, including those who are not even interested in Marvel superhero films, this movie was needed for more than one reason.

If you are unfamiliar with the history behind the Black Panther, allow me to enlighten you, and do not worry. I will not spoil the movie for you. Similar to most Marvel characters, Black Panther originated from comic books. The character was created by Stan Lee and he first appeared in the comic Fantastic Four. The Black Panther’s true identity is T’Challa, the king and protector of a fictional African nation, Wakanda. T’Challa possesses enhanced abilities obtained from ancient Wakandan rituals and heart-shaped herbs. What makes T’Challa even more special is that he also relies on his great understanding in science, his intense physical training, hand-to-hand combat skills, and the great technological advances that Wakanda possesses. Vibranium, the strongest (fictional) metal in the MCU is what T’challa’s suit is made out of and it is also what the nation Wakanda runs on and allows them to thrive in all areas of science and technology.

The Black Panther, played by Chadwick Boseman, was originally introduced into the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) in 2016, with the release of the movie “Captain America: Civil War.” In this movie, T’challa’s character honestly was not portrayed in depth, which is completely understandable because it was the debut of a supporting role. However, despite the hero’s limited screen time, the announcement of this character’s presence was enough to spark a voice within many people. Black Panther was one of the few black comic book characters added to the MCU since 2008 (when it started). The “Black Panther” movie achieved a 97% on Rotten Tomatoes, the highest score a Marvel superhero movie has ever received, and in the opening weekend earned a domestic $242 million and $427 million worldwide.

But, statistics and ratings aside, let me tell you my opinion on the movie. One word: amazing. I absolutely loved it. Everything from the set designs to the editing, the movie was perfection. It was obvious to me that the staff and the directors did their research; this was expected due to most of the movie’s setting taking place in an African nation (and the movie not being directed nor written by actual Africans). I feel as if the set and scenery perfectly contributed to the idea of this “utopia-like” nation of Wakanda. The visuals were heavenly and so breathtaking it didn’t seem possible even with CGI (computer-generated imagery); it stayed very close to the original comics in that area. The action scenes were well-choreographed and sequenced. There was also a comedic element to the movie which added more to its charisma as characters like Shuri (T’challa’s sister) and M’Baku (leader of the Jabari tribe) added quick witty comments.

To be honest, coming into this movie, I did not know what to expect. Even with the few trailers that were put out, I could not quite grasp the concept of the movie and I questioned how it would be executed. Like I previously mentioned, in the only other movie Boseman’s character was in, he had probably less than 30 minutes of screen time in total. Therefore, I was a little skeptical about how they were going to move forward and build his character while remaining relevant to the rest of the MCU. But, don’t worry, “Black Panther” was everything I could have hoped for and more! The plot was very well thought out but not hard to follow so that a viewer who hasn’t watched previous Marvel movies could still understand the messages hidden within it. It’s honestly one of my favorite Marvel movies to date. That being said, the beautiful set and the fighting sequences are not even the main reasons behind my love for this movie.

There were so many hidden meanings and connections to current society that I feel as if I have to watch the movie again in order to fully analyze all of them. One of the biggest connections I could make from the movie was the idea of the very nation, Wakanda itself. Throughout the plot, you can say that the ongoing conflict for Wakanda was the “race for Vibranium.” Being the strongest metal on Earth and the reason behind all of Wakanda’s success as a nation, Vibranium is wanted by many people around the world. However, for centuries Wakanda has been able to protect it, stay concealed from the rest of the world, and they have been able to continue to be portrayed as a third-world country.

This whole deal with the Vibranium reminded me of the “Race for Africa” during the 1880-1910s. If you don’t know what that is I suggest you Google it, but long story short, the movie shows parallels to the Imperialism of Africa. In the 1800s many Europeans raided Africa for their natural resources and assets, similar to how foreign countries in the movie are on a frantic search for Vibranium. This is left up to interpretation, but because of the persistent subtle mentions of colonialism, to me, it insinuated how Africa could be if imperialism never occured. What would happen if Africa could somehow hide their assets from the rest of the world? I am pretty sure it could never reach the level of this fictional nation, but it does make you wonder how much our present could be significantly changed by something that happened to another country decades ago.

Another aspect I thoroughly enjoyed from the movie was the contrast between African-Americans and Africans. This topic might seem useless to discuss because most people might think the differences are clear as day. But even though I am African-American, it was just eye-opening to see the differences (and similarities) laid out right in front of my eyes. The movie did a great job of creating the dialogue, the wardrobe, and the set to display the differences between the two cultures. Although the variations made for a compelling feature, it was also interesting to see the similarities between the two and how we could come together in order to accomplish many things (as shown in the movie).

However, the biggest reason I love “Black Panther” is one that I did not even have to watch the movie in order to conclude. The fact that the movie almost had an all-black cast hit home. It really meant the world to me. I know that some people say that “representation doesn’t mean anything,” but, in all honesty, it means everything! Just simply seeing someone on screen that looks like you and could have possibly experienced the same struggles you have or seeing them aspiring to become something more can mean everything to a viewer. It is just an unexplainable feeling you get even though you are not the one acting in the movie; even though you are not related to anyone who acted in the movie. You have no direct connections to the movie simply other than the fact that you watched it. Yet seeing a movie with such a colorful cast that has done so well can have such a huge impact on a young black person, or any black person at all. That is why I think “Black Panther” is way more than any one movie. It is way more than another flicker on the screen. It is a movement, which is why so many people gathered together to support it.

The biggest thing I take away from this movie and its success is the progression African-Americans have made in the acting world. I always remember where we began; when non-African Americans had to paint themselves with black paint because we weren’t allowed to act. But now here we are.

To say the least, “Black Panther” was marvelous and it certainly did not disappoint. You might think I sound quite biased but I guarantee, whether you are a Marvel fan or not, you will appreciate the film. Also, heads up, there are two post-credit scenes that tease what is to come in the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, so I advise you do not leave the theater until they turn the lights on. The Black Panther will next be seen in the “Avengers Infinity: War” which is being released in May 2018.

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The king is here: “Black Panther” debut is Marvel-ous