Disney is starting off 2018 with a hugely anticipated Marvel film: Black Panther. With a release date of February 16th, the hype surrounding the film is growing by the hour. The trailer received very positive reviews from critics and comic lovers alike but what exactly is the film about? Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War featured the new Black Panther superhero, but only in a supporting role and with very little background on the character given. Who is the Black Panther and will the film be worth the current level of excitement it’s garnering?
Black Panther (who was created by Marvel’s Stan Lee) first appeared in an issue of Fantastic Four in 1966 as “T’Challa” – the king and protector of the fictional African kingdom of Wakanda. As the king, T’Challa was allowed to eat a special heart-shaped herb that, thanks to its connection to the Wakandan Panther God, granted him special powers and made him into “Black Panther”. In this way, all of T’Challa ancestors can also be called “Black Panther” since they too possessed the same powers. The powers granted to each Black Panther are acute senses, speed, agility, enhanced strength, durability, healing, reflexes, and stamina. He is also extremely intelligent with expert martial arts skills due to years of physical training. The Wakandan kingdom is very prosperous, which allows T’Challa to use hi-tech equipment and weapons. This includes his suit, which, with its impenetrable surface and razor-sharp claws, is a weapon itself.
The Black Panther’s character is so unique not only because he is a king of an African kingdom but also because he was one of the first canonically African characters in comics. For 1966, the Black Panther character was very controversial and wasn’t immediately popular. At the time, T’Challa was the only Marvel superhero of African descent. But, over time, T’Challa became one of Marvel’s most popular characters and a symbol of racial equality in comics.
Although T’Challa has had numerous solo series, he is most commonly seen as a member of the Avengers, which is why Marvel chose to make a Black Panther movie that could tie into their previously released Avengers films. As the Wakandan king, T’Challa has responsibilities outside of the typical American-hero stereotype. What will perhaps be the most intriguing thing about Black Panther is the inclusion of a new world: Wakanda. No Marvel film thus far has concentrated so heavily on making a home for their hero.
Marvel’s Black Panther (directed by Ryan Coogler) will follow T’Challa’s homecoming, after the events of Captain America: Civil War. According to the synopsis, two enemies will conspire to try and take down Wakanda, forcing T’Challa (played by Chadwick Boseman) to team up with CIA agent Everett K. Ross and members of Wakanda’s special forces team, the Dora Milaje. Everett Ross, who will be played by Michael B. Jordan, goes by the nickname “Killmonger” and seeks to overthrow T’Challa himself, since he’s been running the kingdom while T’Challa has been away and refuses to give up power. The Dora Milaje is the all-female team that guards the king. Lupita Nyong’o will play Nakia, an undercover operative of the Dora Milaje and former love interest of T’Challa. Her character appears to be a sort of spy, who goes out into the world, gathers information, and reports back.
Michael B. Jordan
Nakia’s role in the film will, most likely, be very important since she is the only link to the outside world. According to producers, the film will highlight how isolated Wakanda is and how the rest of the world is starting to influence Wakanda and its people. Michael B. Jordan’s character will supplement this theme, since Ross, though Wakandan by birth, was trained by the American government. The film also seems to be trying to mimic the classic spy theme from the early James Bond movies, as seen in the trailers and posters that have been released. This is brave departure from the “normal” superhero movie, where the characters are less into spying and more into multi-colored spandex suits.
But, Marvel is smart to broaden the superhero genre and include elements that aren’t normally seen in comic-based movies. Much of Black Panther seems to be breaking the mold. Along with having a different tone than other Marvel films, the cast of Black Panther is almost completely African-American – a huge accomplishment in a world of predominantly white superheroes.
Much of the excitement surrounding the soon-to-be-released Black Panther is warranted: the film is doing a lot to change the game. For those who haven’t always been the biggest fan of Marvel films, Black Panther might just be the movie for you. Unlike the superhero movies of the past, Black Panther is using foreign themes, a diverse cast, and a unique setting to create something completely new. For those who have enjoyed Marvel’s past films, Black Panther is a great prelude to the highly-anticipated Avengers: Infinity War. Although the film hasn’t been released, the level of excitement is valid. Check out Black Panther when it comes out on February 16th!