MCU’S Black Panther and Representation

Marvel Studios’ “Black Panther” follows T’Challa who, after the death of his father, the King of Wakanda, returns home to the isolated, technologically advanced African nation to succeed to the throne and take his rightful place as king. But when a powerful old enemy reappears, 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 his 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. “Black Panther” stars Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman, Daniel Kaluuya, Letitia Wright, Winston Duke, with Angela Bassett, with Forest Whitaker, and Andy Serkis.               The film is directed by Ryan Coogler and produced by Kevin Feige with Louis D’Esposito, Victoria Alonso, Nate Moore, Jeffrey Chernov and Stan Lee serving as executive producers. Ryan Coogler & Joe Robert Cole wrote the screenplay.  Marvel Studios’ “Black Panther” hits U.S. theaters on February 16, 2018.           
  • Image of three main characters with introduction from Book Riot

As there was a lot of anticipation and hype for the Black Panther film, I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect from Marvel Studios, unsure whether they would pull through or whether it would simply be a sloppy attempt that only did well in the box office because of the a-list actors involved and the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) brand tagged to the film. Being a fan of the MCU in general, I did enjoy many of the films produced so far but there were some I felt could be better executed though of course I still went to see them because of how interlinked the films were and the characters I enjoyed to see on screen. I enjoyed Civil War which introduced us to the character of T’Challa and was intrigued to find out more about him in the cinematic universe as of course he is based on the comics, but also on the creative and artistic license of the movie producers and writers.

I was pleasantly surprised when I saw the movie and appreciative of the effort put in when I went to see it. It was encouraging that the film did so well during its opening weekend which encouraged me further and it was nice to see how much it had already impacted a lot of people positively, I definitely saw this as a good sign to check out the film. I like how the film was so individual and unique but the producers were still able to interlink it with previous films within the MCU timeline and also give some hints towards the upcoming Infinity War film due to be out a few months afterwards.

The characters were nuanced and well executed, various African cultures were well researched which was clearly shown through even the smallest details of the film and set. The cast truly was diverse and I feel this film is an example of what racial diversity and representation should look like. The characters shouldn’t just be there to tick a box and people working behind the scenes are just as important as those in front of the camera. If there is diversity behind the scenes with the production team, directors, costume department, to name a few; then there will be more accurate portrayal and more will be considered to make the story more authentic, real and relatable. I did like how there were a mixture of well known and up and coming actors as well, all of them having a chemistry and connection that was believable, as well as giving the audience the chance to see the talent of these new faces.

One character that I loved and connected with was Shuri, the teenage princess and sister of T’Challa the king of Wakanda portrayed by Letitia Wright. She is a child prodigy and the person in charge of overseeing the development of technology within the country, including making the Black Panther suits. She has an intricate knowledge of Vibranium and its uses and it was great to see a young black woman with her own agency and valued for her intelligence. She is hinted at being the most intelligent scientist in the world and it is great to see a black female character that can be related to that is in the forefront of the film shown in a positive light in Hollywood and in popular culture, Fans are even calling her the best Disney Princess, since Marvel Studios are under the Disney company and it is encouraging to see someone who can be a role model for young black fans, a character in which young black females can see themselves in. I feel another great example of this is the character of Finn in the recent Star Wars film, portrayed by John Boyega, which had a lasting impact of fans who were even encouraged to cosplay as the character and purchase action figures, seeing a mainstream character that finally looked like them in which they could connect with.

Even though Wakanda isn’t a real country, the producers did a great job of bringing in aspects of countries across Africa and it really did feel like a movie centred on and for an African audience. It was amazing to see the red carpet during the premiere of the film in different countries, celebrities turning out in their native attire which connected them with the film. South Africans were excited to see their native language within the film as well, impressed at the research and care taken by the production team to portray their culture appropriately and with sensitivity. I feel this is definitely a film that made a mark and will resonated with a lot of people and proves many wrong, as the public do want to see more diverse stories on screen and a superhero who is very culturally intertwined.

 

By Blessing Raimi

14 June 2018

Image Credit: Marvel Cinematic Universe