Three years ago today, Marvel’s “Black Panther” opened in theaters. It was groundbreaking in many ways, namely for being the first superhero movie with a predominantly Black cast.
The film went on to win three Academy Awards and gross more than $1 billion worldwide. It’s currently the ninth highest grossing film of all time, and the highest grossing film ever made by a Black director.
“Black Panther” tells the story of King T’challa (Chadwick Bose man ), heir to a hidden and technologically advanced kingdom in Africa known as Wakanda. Boseman is phenomenal in the role, exhibiting the regality and courageousness required for the character. His prior performances as important figures from history must have prepared him well for this movie. He had previously played Jackie Robinson in 42, James Brown in Get On Up, and Thurgood Marshall in Marshall.
Boseman isn’t the only notable actor in the film. The rest of the talented cast includes performances from Lupita Nyong’o, Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker, Sterling K. Brown, Letitia Wright, Daniel Kaluuya, Danai Gurira, and Martin Freeman. Most noteworthy of the supporting performances is Michael B. Jordan, who plays the villain in the movie: Erik Killmonger. This villain is unique in his motivation for challenging the protagonist is arguably justifiable, and in many ways, he sees himself as the hero of the story.
Jordan’s performance is simultaneously ominous and vulnerable, and in doing so he manages to exhibit a paradoxical duality in the character. It’s no surprise his performance is so exceptional. This marks his third film working with director Ryan Cooglar after their previous efforts together: Fruitvale Station and Creed.
Ryan Coogler proves himself to be a talented director. In his mid-30’s, and with multiple accomplished films under his belt, he has a bright future ahead of him. Marvel Studios apparently agrees, as Coogler is currently slated to direct Black Panther 2, as well as a new Wakanda-set tv series for Disney+.
Details about Black Panther 2 are scarce, but it has been announced there are no plans to recast the character of King T’challa after the tragic and unexpected death of Chadwick Boseman last August. Some fans are petitioning for the “Black Panther” mantle to be transferred from T’challa to his sister, Shuri (Letitia Wright), which is one of the storylines in the Black Panther comic book series.
“Black Panther” isn’t your average superhero film. While it has stunning visuals and exciting action sequences typical of the genre, it also is concerned with ethical and philosophical issues. The movie delves into themes of inequality, and explores the question of whether or not those with resources should help those without resources.
The movie is both thought-provoking and entertaining, and it de
fies categorization. It’s an action film, but it also incorporates major aspects of drama and science fiction. It feels both personal and epic at the same time. It exists as a standalone film while also serving the larger story within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Black Panther can currently be streamed on Disney+.
Bobby Styles studied Film at UCLA, and worked as an editor and producer on several film, commercial, and music video projects in Los Angeles. He currently teaches the intermediate and advanced Video Production courses in the Multimedia & Technology Academy at Monache High School. His column appears in The Recorder every Monday.