More than just a movie: why ‘Black Panther’ is so important

By Brooke Kaluzienski

Photo via Marvel/Disney

A long-awaited movie, “Black Panther,” coming to theaters Feb. 16, 2018 in the U.S., had captivated fans even by its first announcement. An all-black superhero movie was unheard of and is an incredible push toward racial equality in movies. With the introduction of the Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) in 2016’s “Captain America: Civil War,” and with the way he completely stole the show, a standalone film for the character was inevitable, and to not have one would have been a disgrace. “Black Panther” is set in the fictional African nation of Wakanda, a sovereign state ruled by a king. Wakanda is the world’s sole producer of vibranium, a fictional metal that is stated to be “stronger than steel and a third of the weight,” in “Captain America: The First Avenger.” Because of this, Wakanda is a very rich and technologically advanced nation, making King T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) the richest superhero that exists and his sister Shuri (Letitia Wright) the smartest character in the MCU, both beating out Tony Stark.

However, in the “Black Panther teaser trailer, Everett K. Ross (Martin Freeman) says, “It’s a third-world country. Textiles, shepherds, cool outfits,” to which Klaw (Andy Serkis) replies, “All a front.” We can assume that Wakanda is not considered a very impressive nation by the rest of the world, though in “Captain America: Civil War,” the way T’Challa and the rest of the Wakandan delegation to the UN were treated had led me to believe otherwise. These possibly conflicting narratives will be something interesting to watch for when the movie is released.

“Black Panther” is expected to send a powerful message to African American viewers through the diverse cast, with many actors from varying African countries. For example, Florence Kasumba, who plays Ayo, is from Uganda. African Americans and other people of color are naturally very excited for this movie, as are critics. These people will probably be ecstatic when they see people who look like them on the screen, playing superheroes and looked up to instead of being whitewashed or looked down upon, as the movie industry so often does. It has taken far too long for a movie like this to be made, but it could not have come at a better time (unless it had come sooner).

There will also be many powerful women in this movie, many of whom belong to the Dora Milaje, an all-women Wakandan warrior group. Another powerful woman in this movie will be Shuri, who is only sixteen years old and is already designing new technology for Wakanda to use. The movie, because of the incredible people who worked on it, will do a good job at breaking stereotypes and will celebrate African culture and achievement.

With a 97% “fresh” score on Rotten Tomatoes, with only two “rotten” reviews, it’s clear that critics love “Black Panther.” It is expected that the score will remain high, but there have been claims of “DC fans” plotting to ruin its score. This is a blatant lie. It is very likely the only people who would want to ruin the movie’s score are prejudiced and already despise the movie because of its racial importance and progressive elements. Newsflash: Africans exist, and they are people too! There have been countless movies featuring an all-white cast with one or two black characters, and “Black Panther” did not only flip that around, but diversified the cast with actors from many different countries.

I sincerely hope that “Black Panther succeeds as a movie and is not ruined by racist “A-holes,” as Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) would say. “Black Panther will do well, with it having the highest advance ticket sales of any Marvel movie so far. If it does not, it could be a serious setback for black representation and for representation in general in the movie industry, which has a history of harmful discrimination against minorities. Hopefully “Black Panther” will lead to further changes, and to further representation of all people, not just some.