What started with Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in the 1960’s, came to fruition last week with Ryan Coogler’s “Black Panther”, hitting the theatres and breaking all records.
According to Forbes, Black Panther broke all box office records with its $ 235 million debut so far. The all black everything movie has taken the world by storm and no one is complaining.
Black Panther documents the journey of T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) while he takes on the challenge of succeeding his father as the King of Wakanda (the fictional Marvel African nation). After the death of his father, T’Challa must step into T’Chaka’s shoes and serve his nation and protect not just Wakanda, but the fate of the entire world.
Although, the story largely depicts what it’s like to be African in today’s world. And to top it off, the picturesque representation of African identity and culture is beyond beautiful.
Black Panther’s ground-breaking, black supremacist work of art characterises the Americans as the “other”, “coloniser” and the “enemy”.
These contrasts and ironies were not lost in the imagery of a technologically advanced and well developed third-word Wakanda. The depiction of “white crime” in a socio-cultural status quo of the city of Africa also works to the movie’s advantage.
All Vibranium, Errthing!
The heart-shaped herb, growing naturally in Wakanda, grants superpowers and makes Black Panther god-like. Along with the wish-granting purple liquid herb, T’Challa was also expected to take on a lifetime of training and combat. This highlights the symbiosis between tradition and technology.
Depicting a traditional Africa which is much advanced than its first-world counterparts may be a mythological thought, but has managed to comfortably deliver the message of an emerging Africa.
Mythology met technology and black culture reigned in the Wakandan territory.
The ending saw this reign being placed in the centre stage of the global community with Wakanda opening its doors to international trade and alliance.
Black Panther Women
No doubt, the women in Black Panther took the centre stage. T’Challa’s immediate army and entourage saw the strongest of females in the lead, guiding and automating him through his conquests.
The movie empowers young, badass black women who fight spears and vibranium the fuck out of the entire world
The all-women army of Dora Milaje warriors embodies the soul of 19th century Dahomey Amazons. The female influences who make T’Challa’s immediate council including the queen mother (Ramonda a.k.a Angela Bassett), his scientist sister (Shuri a.k.a Letitia Wright), his humanitarian and bad-ass love interest (Nakia a.k.a Lupita Nyong’o) and of course the front fighter of the crew (Okoye a.k.a Danai Gurira), cannot be understated. The depiction of empowered African women in the movie alone is commendable.
After all, representation in cinema is half the battle won.
All Hail King Killmonger!
“Everybody dies, it’s just life around here”– Says One of the baddest characters, Eric Killmonger.
Killmonger wanted to usurp T’Challa’s power and hold on Wakanda. He advocates a more radical outlook towards liberation. He wanted to extract Wakanda’s wealth and place it beyond its border, into the hands of the less resourceful who were willing to overthrow authorities all over the world.
The Americanness grey to the African black of Killmonger’s character signals a cultural conflict. The “outsider” label to his claim to the throne leads him into challenging T’Challa in combat, stripping him of all his panther powers.
The ending of Black Panther is an integration of Killmonger and T’Challa’s ideological take on the implementation of Wakanda’s resources. While Killmonger wanted to empower the oppressed to rage war, T’Challa decided to engage in diplomacy and international trade to share Wakanda’s resources with the world.
Panther-like a Panther: The Album Takes the Cake
Kendrick Lamar’s latest album, which has been inspired for and by Black Panther, combines subdued plots of the movie. Some of the hottest names in the industry can be seen collaborating with the king of rap including The Weeknd, Jay Rock, Future, James Blake, SZA, Travis Scott, Zacari, 2Chains, Jorja Smith, Vince Staples & Yugen Blakrok, among others.
Black Panther: The Album brilliantly complements the political undertone of Coogler’s script. Starting from the scene where Klause is being chased while “Opps-Vince Staples & Yugen Blakrok “ plays in the background. The aggressive “You’re dead to me” throughout the chase of things sets the tone for the rest of the movie.
The album commences with Kendrick rapping T’Challa’s ‘Black Panther’ theme song hailing him as the king, much like his own life as the king of rap.
Kings did it, king's vision, Black Panther, King Kendrick All hail the king Because the king don't cry, king don't die King don't lie, king give heart, king get by, king don't fall Kingdom come, when I come, you know why King, king, king, king I am T'Challa
Whereas the track “King’s Dead” has been performed from Killmonger’s perspective, especially the 1-min solo rap in the song which is, in short, a big FUCK YOU to all things basic.
Fuck your moral, fuck your family, fuck your tribe Fuck your land, fuck your children, fuck your wives Who am I? Not your father, not your brother Not your reason, not your future Not your comfort, not your reverence, not your glory Not your heaven, not your angel, not your spirit Not your message, not your freedom Not your people, not your neighbor Not your baby, not your equal Not the title y'all want me under All hail King Killmonger
Kendrick’s shapeshifting soul embodiment of the protagonist and the antagonist is commendable.
And especially, if we talk about the end credits song and the video for “All the Stars” feat. SZA, one can draw parallels from the plot.
The first and the last scenes of the video specifically signal parallels to the Wakandan culture. The video starts with Kendrick’s entrance in a Messiah sort of way and ends with him looking up to large black women, chin up, eyes gleaming, clearly representing the pedestal black women enjoy, even if that is in an imaginary Wakanda.
The “Pray for me” collab with The Weekend also highlights the conflict and war-like situation that looms Wakanda.
I'm always ready for a war again Go down that road again It's all the same Mass destruction and mass corruption The souls of sufferin' men Clutchin' on deaf ears again, rapture is comin It's all prophecy and if I gotta be sacrificed for the greater good Then that's what it gotta be
Wakanda Forever: The Revolution
In an interview with the New York Times, the cast discusses how being chosen for Black Panther was a revolutionary, once-in-a-lifetime moment. Michael B. Jordan believes the movie has set the trend for others to tell bold stories in Hollywood, while Boseman believes Black Panther will change the stereotype that “movies with black cast do not perform well internationally”.
On the other hand, Ryan Coogler identifies the most with Killmonger’s character and claims that writing and making “Black Panther” has finally made him a complete and whole human being as opposed to living with a Killmonger-fracture all his life.
The narrative of an unknown, secretive Africa which is not the underdog, but a protector of the rest of the civilization, has resonated well with the audiences. Watching one of the oldest civilizations take mainstage in the world cinema with a bomb cast, great performances, powerful script and even more powerhouse music is what holistic cinema is all about.