Somehow in the insanity that was 2018, we never took a look at Black Panther. We’re fixing that today as the film is up for Best Picture at this year’s Academy Awards.
Black Panther was without a doubt one of the most highly anticipated films of the MCU and the year 2018–really, for decades it’s something fans have clamored for. Luckily, in February of 2018, Marvel released director Ryan Coogler’s take on the film, and the result was something better than we could have ever anticipated. It’s not just another entry in the MCU, and it’s not just an origin story for the character of the Black Panther. It’s a story about family, duty, finding your strength, and being able to do what is right for the greater good, even if it means sacrifice.
It would be insanely stupid to say that Black Panther is solely about T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman), aka the Black Panther. The film is truly about Wakanda as a whole: its leaders, its people, and its way of life. The film isn’t just showing us the next superhero in the MCU, it’s giving us a glimpse into what this entire country is, and what they stand for. On the surface the film is about T’Challa taking the mantle of the throne after his father’s death only for it to be torn away from him by Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan), who wants to dominate the world using Wakanda’s weapons. But in reality it’s a story about how we as a people in the real world choose to treat our fellow man.
Many people have pointed to the post credits scene where (SPOILERS) T’Challa announces to the UN that Wakanda will begin sharing their gifts with the world. Most people will initially say that the post credits scene and a line about building barriers was a direct dig at the US’s current president. It may be, but overall, the entire film is very political, and it’s political in the right way. The central conflict between Killmonger and T’Challa is whether or not Wakanda should share its weapons across the globe and essentially create a worldwide empire. T’Challa believes this is wrong, but Killmonger believes this is the only way to peace and justice for black men and women. That is a clear political argument, which the film takes the majority of its runtime debating this argument with the end result being “We need to find a happy medium.”
The film also dives into issues with border control and refugee acceptance right off the bat. When T’Challa goes to his good friend W’Kabi (Daniel Kaluuya) after being crowned king, they discuss the idea of opening the borders. W’Kabi says, “Refugees bring in their problems.” They talk and discuss this but it’s never in a bad way. It’s a civil discussion where T’Challa is trying to decide what is truly the right path to take.
The film also uses Okoye (Danai Gurira) and Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o) to show another argument over service to the country. Nakia is out in the world working to protect Wakanda–and better the world–as a spy. But Okoye works to protect the country by standing as the General of the Dora Milaje. Even when T’Challa is struck down and Killmonger takes the throne, she still stands at her post because for her, it is her duty to protect Wakanda and its throne at all costs. T’Challa is Okoye’s best friend in the world, but her duty to the throne and her country is more important than anything, even if it means guarding and protecting the man that just killed her best friend.
The entire film is a conversation on what we believe is right and how we choose to lead. It’s about the things we are willing to stand for and the things we are able to overlook when it comes to our beliefs and what we fight for. Sometimes it can mean making a choice that isn’t always liked or doing something that will hurt ourselves. But in the end, we all have our ideals that we stand by, and those don’t change. They make us who we are and usually make us better and stronger people. They also help us learn from the mistakes of the past and work to create a brighter future. That’s the message at the heart of Black Panther, that no matter who we are, we can work to better the world for all people, especially those who can’t fight for themselves. We just have to find the right path to take even though it’s not always easy.
Black Panther is currently available on DVD, Blu-Ray, and digital platforms and is streaming on Netflix.